F1 set to revert to 2015 qualifying format in China

2016 Chinese Grand Prix

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Formula One’s unpopular elimination qualifying system is on course to be dropped after just two races.

The FIA announced on Thursday it had received a letter from all 11 teams refused to accept any alternatives other than a return to last year’s rules.

The sport’s governing body added the change will be in place from the next round of the championship in China once formal approval has been granted.

“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,” said the FIA in a statement.

“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,” it added.

Further discussions will be held on potential changes for next 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.”

As there are 22 competitors in this year’s championship instead of 20 last year, six drivers would be knocked out in Q1 and Q2 instead of the five which dropped out last year. That will leave ten drivers in the pole position shoot-out. Q1 would last 18 minutes, Q2 15 minutes and Q3 12 minutes.

F1 Fanatic readers overwhelming preferred a return to last year’s qualifying format.

Red Bull has reacted to the news on their Twitter account:

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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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    96 comments on “F1 set to revert to 2015 qualifying format in China”

    1. Finally! Let’s just hope that the F1 Commission and WMSC agree to let this motion pass, and we can let this whole saga be put to bed.

      1. @jb108822 Good to see them put a stop to the madness. For now at least. Dread to think what nonsense Ecclestone will cook up for the “global assessment of the format of the weekend for 2017” Reverse grids? Random grids? Penalty shoot-outs?

        1. You’re not the only one who’s concerned, Keith. I don’t think reverse or random grids would work in F1. Maybe in other forms of motorsport, but perhaps not F1.

          1. I was discussing the random grid thing with a fellow F1 fan and we said if it had to happen, do it like this…
            Friday is normal test 90 minx 2. Have a random grid via lottery to set the positions for a 30 min sprint race on Sat. morning for a small amount of points. The finishing position of the sprint race sets the grid for the normal longer race on Sunday. That would make everyone push like mad in the sprinter instead of banking a lap and parking the car. I know this is not preferable to the normal way, but it could be fun if Bernie is dead set on a change. My personal favorite would be going back to the 60 min qualifying like in the 90’s with 12-15 lap max. I remember the build up when Mika and Michael would trade fast laps throughout the session. The tension was awesome.

            1. What about the (old) World Superbike format?

              friday: 1st free practice followed by qualifying 1
              saturday: 2nd free practice followed by qualifying 2
              The times of 1st and 2nd qualifying are combined
              the best, say ten, drivers will then have a top ten shoot-out (superpole)

        2. all of that and maybe a qualifying race, and a session of extra despot handshaking included, as well as the drivers staging a local folk dance before the anthem or on saturday morning Keith!

        3. We could have, lets say 12 laps, where each driver can go out whenever they want to, using whatever tyres they want to. The fastest bloke gets pole, second fastest gets second place, and so on.

          1. @synapseza That’s just crazy enough to work!

          2. i see what you did there ;-)

          3. That format never worked for 40 minutes nothing happened then everyone went out in the last 20 minutes. The format from 2015 was the best quali format they ever had and should not change. Anything they may come up with should be trialled in a pre season test where everyone must participate to see how it plays out in reality but better not to change it. The grid is what it is if you artificially tinker with it you might as well try and change the weather.

            1. I remember that, BUT it did give the smaller teams the opportunity to get some screen time. In the current climate of pay TV that is very valuable. Interviews, analysis, predictions etc can be done during the times when they don’t have cars on the track and they can maybe consider shortening qualifying to 45 minutes.

        4. @keithcollantine I’m more worried about the reparations that Bernie will effect on the teams for their insolence. I’m sure a few FOM payments will be delayed, which may well end Sauber given their current state.

          I’m also sure Bernie will be siding with the FIA on a few rule-making decisions for the 2017 rules.

        5. @keithcollantine

          Perhaps Bernie could get in touch with the National Lottery people with a view to create another Saturday night draw to decide the starting positions. He could call it something snappy like ‘F1 Balls Up’. People could buy tickets and win prizes!

          I actually hope no one from his office reads this. Based purely on some of the decisions made during this Qualifying fiasco, they’d probably think that this humorous suggestion has commercial legs.

          1. @andybantam Yes it might be best for all concerned if I delete this comment…

            1. Haha! I’m actually delighted that common sense seems to have prevailed.

              I’d like to think that the opinion that is polled on this site helps in some small way. ‘They’ must be looking, surely…

        6. I vote he’ll come up with having the drivers foot race from one end of the main strait and back. Order of starting grid established!

          1. I did thoroughly enjoy those old races where the drivers had to run to their cars, start them on their own and the race was on……… Thanks, Norris

        7. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
          7th April 2016, 22:01

          I’m probably in a minority group here, but I’ve the belief that single lap qualification is the best idea. We’d get to appreciate each & every driver/car combo and it would be high pressured event for drivers to cope with.

          1. That was tried about 10 years ago… It failed as drivers managed to fix their places I. The quali order by doing random things in testing like spinning…

            Around the same time they tried aggregate qualification too, which also failed which brought about the quali system that was used until last year (bearing to some modification surrounding DRS)…

        8. What I’m most terrified of is the split of the races into 2 minor races, someone has talked about in the past. That would be the end

          1. Leen Wiltjer
            8th April 2016, 5:00

            Why would this be the end?
            My suggestion: Leave Friday the same as it is now, on Saturday morning have a 1 lap shootout qualifying for grid position for a 30 mins Saturday sprint race.
            The sprint race on Saturday which could decide the grid position for Sunday main race.

            Saturday could use some more action with teams going full out as the results would decide the grid position for the Sunday main race. Those that are unfortunate to fall out in the beginning of the race on Saturday would need to fight like hell on Sunday to get back in front (which could bring great races)

        9. Ecclestone: ‘ For 2017 any F1 car proved to be faster than all the others over a
          continuous three race period will be fitted with wheels that fall off and /or the driver
          will be fitted with an ejector seat which can be triggered at any time by FOM ! ‘
          If only I was joking………!

      2. knoxploration
        7th April 2016, 18:58

        A senile old man will be pulling strings to force through his chosen format in 5, 4, 3…

      3. Thank you for ending this nonsense!

    2. Common sense finally prevails!

      1. @alanore Common sense or ‘might is right’?

        1. And thankfully the might started minute one as soon as quali in Australia ended and the likes of Horner and Wolff immediately trashed it. And the outrage just didn’t stop. I was so encouraged by that.

      2. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
        7th April 2016, 22:04

        In this day and age sadly common sense rarely prevails!

    3. Is this a dream? F1 actually made a good decision?

      1. It wasnt really an decision they just bent under pressure.

    4. I’ve regained hope in this world. Until the next rule change that is.

    5. ColdFly F1 (@)
      7th April 2016, 18:16

      My wife won’t be happy; now I have to watch again on Saturday ;-)

      Good also to see the proper top-10 back.

      1. @coldfly not so soon, there is still hope for your wife. I will believe it only when I see those lights go green.

      2. @coldfly Tell me about it! I had to explain elimination qualifying three times to my girlfriend only last saturday, how on earth am i going to explain why they got back to the old quali after that.

        1. Just have her read Vettel’s description of aggregate quali, and that should about do it

    6. Great. The teams show who’s the mature part here.

      1. I’d argue that the teams have acted pretty maturely throughout the whole saga. In my view, they’ve presented a united front in opposition to the elimination qualifying, and the collective letter they sent today further proves that point to me.

        1. I’d say otherwise. They voted for this stupid system right at the start and when it turned out to be awful, none of them admitted blame or anything.

          1. They didn’t vote for this system as such. They wanted to block Bernie’s even worse ideas and went for the lesser of two evils. They weren’t given the option at any point to maintain the 2015 system.

            1. And they weren’t given an option here either, but they finally took matters into their own hands and sent out a collective letter, forcing Todt and Ecclestone to accept a reversal to the 2015 regulations.

            2. AFAIK a change so close to the start of the season required unanimous approval to be implemented. Therefore keeping the system which was already in the roles and agreed was always an option until they voted in this new format. All it would have taken is for one team to view against.

            3. petebaldwin (@)
              8th April 2016, 13:34

              @paeschli – They had much more power this time though – they could move to the new format or stay with elimination qualifying that I imagine the TV companies, race organisers and sponsors wouldn’t want.

              As Bernie has to get agreement from the teams to change from elimination qualifying, the teams suddenly found themselves in a position of power – they could force elimination qualifying to stay which would upset those who pay Bernie the most unless they got their way!

          2. @jules-winfield

            They voted for this stupid system

            They were not given the option of keeping the 2015 format either when Ecclestone first proposed the system or after it had been tried in Australia and flopped.

    7. The teams issued an ultimatum via the open letter. Jean and Bernie blinked.

      Nice job.

      1. @henslayer from what’s been reported, Bernie wanted to keep holding out further but Todt talked him down, obviously realising that the laundry was being aired in public and the government of the series was being shown for the joke it was.

        My guess if BCE had continued to be a goit about it, Todt would have sided with the teams and BCE would have been further publicly humiliated. Instead, he gets to get his revenge at a later date.

      2. @henslayer A very small point but I don’t believe it was an open letter.

    8. Good to see the teams collectively putting their foot down. About time.

      1. Bernie doesn’t forget, Bernie doesn’t forgive.

        Give it time: he’ll have his foot well up the teams’ collective rears.

        1. If they can delay it a year nature could catch up with Bernie and he may not be with us. Keep delaying him until he conks out.

          1. So wrong to hope for, yet so right @markp

    9. I know this is not necessarily the right time, but I was wondering if it would make qualifying more interesting if F1 would choose the tire for each of the session by random draw. 5-10 min before the start of a session each session all teams would be informed which tire they will have to use for that specific session. It would mix up the field in a fair manner, since some cars prefer harder/softer tires.
      As an additional benefit, teams probably have to run more on Fridays to have set ups ready for everything from ultra soft to medium.
      Too Gimicky?

      1. Yes, stop the madness. Delighted we have our normal qualifying back but sad at the same time that the FIA clearly have no idea how to run the sport. Hopefully Bernie and Todt go soon as we have a fantastic product which can spread more with the proper marketing of the sport and easier to follow rules. Get rid of DRS now and I will be very happy.

    10. Ferrari is F1, so says Bernie. Yesterday. So when Ferrari say enough of this mess, Bernie had to listen. Our two race long nightmare is over.

    11. *checks date*

      Nope. This definitely isn’t an Aprils fools..

    12. petebaldwin (@)
      7th April 2016, 18:25

      Well done teams. Before properly reading this, I was going to say “Ok, I’ll hold my hands up. I said Bernie would never do anything for the good of the sport if it didn’t personally benefit him financially” but then I realised the teams refused to accept anything other than 2015 rules and the TV companies would have been unhappy to continue with what we currently have.

      Very happy to see the teams actually stand up to the clueless one though.

      1. Calling Bernie clueless is pretty clueless.

    13. About time too, But where does this leave Todt, after his statement on who controls F1.

      Also what about the 2017 rules, not agreed yet and promised for end of this month. The idea that faster lap times and louder exhausts is going to improve racing is very questionable. And the idea of cheaper engines is laughable.

      1. It leaves Jean in a really awkward position given that for the past 16 years, the governing and commercial powers in F1 are not allowed to be combined. As in, open to a large fine for the FIA from the EU and a large fine and up to 4 years’ imprisonment for Jean due to breach of anti-competition laws and related “probation orders” (in this case, more commonly known as the Nice Agreement).

    14. Faith in humanity restored.

    15. Michael Brown
      7th April 2016, 18:39

      F1 makes a good decision, even if it had to make a bad decision first. One step back, one step forward.

    16. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      7th April 2016, 18:39

      I won’t believe it until we are just starting 2015-esque quali in China. Even a second before Bernie and Todt can screw the teams and fans just for spite.

      1. Not getting my hopes up either after last time.

      2. I can’t help but suspect you are right.

    17. I am relieved but not happy because this announcement should have been made five days ago at the latest when the new format had failed for the second time and it was obvious that the sport could not afford more experiments. It is clear that a more complex game is going on behind the scenes and ‘assessment of the format of the weekend for 2017’ sounds rather worrying, given what has happened over the last weeks.

      The good thing is that our voices can (seemingly) be heard. We, the fans, expressed our dissatisfaction with double points and F1 ultimately dropped the rule. The same thing has happened with the qualifying format now. Coincidence? Maybe not. Let us stay active and keep posting our thoughts on F1 Fanatic and social media. We need to let the teams and the FIA know what we want; perhaps it is not futile after all.

      1. Probably more to do with the TV Companies and teams jumping on the bandwagon from the fans opinions and so change is made due to money not a direct link between FOM and the fans. Basically the fans kick off the TV Companies, especially Sky love to pedal a disaster story and the teams also jump on board and then the decision makers have to change. Either way it worked for double points and this. Thing is fans have to wait for something to go wrong then watch weeks of arguments before F1 arrives at a satisfactory decision, F1 is run on trial and error, then they like to repeat the same mistakes when 10 years have passed.

    18. The 2017 weekend format is what has more of my attention.

      Reverse grids, qualifying races, sprint races, less practice, points for qualifying?

      Wonder what the fans opinion is RE: 2017. Is the format perfect now (obviously nothing’s perfect), in which case what would you like to see improved, and how?…

      Can of worms.

      Maybe a poll is in order Keith? ;).

      1. “Wonder what the fans opinion is RE: 2017. Is the format perfect now (obviously nothing’s perfect), in which case what would you like to see improved, and how?”

        I don’t think it’s perfect, I’m sure it could be better although I’m not sure how.

        However, there are much more important things to fix than qualifying. Once those are fixed, fine, let’s see if we can tweak the format a little, or even find something completely different. But you don’t paint the door of your house to cover up a small scratch when the roof is knackered, windows broken, and the whole place is infested with rats.

        1. True, but whilst so much of that stuff is locked in until 2020, tied in with the various contracts leftover from the Singapore stock flotation that never happened, and 2017 is only 8-9 months away (it’ll go faster than you think), I thought it might be interesting to see what the fans would like sporting reg’s wise.

          Personally, I’d like to see;

          1.) 2hrs practice on a Friday afternoon only. The rest of the day, the paddock, pits etc opened up to the fans. A sort of “Fans Friday” if you will.

          2.) Either a qualifying “race,” or a different “fastest lap” session. Qualifying “race” wise, I’d like to see a reverse W/C order, rolling start, open pit-lane, 22 cars, 22 laps, where you finish = where you start the Grand Prix. “Fastest laps” wise, I’m a sucker for the first system I came across. 4 sets of quali tyres, 1hr, go as fast as you can, but maybe knock that down to 40mins or so, because traditionally as I’m sure most of us will remember, the big guys only really started heading out about 30mins into the session.

          3.) Lastly, and this is a bit of a bug-bear of mind, I really wish we’d get rid of this “saving tyres for the race” mentality. Qualifying tyres for qualifying, race tyres for the race. The End. Each session should be treated individually on it’s own merit.

    19. Good job teams! At last a sensible decision from the FIA – lets hope it stays this way.

    20. Can't trust'em
      7th April 2016, 19:42

      I shall not believe it before I see it.

    21. Very pleased that this decision has been reached. Good to see the teams showing a bit of backbone and all standing together. IF they could only do this more often the sport might actually improve. Not that they are always correct of course i.e. over engine supply.

      I sensed that what with the original qualifying decision and the loss of access to see races on free to air TV, people were about to desert the sport in droves.

    22. Yes! Finally! We’re back to square one!

    23. I’m sure I heard this a few weeks ago!

    24. This is good, but by no means should anybody be celebrating as if this is a success for Formula 1. This whole shambolic mess has made the sport look amateurish in the public eye, perhaps more-so than ever before. Also, it has made it very clear that there is a lack of decisive power within the sport, and it can take six weeks for common sense to occur (and that is if it is done, which it has not been finalised yet), which is simply not good enough.

      This may have reduced the possible harm to the reputation of Todt and Ecclestone, but a substantial amount of damage has already been done, which does not bode well for either really. Ultimately, six weeks to determine that something which was never going to work did not work is just not acceptable. There has to be some serious rethink over the structure of how rule changes are implemented, and just who has the power to do so. Unfortunately, it seems as if that won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest.

      1. I agree, they make it look like there is no difference between F1 and a teenager !

    25. My first attempt at a celebratory comment didn’t go too well so I’ll have anothjer go at it:

      Hooray! Hoera! Hallelujah!

    26. The Chinese are always so lucky ! :D

    27. I’m glad to hear this!!!
      There was one good thing to the new qualifying they should have kept; having only 8 drivers in the Pole shout-out instead of 10. Or if I were the F1 dictator i would have had only 6 in Q3.
      free tire choice + start 7th or 9th sounds more “track possition” than free tire choice + start 11th.

      1. I thought I would prefer 8, but found Q3 a bit confusing to watch (I kept thinking: where’s the other two?).
        So I’m glad it’s back to 10: this year’s field looks closer, and more teams will have a go at starting from the 2nd or 3rd row. Haas should be involved, and I’d expect McLaren, Renault and even Wehrlein’s Manor getting through at some races.

    28. Halleluja!

    29. “Formula One’s unpopular elimination qualifying system is on course to be dropped after just two races.”

      Keith, in what context should we interpret “just” :P ? Because 2 quali’s ruined by it was way too much already. On the other hand we do should praise ourself it was “just 2 races” and not more :P. I just hope justice happens and a just course gets plotted. And that just might happen!

      1. In the context that the previous record for dropping a poorly-thought-out qualifying session is six races. We have thus been spared 66% of the pain’s duration… …probably made up for in pointless rancor quotient.

    30. Good, now we can focus on good racing we have this year so far… :D Will China be good? It was last year…

    31. Great news! I must say that I was becoming more and more worried that Bernie and Jean would stand their ground and keep coming up with worse and worse ideas for the rest of the season until the teams finally agreed to elimination qualy. Thankfully I was wrong and we can get back to concentrating on the racing.

    32. Andre Furtado
      7th April 2016, 21:51

      At this point we might just have the starting grid for the Saturday to be the reverse order of the championship position for 3 times 20 minutes sprint on a SS tire. Let the Sunday race be based on the Saturday result after the final sprint.

    33. Andre Furtado
      7th April 2016, 21:54

      Or an even “better” idea. Let’s add heating under the asphalt and randomly turn it on without telling the teams. Between that and sprinklers everyone will want to be on the track for 90 minutes.

    34. Great! First great decision that the FIA has made on F1 in 10 years!

    35. Chris Leslie
      7th April 2016, 22:37

      Thank God. Just thank God. I actually prefer qualifying to the race sometimes.

    36. I’m gonna throw this idea for 2017 put there as it could work, but totally change F1 as we all know it. We know Bernie is a fan of the whole reverse grid thing. Well, handicap racing has been used many times down through the years in many racing series, my memories of watching motor cross and especially dirt sidecar racing with my dad as a kid featured this a lot, and it meant that the quick guys were coming through the pack instead of blasting off into the distance. Kinda like what we’ve all seen since the start of 2015.

      So what if the format was for quali to count for points. Same as MotoGP down to 15th. Format as it thankfully is now, the 2015 style Q1, Q2, Q3.

      However the race was to start in reverse grid order. Points as they are now, making both quali and the race equal in value. However cars would have to be designed not to be rockets in clean air and understeering sloths in dirty air, but instead to be able to follow another cars wake and overtake. Without DRS.

      Sure, the teams might complain about the late change in race format affecting their 2017 designs but it’s not as bad as the ban on ground effect and its timing in the early 80s.

      It’s a brain fart/thought bubble and certainly not of my own design, as some of us on F1fanatic have mentioned this before. But it might work. I like it better than random grids or just swapping the top ten anyway…

    37. Good decision!

    38. johnny stick
      8th April 2016, 5:43

      I think they should determine thier place on the grid by giving points for power slides and drifting through corners. And maybe even some extra points for riding on two wheels. They can call these kudo points. And they person with the most kudos gets to start on the pole.

      Bernie, is this enough showmanship for you? Maybe you should go back to the XBox in your trailer and leave the real racing to the more mature folks.

    39. Matthew Coyne
      8th April 2016, 16:35

      I can see some value in making it more interesting over a weekend – In reality Qualifying is not that exciting to watch apart from the last few minutes so all the really good action tends to be on a Sunday.

      One way of doing that would be to do this Qualifying race that has been mentioned, Saturdays qualifying would be a race, the starting order decided by the championship positions. Finishing positions of this race decide nothing other than race start position.

      You’d instantly have this “cars out of position” scenario and alot more overtaking with the chance for the lower teams with some decent talent in drivers to show what they can do.

    40. If they *need* a new qualifying format here’s something I think would be interesting and far better than anything proposed…

      Now there are three practice sessions and three tire types available, correct?

      Eliminate “qualifying” as an actual session, and just use practice times to set the grid.

      Friday Use P1 as only the hardest compound for the weekend and 120 minutes
      Saturday Use P2 as only the medium compound for the weekend and 30 minutes
      Saturday Use P3 as only the softest compound for the weekend and 20 minutes.

      Either a.) fastest time from all three sessions *overall* or b.) add P1 + P2 + P3 times together to set the grid.

      You want the “unpredictability” Mr. Ecclestone? If a car has an issue in one of those sessions and doesn’t set a time, they would then automatically start from the back as a penalty. Plus if rain happens either Friday or Saturday, they would then use rain tires for that session, and the other sessions would go as normal. Plus that would give times no practice on certain types of tires which means there’s unpredictability on when that drop-off would be during the race.

    41. I started a “Fax The FIA” campaign yesterday. Probably not the reason this happened, because even I didn’t get round to faxing the Place de la Concorde before the qualifying was reverted…

    42. I1m glad to this, this a new chance…

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