F1 drivers angry as qualifying 'chaos' threatens new season

Elimination plan slammed as unworkable will be in place for the Australian Grand Prix in two weeks

Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel is 'not a fan' of the new system
(Image credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Image)

With a little more than two weeks until the start of the new Formula 1 season, the sport has decided to introduce a new and untested qualifying system featuring the live eliminations of cars.

Since the idea came to prominence last week, it has been approved, postponed, remodelled and now reinstated in its original format, even though the sports ringleader, Bernie Ecclestone, believes it will not be ready in time.

Despite the concerns and the confusion, the original idea was approved by the FIA, F1's governing body, on Friday.

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It gives the sport a fortnight to introduce the timing mechanisms necessary to run the new system.

"The decision comes despite F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone saying last week he had been told the timing software and on-screen television graphics could not be changed for the Melbourne race," reports the BBC. "Senior figures pushed back at Ecclestone on that issue and it is understood his company, which is responsible for timing and graphics, has now said it can be done in time."

Even if it does work, some remain unconvinced of the need for change.

"I've generally enjoyed the qualifying we had for the last few years so that's why the changes we've made don't make sense to me in my head right now," Lewis Hamilton told the BBC.

The changes prove that the "power to make decisions has shifted away from Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA and more towards the teams and manufacturers", reports ESPN.

However, while the teams may have backed the new system, the drivers are not happy, according to Sebastian Vettel. "It's a little bit chaotic if a couple of weeks before the season you start to reinvent certain rules and formats of qualifying," he said.

"I'm personally not a fan of the new qualifying and I think speaking on behalf of all the drivers, no driver is. We don't get what's wrong with the old qualifying."

Former world champion Fernando Alonso expressed his frustration earlier this week. "I am sad for the sport because it does not look right from the outside when in one week we change the qualifying format three times," he said.

How the new system works

Qualifying will still be split into three sessions but the elimination process will be more gradual:

Q1 - 16 minutes, 22 drivers: After seven minutes, the slowest driver is knocked out, with six more cars eliminated at 90-second intervals.

Q2 - 15 minutes, 15 drivers: After six minutes, the slowest is knocked out, with six more eliminated at 90-second intervals.

Q3 - 14 minutes, eight drivers: After five minutes, the slowest driver is knocked out, with one more eliminated every 90 seconds until only two are left. They then have 90 seconds to post the fastest lap.

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