Pitstop: Qualifying format stays for Bahrain, Drivers call for restructure at the top


By Ros Satar

  • New qualification format to stay for Bahrain
  • Grand Prix Drivers’ Association make a statement – and they are not happy

PITSTOP – Qualification format will stay for Bahrain, Grand Prix Drivers’ Association release an open letter urging for a restructure for the good of the sport.

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New Qualifying format stays

After the first attempt to bed in the new format, it came under fire in the post-qualifying press conference, with questions from the floor revealing what the top three drivers really thought – and it wasn’t pretty!

As reported in Formula1.com, Lewis Hamilton said: “We said at the beginning that it wasn’t the right way but it’s like you can’t knock it before you try it. We tried it and all the engineers were right. It doesn’t make no difference to me at the end of the day. I did what I had to do.”

Nico Rosberg added: “It’s good that F1 tries but it’s the wrong way so we should go back to the other system, for the fans.”

Sebastian Vettel concluded: “I don’t see why everybody’s surprised now. We all said what’s going to happen, it happened so obviously we were told to wait and see but now we saw and I don’t think it was very exciting. It was a bit crazy in the beginning with all the cars pushing and trying to do a lap before they get potentially kicked out so managing traffic… it’s quite busy but for no reason because the time is there in the session to do it and in the end, also for the people in the grandstands, I don’t feel it’s the right way to go. There are no cars to watch. In the end they want to see Lewis, Nico, Kimi, whoever, pushing it to the limit at the end of the session when the track’s supposed to be at its best etc. I don’t know we need the criticism now, we had the criticism already but it’s surely the wrong way to go, that’s what we said.”

Team principles voted for an immediate change back to the old system after it was agreed that the new system did not play out as well as they had hoped for spectators, with qualifying positions all but wrapped up with five minutes to go and no cars out on the track for the final chequered flag.

Q1 and Q2 seemed to have more success but the final determination of places seemed to be an anti-climax.

However, it now seems that the decision has been taken to try and give the format another chance, and then examine the options.

F1 Chief Executive Bernie Eccleston told Autosport.com: “They’re going to do what I proposed, which is leave things as they are for this race [in Bahrain]. After that we will then have a good look and decide whether what was done was the right thing to do, the wrong thing to do, does it need modifying, does it need scrapping?

“This was an FIA idea in the first place, so I’ve said to them we’ll support whatever they think is the right thing to do. But as nobody knows what the right thing to do is, we’ve said we’ll stay where we are and have a look after this race.

“Then two races in we’ll see, as it was a prototype, what was right or wrong. The teams didn’t understand what they were doing either, which didn’t help at all.”


GPDA urge the stakeholders and owners of Formula 1 to restructure its governance for the good of the sport.

The open letter in full:

Dear Formula 1 stakeholders, followers and fans,

The Grand Prix drivers would like to state our following position: We drivers love our sport! Since childhood, we dreamed of racing the fastest race cars from the top teams on the coolest tracks against the best drivers in the world. We seek competition and love F1 almost unconditionally, which makes us most probably the people with the purest interest for Formula 1, beside our fans.

Formula 1 is currently challenged by a difficult global economic environment, a swift change in fan and consumer behaviour, and a decisive shift in the TV and media landscape. This makes it fundamental that the sport’s leaders make smart and well considered adjustments.

We feel that some recent rule changes – on both the sporting and technical side, and including some business directions – are disruptive, do not address the bigger issues our sport is facing and in some cases could jeopardise its future success. We know that among the leaders of the sport – be it the owners, their representatives, the governing body, the teams or other stakeholders – every individual acts with the very best intentions.

Therefore, the drivers have come to the conclusion that the decision-making process in the sport is obsolete and ill -structured and prevents progress being made. Indeed, it can sometimes lead to just the opposite, a gridlock. This reflects negatively on our sport, prevents it being fit for the next generation of fans and compromises further global growth.

We would like to request and urge the owners and all stakeholders of Formula 1 to consider restructuring its own governance. The future directions and decisions of F1, be they short or long term, sporting, technical or business orientated should be based on a clear master plan. Such plan should reflect the principles and core values of Formula 1.

We need to ensure that F1 remains a sport, a closely-fought competition between the best drivers in extraordinary machines on the coolest race tracks. F1 should be home only to the best teams, drivers and circuits, with partners and suppliers fit for such an elite championship.

Formula 1 has undoubtedly established itself as the pinnacle of motorsport and as such one of the most viewed and popular sports around the world. We drivers stand united, offer our help and support for F1 to keep it as such, and further to make it fit and exciting for many years and generations to come.

It is important to state that this open letter is intended in the best interests of all and should not be seen as blind and disrespectful attack. Thank you for your attention and granting us the liberty to put our thoughts into words.

Best regards, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Alex Wurz, on behalf of the Grand Prix Drivers

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has agreed that the system needs reform, but suggested they come back with some further thoughts.

Autosport.com reports that Ecclestone states: “It is not always easy to agree with you but you are correct in stating that the decision making process in the sport is obsolete and ill structured.

“We must, as you have stated, urge the owners and all the stakeholders of Formula 1 to consider restructuring its own governance.

“It is easy to analyse what is wrong so why not think and come back on this. At least it is better to think before you wish.”

The Bahrain Grand Prix takes place between 1-3 April