Drivers slam new F1 qualifying system

Formula One drivers and team bosses want new rules scrapped after a farcical finish to Saturday’s qualifying session at the Australian Grand Prix.

In bizarre scenes, the chequered flag waved with no cars on the track as the new qualifying system backfired at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

After Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton locked up pole position with a new lap record at the street circuit, there were no cars on the track for the last three minutes of qualifying.

Some team bosses called for F1 hierarchy to apologise for short-changing fans at the season-opening grand prix.

“It’s the wrong way. So we should go back to the old system, for the fans,” said Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who finished second in qualifying behind his teammate Hamilton.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who will start Sunday’s race from third spot on the grid, said the changes were plainly wrong.

“There was no cars to watch,” he said.

“And they (fans) want to see Lewis, Nico, whoever, pushing it to the limit at the end of the session … surely it’s the wrong way to go.”

Under the new system, the slowest drivers were knocked out of qualifying in rolling eliminations every 90 seconds.

Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff bluntly described the new rules as “rubbish”.

“Everyone is trying to do their best to improve the show and, if we haven’t, we need to discuss it,” he said.

Red Bull Racing’s principal Christian Horner, after watching his lead driver and local hope Daniel Ricciardo qualify eighth fastest, called on F1 to say sorry to fans.

“We should go back to what we had in time for the next race because what we saw today is not good for Formula One,” Horner said.

“Qualifying should build up to a crescendo … and that didn’t happen today.

“It has taken away the whole spectacle of what qualifying is. I think we just have to accept we got it wrong but react quickly and change quickly.”

The controversy overshadowed a stunning drive from reigning champion Hamilton, who took pole position with a best lap of 1min23.837sec – some 0.088 seconds inside the previous Albert Park record set in 2004 by Michael Schumacher.

Unlike the others, Hamilton was largely unfazed about the new rules – probably because he was never in danger of being knocked out.

“We said at the beginning it wasn’t the right way, but you can’t knock it before you try it,” Hamilton said, adding the initial criticism of the changes had proved correct.

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