With the exception of one or two drivers who qualified slightly out of position and a tiny minority of supporters, the consensus of opinion among teams, drivers, broadcasters, and most importantly fans, is that the new qualifying system does not work. An immediate response is required.
Team principles, the FIA, and representation from FOM (Formula One Management) will meet ahead of the race tomorrow to discuss how the system can be overhauled. The most likely outcome is that the qualifying format will revert to that used in 2015, but before this decision is taken consideration should be given to why a change in qualifying was first proposed.
If qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix told us anything it was that Mercedes AMG Petronas have retained if not extended their advantage over the rest of the field. A season of Silver Arrows domination is in prospect. This is not good for the reputation of the sport and it is not good for fans of racing.
Perhaps than, Bernie Ecclestone’s proposal to radically overall qualifying should be reconsidered. Whilst details around the proposal are vague, it is understood a proposal for a reverse grid based on a top 10 shoot out was mooted. Critics suggest teams would then compete to set the slowest time in a shoot out situation, but this could be overcome through awarding points for qualification. In so doing the relevance of qualifying would be increased and a further strategic balancing act added to the weekend.
Building on the details available of Bernie Ecclestone’s proposal, reverting to the 2015 format of qualifying over 3 sessions culminating in a top 10 shot out should be reintroduced. Drivers making it into Q3 would be awarded points on a sliding scale from 10 – 1 (10 for pole, 1 for 10th) points would only be awarded if a lap time is set. In awarding a significant number of points for pole the reward of a guaranteed 10 points out ways the risk of starting 10th.
Given the advantage Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari have over the rest of the field placing them on the 4th and 5th row of the grid at every race would ensure high quality wheel to wheel racing and ultimately may not overly influence the race result.
Purists will say such a system devalues the sport, diminishing the efforts of a driver, but perhaps it is time for the sport to evolve. Legendary drives are not those where a driver starts on pole leads every lap and is never challenged. Legendary drives are those where a driver has had to fight to get to the front. Formula One has the opportunity deliver those drives in 20 races this year, so when considering how to ‘fix’ the system tomorrow please don’t forget why it needed to be changed in the first place.