Formula One’s much-criticised new qualifying format will stay in place for next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix but could change after that, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone says.
“The outcome I think is that we are going to stay as we are,” he told Reuters on Thursday following a vote by the sport’s Strategy Group that agrees what to put forward to the broader Formula One Commission.
“After Bahrain, we’re going to have a look at it.”
The Formula One commission, which includes all the teams, race promoters and sponsors as well as the governing FIA and Ecclestone’s commercial rights holders Formula One management, had yet to complete their voting process.
However, any change to the existing rules has to be unanimous at this stage. Bahrain is the second race of the season.
The sport’s stakeholders all agreed unanimously to change the qualifying format, even though many fans felt there was nothing wrong with it, only weeks before the season’s opening race in Australia last weekend.
They then agreed, initially with a similar degree of solidarity, that it had not worked in Melbourne.
The new format, based on racers being progressively eliminated during the three sessions rather than at the end of each, was intended to add excitement but instead took away any suspense with no cars on track in the final minutes.
“I’m the first one to say we shouldn’t be speaking bad about things on TV, but I think the new qualifying format is pretty rubbish,” Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff told Sky Sports last weekend.
However, divisions soon emerged, with Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley suggesting it should be given more time and that the sport should refrain from knee-jerk reactions.
Some called for the first two new phases to be retained before reverting to the old format, while others wanted to go back to the familiar 2015 version.
In a sign of the dissatisfaction around the sport, Formula One drivers issued an open letter on Wednesday calling for a change in governance and to abandon “obsolete and ill-structured’ decision-making processes.
Ecclestone replied to them with his own letter on Thursday, saying he agreed that change was needed.
“It is not always easy to agree with you but you are correct,” he said.
“We must, as you have stated, urge the owners and all stakeholders of F1 to consider restructuring its governance.”
Speaking to Reuters, he added that he felt the real problem was that Ferrari and champions Mercedes, who between them provide engines to eight of the 11 teams, had too much power.
“We could easily enough change it,” he said. “It’s loaded too much in favour of the wrong people… Mercedes and Ferrari can buy votes. That’s not really the way to go.”