Formula One’s new qualifying format has gone down like a lead balloon.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has said the sport “should apologise to its fans”, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff cited it is as “rubbish”.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at why the revamped system was such a let-down.
1. So, qualifying was a disaster… what happened?
The new elimination-style format, whereby a driver is knocked out after every 90 seconds during each of the three timed sessions (Q1, Q2 and Q3), made its debut here in Melbourne – but some are already calling for it to be scrapped.
With four minutes to run in Q3 – the so-called big crescendo to determine who takes pole – the grid had already been settled. Ferrari decided to save their tyres for Sunday’s race, and with no threat to their front-row lockout, Mercedes opted to follow suit. It meant that the chequered flag greeted an empty circuit with angry fans, watching at home on TV and at the Albert Park circuit, left feeling short-changed.
2. Was it all bad?
Q1, the first timed session, started amidst a flurry of activity with all 22 drivers keen to get a lap under their belt before the 90-second elimination period started.
The circuit was full of action, and while it was initially complicated to follow – not helped by the initial failure to supply a countdown clock to fans watching around the world – the format got off to a good start.
But while Q1 was entertaining, Q2 was a dreary sequel. As the countdown clock ticked, the drivers were not on track battling to beat the stopwatch, but mostly in their garages – knowing they would be unable to better the time in front of them. It was not proving to be a great spectacle, and Q3 was even worse.
3. Where can they go from here?
With leading figures already taking aim at the new format, change appears inevitable – but whether there will be time to do so between now and the Bahrain Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time remains unclear.
But the FIA, the sport’s governing body, has previous in changing qualifying midway through the season. In 2005, an unpopular aggregate system based on aggregate laps was given the boot after just six races.
4. How did it get to this?
If it “aint broke, don’t” fix it, so why the Formula One Commission opted to vote through a new qualifying system earlier this year makes little sense. It was hoped it would spice up the grid, but not only has it failed to do that, it has also ruined what was a decent show.