F1 Commission unanimity not guaranteed for qualifying revamp

Following an outcry over the farcical end to Q3 in Australia, when there were no cars on track in the closing minutes of the session, F1 teams met on Sunday morning and agreed to revert to the old qualifying system for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

That move still needs to go back through the Strategy Group and F1 Commission for unanimous approval though – which means it will need support from other interested parties like track promoters and Pirelli.

And Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery has made it clear he does not share the view that the elimination qualifying was a total disaster – and thinks that a better solution would be just to tweak Q3.

“We haven’t heard all of the arguments,” said Hembery, when asked for his views on the matter. “There were a number of positives and negatives from the qualifying.

“I think Q3 needed improving – as not having cars running was unanimously seen by fans and the viewers as negative. But that could be easily be resolved by going back to last year’s Q3 running, so there is no elimination process.”

Hidden benefits

While the Q3 spectacle was universally criticised, Hembery is eager to point out that there were some positive factors that came out of the earlier sessions – which included forcing teams like Mercedes to be more aggressive with tyre choices.

That factor – which meant it was impossible for them to make it through to Q3 on just the soft tyre – was viewed by Hembery as one of the ingredients that helped deliver a better spectacle on Sunday.

“I think the one thing that did come from qualifying here was that it had an impact on the race, which was the original motive as explained to us as F1 Commission members,” he said.

“There were things like stopping maybe the top teams trying to qualify on what would have been the soft tyre here in Q2, which would then have allowed them to start on the soft tyre in the race.

“Having no elimination, they would probably have gone out on the soft tyre, tried to set a time and then evaluated whether that would be sufficient to get them through. So you have to be careful.”

He added: “We sat in one meeting and were given one argument that the change was due to a need to add an extra element to the race strategy. And it delivered that on many levels. If that is no longer required, then we need to hear the arguments.”

Force India rethink

Pirelli is not the only party sceptical about abandoning elimination qualifying so quickly, with Force India having voiced its view in Sunday’s team meeting that the system should be given more time to be evaluated.

Deputy team principal Bob Fernley said it was especially ludicrous for F1 to have agreed to ditch the elimination system without seeing how it had helped the race.

“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? That was my argument [on Sunday] – and I still feel that now,” he told Motorsport.com.

“When you redo something like this, you should not have a knee jerk reaction. You should let the process go through, and then step back in the calm light of day, pick out what was good – and say can we use that? Do we need to tweak a few areas? Did we get something terribly wrong? You can address all of them – you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.”

When asked if Force India was go so far as stand out as a lone voice and block the change back to the old system, Fernley said: “We would never stand up as a lone voice if it was detrimental for Formula 1.

“When it comes to what is good for fans and good for F1, that we will never get in the way of.

“But we were all working under a pressure cooker [in qualifying]. So it seems a shame to me to throw it all away when you have never evaluated it properly.”