F1 qualifying system adds fuel to drivers' anger
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Formula One drivers have expressed their frustration with the retention of the much-criticized rolling elimination format of qualifying for this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, saying it is a clear example of the poor decision making in the sport which prompted them to write a joint letter demanding an overhaul of F1's administration.
The rolling elimination system, in which the slowest driver is knocked out every 90 seconds, was first used in the season opener in Australia and resulted in very little on-track action in the final stages as teams preserved tires rather than try to improve times.
A meeting on race day in Melbourne resolved to return to the old qualifying system from Bahrain onward but that was not unanimously supported at F1 Commission level, so the flawed new format will be used again this weekend.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel made his exasperation plain when asked about the issue on Thursday.
''I am as disappointed as probably anyone that I know that we didn't go back,'' Vettel said.
''Put it this way: if you sell vanilla ice cream, but everybody who comes to your shop is asking for chocolate ice cream and the next day you open, you expect to sell chocolate ice cream but instead you just sell vanilla ice cream again.
''Usually you do what your clients would like you to do but you are not really doing the job if you do the exact opposite. It's something that we can't be proud of.''
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton was more resigned to the problem than angry.
''I wasn't really surprised... just because of the way F1 is,'' Hamilton said. ''There is never like a clear cut decision. It is back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
''It is interesting considering the fans were so unhappy with how it went that we have stuck with it.''
Vettel said ''qualifying is just one example that something is not right'' with F1 decision making. There is a political paralysis in F1 brought about by myriad decision-making bodies, and by the clashing interests of the sport's governing body the FIA against the commercial rights holder headed by Bernie Ecclestone and against the powerful auto makers that now dominate the sport.
That deadlock prompted the Grand Prix Drivers' Association to last week write a letter to those stakeholders urging change.
''We made it clear that there's something that is not right and something has to change,'' Vettel said. ''We really questioned the current situation or current decision making and hopefully we can improve that in the future.''
Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, winner of the past four races dating back to last season, said drivers were losing patience.
''We love the sport and can see the fans are criticizing some aspects that we could do better,'' Rosberg said. ''We want to question whether or not the F1 governance cannot review the process in which decisions are made in all these things, to try to get it to a point where we can get some better decisions done and become a more exciting sport.''
McLaren driver and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who will miss this weekend's race due to lingering injuries from a heavy crash in the season opener in Australia, agreed that the drivers' passion for the sport prompted the letter.
''We love it so much that maybe we think the last couple of years we've been a little bit moving left and right with not a clear direction,'' Alonso said.
''We would like to get involved in some of the decisions or in some of the things that we could help somehow. It's a start. The way the sport is moving in the last couple of years, maybe we don't see it completely right.''