Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, Albert Park, 2016

Wolff doubts elimination qualifying will deliver in Bahrain

2016 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff isn’t holding out hope F1’s new elimination qualifying system will be more successful in Bahrain than it was in Australia.

The revised format was widely derided after the final minutes of qualifying played out with no cars on the track in Melbourne. Wolff was among its critics, describing it as “rubbish”. However there will be no changes to the procedure on Saturday.

“This weekend we will see the new qualifying system continue after a less-than-impressive debut in Australia,” said Wolff. “The teams were unanimous in their opinion of it on Sunday in Melbourne and it wasn’t a positive opinion.”

“We haven’t found the right format with this change and it’s hard to see how it might be more entertaining for the fans this weekend in Bahrain. The sport is under scrutiny on this matter, so careful thought is required in order to make coordinated, intelligent steps forward from the position we are in right now.”

“The fans want close racing, in a format they can understand, between the best drivers and cars in the world – in that order. We should be capable of delivering that to the people in the grandstands and watching around the world.”

However Wolff does believe the new tyre rules for 2016 had proved “successful” and expects “an interesting strategy battle during the race” on Sunday. The Mercedes drivers have selected more sets of the soft compound than Ferrari have for the weekend. However both have six sets of super-soft tyres, many of which are likely to appear during qualifying.

2016 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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45 comments on “Wolff doubts elimination qualifying will deliver in Bahrain”

  1. 99.99% of F1 fans and people involved in the sports doubt that elimination qualifying will deliver in Bahrain. Not really newsworthy to be honest.

    1. @mashiat If Wolff were to say that Ecclestone is leading F1 in a direction which is unhealthy for the sport, large numbers of fans would agree with that too. But it would be newsworthy because of the status of the person who’s saying it – and that is the case here too.

      Wolff is a major figure in F1 and moreover he’s one who has repeatedly said the sport needs to project a more positive image, yet here he is admitting all that’s not well.

      That’s why it’s newsworthy.

      1. @keithcollantine You misunderstand me. Of course you should be posting every article you can, this one included. What I’m basically trying to say is that it is such an obvious conclusion considering that almost everyone feels this way, that Wolff doesn’t even need to say it out loud for everyone to deduce that he is unhappy with it. Not having a go for the publishing mate!

        1. @mashiat Fair enough I just wanted to share my reasons for running it.

    2. It is newsworthy because a racing grid will be formed, and both Mercedes cars will be near the front, as will the two Ferraris’ (unless something goes wrong). My guess is Wolff is unhappy because he can’t be certain that two Mercedes will be on the front row, which is probably a good thing.

      1. Or ….he’s unhappy because he loves what he is doing and is embarrassed at this sham, and like the rest of us can’t see what good the slight tweak this weekend is going to do. He wants a better product out there just like the rest of us and as Keith rightly points out it is significant coming from him. I know I was greatly encouraged for the future of F1 in general, when I saw the immediate outcry over the new quail format by virtually everyone that matters within F1. They care and want change, and like any big entity change sometimes comes too slowly, but a movement at least feels in the works. Radio restrictions were immediately tweaked too. Where there’s the will, there’s a way. Keep up the good work Toto et al, and thanks Keith for continuing your great work too.

      2. Unless there’s a decent battle between his drivers at the front, qualifying is surely where his cars get the most exposure currently??? I’d say he has every reason to be unhappy with that having become a huge turn off. I don’t see anything about the elimination system that should make him any more or less certain of a front row lock out than would be the case if they went back to last year’s system. They still have the fastest car and two drivers who can deliver fast laps under pressure. I think his irritation is genuine. I do agree though that his comments could be taken as an application to join the ministry of the bleeding obvious – but surely we want influential figures within the sport voicing the same concerns as those held by the fans? Otherwise we’d be left feeling even more disenfranchised…

      3. Fudge Ahmed (@)
        30th March 2016, 11:01

        I don’t see your logic about Wolff’s intentions being in the wrong place when Melbourne was arguably the easiest front row lockout Mercedes has yet achieved. Seb was on the weigh station 5 minutes before the end of Q3!

        1. @offdutyrockstar My apologies for not appreciating what seems obvious to everyone who watched Qualifying, but F1 doesn’t want me to watch Qualifying without paying.
          The “Pay wall” raises a point which is obvious to me, but appears not to be for most others on this forum, which is there will be hundreds of millions of potential and actual F1 fans who won’t be watching the race on Sunday simply because of the Pay Wall.
          Pay Wall should be making people angry, but it doesn’t. People are angry because they saw a race track with no cars, they aren’t angry because 100 million people didn’t watch Qualifying. People are angry because the result was decided before Qualifying was over, they aren’t angry because the Qualifying results weren’t broadcast on their local radio station after it was over. That isn’t the radio station’s fault, it is F1’s fault for wanting money not popularity.
          The lack of popularity of F1 is something that should be making those who run F1 angry! The top reason for lack of popularity is Pay wall. Where is the outrage over Pay wall? Why haven’t the teams combined and demanded an end to Pay Wall?
          Brand recognition is absolutely essential to F1, without it corporates would simply walk away from F1. The friend of brand recognition is Free to Air TV. The enemy of brand recognition is Pay Wall. The more Pay Wall the less brand recognition. Consequently it is no surprise to see corporations walking away from F1. Even now we have teams facing financial difficulties, and top of the reasons is lack of corporate sponsorship, and the reason for that is Pay Wall.
          If F1 continues down this path then eventually it will become it will be merged into some other racing series.

          1. Fudge Ahmed (@)
            31st March 2016, 12:13

            I had a lie in and watched the qualifying highlights on C4. I am also behind the pay wall. :)

    3. It is news worthy because teams who have most influence in F1 are all openly against it.

      Article hints at background of messy decission making process.

  2. “The teams were unanimous in their opinion of it on Sunday in Melbourne and it wasn’t a positive opinion.”
    They were on camera, but two teams voted against scrapping it. For me it is fine to give it a second chance although I’m not expecting much out of it.

    “The fans want close racing, in a format they can understand, between the best drivers and cars in the world”
    Yes Toto, the best thing to now is copy your lines straight from the GPDA letter.

    Either way I don’t think the format is that complicated to follow, if anything they made it very easy to follow with the counter on the left. It’s simply the format in itself that does not seem to work.

    1. I’m pretty sure all the teams voted against scrapping it, but when Bernie presented them with the alternatives (of which the old format was NOT a choice), they could not agree. As a result, we are stuck with the new format.

      1. @xtwl @keithcollantine what is really infuriating is BE makes the choice of presenting 2 options on a whim. He ruins the sport with his dictatorship. Isn’t there a way for the teams, for Ferrari and its veto power, to go back to 2015 quali? It’s outrageous.

        1. ColdFly F1 (@)
          29th March 2016, 14:37

          @omarr-pepper, I’m too lazy too look it up, but pretty sure it was FIA (JT) who proposed the alternatives, not BE.
          But we all know in whose pocket JT is.

          I don’t think the veto works in this case; you can only ‘stop approval’ with a veto, not ‘action’ something (even if it reverts to something of the past).
          And as they require unanimous support for in-season rule changes, you could argue that every team (and other voters) have a veto.

      2. @keithcollantine Weren’t Red Bull and Force India against scrapping it or did I completely remember that article wrong.

        1. According to Adam Cooper, Force India and Williams initially opposed the suggestion to revert back to the old qualifying format and proposed the hybrid qualifying technique that Todt is now championing. It seems that those two teams did eventually drop their support for that idea, but only after being pressurised by the other teams into dropping it.

          In the subsequent meeting that took place, the teams were presented with the options of either the Force India-Williams hybrid qualifying format or an adjusted version of the elimination format. As Red Bull and McLaren were opposed to both proposals, they deliberately withheld their votes to ensure that neither proposal could be passed with the intention of proposing in the next meeting that the sport should go back to the old qualifying format.

        2. @xtwl “When you are making a decision where the end result was to influence the race, how the hell can you make the decision to abandon it before you have had the race?” Fernley told Autosport.

          “That was my argument on Sunday, and I still feel that now.” For me Force India was against rushing any decision over an already rushed decision. But hell nows what they voted for.

    2. I absolutely support the stance of McLaren and Red Bull, as hopefully now we can abandon the whole episode after this weekend when it flops yet again, instead of being forced to compromise on this nonsense.

  3. I’m actually glad it’s getting a second chance, not because I liked it – I thought it was a bit pointless in q3 and in general no better or worse than before, but because the biggest problem in F1 is changing things too quickly and we’ll get a better picture of elimination qualifyings strengths and weaknesses now rather than just dismissing it based on one bad day.

    1. I think the weakness is hideously apparent – no one wants to go out at the end of Q3. That’s a huge, huge issue that should be correctly instantly.

      It was genuinely embarrassing to sit there watching the clock slowly tick down.

      I think the point being, it wasn’t a ‘bad day’. The rules corner you in to not burning through sets of tyres. If you let them use as many as you wanted in Q3, it’d work just fine.

      1. I am pretty sure that now that every team knows what is coming (they seemed surprised at Red Bull and Renault and maybe Manor) we will get even less running in Q1 to make that one a tad more boring too.

  4. What a joke you are Toto Wolff. It only shows what a hypocrite you are.

    1. I don’t see how?

      1. Wolff is Lewis Hamilton’s boss, and hasn’t fired Lewis, so equinox hates Wolff too. Simple, really.

        1. I am inclined to disagree with Equinox as I can’t see how Toto is a hypocrite, but I think we should let him explain his ideas himself.

  5. Biggest problem seems to be the lack of the softest tyres to set a time on. Both McLaren and Ferrari opted to stay in at the end of Q2 and Q3 because they didn’t have a set of supersofts left or elected to safe the set for the race. Part of this is because teams had to choose the tyres for this GP before the new qualifying format was introduced and part is because there are not enough tyres for this kind of format.

    Another problem is the turnaround time of entering the pits, refuel, change tyres and go out again. This takes too long to be able to set another time when you are about to be eliminated.

  6. This format might work well, if the tires lasted more than just 1 lap. Then cars could fill for 4-6 laps and go at 2-3 fast laps.

    But unless you make a serius error, that first lap will be the best lap, no point in trying anymore.

    So fix tires #1 priority.

  7. 2 teams did not oppose going back to last years format did they? I thought 2 teams refused to compromise when presented with the new rules or new rules with an old format q3. This is why nothing changed the 2 teams wanted 2015 format and will not agree until they get this. The FIA want to save face and will not just go back even if it is the obvious thing to do. The 2 teams in question did well to hold out until they can go back to the 2015 format by agreeing to a compromise they will undermine the argument to go back to 2015 rules.

    1. Going back to last year’s format was not offered as an option (see my earlier comment).

      1. Thank you for clarifying and as it was not offered I agree with the 2 teams that refused to entertain any changes unless given the option to go back to 2015 rules, which disgracefully was not offered in the meeting. The whole mess started as the options were the new format or reverse grids. Why no be offered the chance to stay the same as 2015 which is so much better.

  8. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    29th March 2016, 12:48

    Whilst it will be a difficult pill to swallow, it will likely be another sixty minute dose of exactly what F1 needs: bad publicity, a further damning evocation of the absurdities at the pinnacle of the pinnacle of motorsport.

    Perhaps then, once F1 is made to look foolish, archaic and bureaucratic in the eyes of not just the fans, but Bernie’s apparent preferred audience: the sponsors, perhaps then F1 can make concerted strides towards reforming its governance.

    Sliding viewing figures will make useful ammunition for journalists, so for that reason, I will not be watching qualifying on Saturday.

  9. You are beating a dead horse, wolff.

  10. I’ve pretty swayed back and forth in regards the new quali format. Never really loving nor hating it. I try not to get all upset and indignant over the whole thing because at the end of the day, it is what it is and who gives a dump what I think anyway. One thing of interest this weekend is the lap around Bahrain will most likely be >90 seconds for most teams, whereas Australia was sub 90 seconds for all teams. I don’t know that this will make things any easier or harder. I suspect we will have even less track action than Melbourne. Wait and see…

  11. Well, I can tell Toto how to make it good… he sends his cars out with tanks of petrol full enough to circulate for the whole ~16 minutes. They go around, getting faster all the time… perhaps a racing speed pit stop for new tyres, and off they go again. Action all the way to the flag!

    1. Why would Wolff, or any other team, do that? There’s no benefit to the team, and lots of potential drawbacks.

      The ONLY way the teams are out for all of qualifying is if it’s in their interest to do so… Something the FIA just doesn’t seem to understand.

  12. “We need to make intelligent decisions.” Y’know, like using the format that worked for years that F1 already has software for and that the fans weren’t complaining about originally? That might be an intelligent idea.

  13. As a thought, instead of eliminating cars in Q1, why not promote the fastest cars every 1.5 minutes straight to Q3, so at the end of Q1 you have the fastest 4 or 6 cars in Q3.

  14. The new elimination qualifying system is unfair! Because of a lot of thing such as:
    The slowest 3 drivers have only 1 lap. What if is it rain? If is it red flag? If does drivers keep each other during fast lap?
    We have to bring back the 2015’s qualifying system + more tire for the weekend especially for qualifying.

  15. Teams were forced to stick with this new format, now they should force a change by an unanimus consense of not running Q3 at all, keep Q2 positions, everyone saves tyres and they make their point go through.

    1. Knowing the FIA/bernie theyll probably end up DQ those team who did that from qualifying. But at least bernie would finally be able to get the car that starts 10th up to 1st

  16. Don’t you wish you could just walk in an bash their heads together until they stop being collectively stupid?

    I do.

  17. I think we should have 4 mini-sessions of qualifying over 1hr. EVERY driver does a single-lap run in each mini-session. HOT lap-times added together on a rolling-basis, fastest overall starts first. Simple :).

    This gives us 22 cars doing 4 hot-laps each, so plenty of on-track action. The mini-sessions mean the track action is kept constant. The single-lap and “all times added together” means the opportunity for mistakes is rife, and the punishment for mistakes severe. If you don’t run, the 107% rule would be applied to allocate you a penalty lap-time.

    I think that ticks all the boxes :).

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