F1 qualifying returns to 2015 format after teams block aggregate system
Unpopular elimination rules to be replaced by old format from China
By Pete Gill and James Galloway
Last Updated: 08/04/16 9:09am
F1 authorities have agreed to revert to the 2015 qualifying format from the Chinese Grand Prix.
The U-turn follows the decision of the teams to write to FIA president Jean Todt and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone urging a return to last year's format after they rejected a proposal to introduce an aggregate laps system.
Ecclestone and Todt have agreed to the request 'in the interests of the championship'.
The change still must be rubber-stamped by the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council for it to take effect from the race in Shanghai.
The elimination-style format, brought in for the opening two races of the 2016 season, proved hugely unpopular with fans with the three qualy segments regularly ending without any cars on track.
In a poll held on the Sky Sports Digital platforms, over 80 per cent of respondents voted for a return to the 2015 system.
"That's what the fans wanted, that's what the drivers wanted, and it's what the team bosses put in a letter to Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt on Thursday when they were asked to vote on this aggregate qualifying system," reported Sky Sports News HQ's Craig Slater.
"The teams didn't want that and they were not going to vote for it, even if it was better than the system used in the last couple of races, because there was an even better solution to which there was no impediment to being introduced - the 2015 system.
"Todt and Ecclestone had dug their heels in over this, but they've at least listened to what the teams and drivers wanted. It's a common-sense solution."
Teams had originally wanted the 2015 rules to be reinstated immediately after the new elimination format fell flat on its debut at the Australian GP last month, but the FIA subsequently offered only a hybrid solution for the race in Bahrain.
After more criticism of the new system last weekend, a proposal for aggregate laps was put forward by F1's governing body - although it received a lukewarm response from team bosses and was mocked by some drivers.
"It's time to go to the circus," said an especially unimpressed Sebastian Vettel.
Ahead of an intended vote on Thursday of the sport's Strategy Group and F1 Commission, the united front displayed by the teams to return to the 2015 rules appears to have convinced Ecclestone and Todt to change their minds.
F1's more traditional knockout system was first introduced in 2006, with the slowest drivers in Q1 and Q2 only out of the running when each session is completed, rather than at 90-second intervals.
In a statement, the FIA added that 'Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone welcomed the idea put forward by the teams to have a global assessment of the format of the weekend for 2017'. Ecclestone told Sky F1 at the Bahrain GP that the idea of holding a Saturday sprint race to take the place of a formal qualifying session was still being discussed.
FIA AND FOM STATEMENT REGARDING F1 QUALIFYING FORMAT
'At the unanimous request of the teams in a letter received today, Jean Todt, President of the FIA, and Bernie Ecclestone, commercial rights holder representative, accepted, in the interests of the Championship, to submit a proposal to the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council to revert to the qualifying format in force in 2015.
'This proposal, if approved by the F1 governing bodies, will take effect as from the Chinese Grand Prix and will apply for the rest of the season.
'Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone welcomed the idea put forward by the teams to have a global assessment of the format of the weekend for 2017.'
Back to the future: How 2015 qualifying worked
|All 22 cars|
|Slowest 6 cars knocked out & make up positions 17-22 on grid|
|Remaining 16 cars|
|Slowest six cars knocked out & make up positions 11-16 on grid|
|Remaining 10 cars|
|Final order makes up positions 1-10 on grid|