Formula One’s having quite a fun year so far full of wild mid-field battles and more cars that are competitive with each other, but you’d never know it because all anyone can talk about is how much the new qualifying system sucks. It’s about to get fixed.
The upcoming Chinese Grand Prix will see the return of the simple, easy to follow 2015 qualifying system that fans, drivers and teams have been clamoring for since the start of the season, reports Motorsport.com. This common sense reversal in plans comes after all eleven teams sent a letter to the FIA, Formula One head Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt requesting an immediate return to last year’s qualifying format.
Sources listening in to a conversation between Ecclestone and Todt told Motorsport.com that the duo realized that teams wouldn’t accept another qualifying experiment this season, hence the decision to put it back. Yo, dudes, we could have told you this after the farce in Australia. I think the teams told you themselves, though.
From here, the official process to revert to the old format begins, first going to the F1 Strategy Group and F1 Commission and then to the World Motor Sport Commission for final approval. Motorsport.com says that the process should be complete before the Chinese Grand Prix, and we’ll finally be able to focus on enjoying the race weekend.
Shortly after the news broke, the FIA released the following statement on the change, hinting at a more comprehensive review of the weekend race format to come:
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.
This seems like the right way to go about implementing a change to the weekend format: by working closely with the teams and researching it well in advance of the next season.
Yet another qualifying system—a return to the aggregate qualifying system where drivers’ two best times combined set the grid order—had originally been in the discussion for China. However, according to Sky Sports, it wasn’t popular the first time F1 implemented it eleven years ago and was quickly binned in favor of the three-round, single-flying-lap-based qualifying system that most of us know and love.
Why has everyone made this this qualifying mess into such a big deal? For one, it directly affects something a lot of us watch. More importantly, though, this simple qualifying debate has only magnified the ongoing debate over Formula One’s borked decision-making processes, as it’s a perfect example of poor management in the sport.
FIA president Jean Todt claimed that race promoters wanted a spicier, sexier format for qualifying, but fans were quick to point out that this wasn’t the big issue F1 really needed to tackle first. “Why does a Mercedes win almost every week?” and “Why have races the past couple years felt more like parades?” came up far more often going into this season than anything about qualifying.
When the new elimination qualifying format was first used in Australia, it led to cars getting eliminated in their garages and less action out on track, particularly at the end of a session. It shook up the fans more so than the grid, and the change was widely panned as a failure.
Now hopefully F1 qualifying can get back to business as usual. I, for one, love the last-minute mad dash for one great lap at the end of the 2015-style qualifying sessions. It’s also what the teams and drivers want, and they’re really the folks who make the sport happen.
Please don’t screw this up, F1.