Qualifying Has Fallen Victim to Ecclestone and Todt’s Power Struggle

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 14.48.53 by JACK PRENTICE 

FIA President Jean Todt and Formula One Management chief Bernie Ecclestone have spent much of the season trying to sort out the mess caused by a change in the qualifying format from last year.

As you’ll probably know by now, last season we had three knockout sessions where drivers were only knocked out at the end of a session.

Now, after a set amount of time in each session, a driver is knocked out every 90 seconds. That was meant to increase the drama and mix the grid up a bit.

Sadly, it’s been about as successful as trying to erect a tent in a hurricane, as we’ve been left with over 15 minutes of empty track during sessions in Australia and Bahrain.

It was originally voted out by the teams, who wanted to return to the old system that had been popular.

However, in an extraordinary meeting between them and the FIA, former Ferrari team principal Todt overruled the teams and offered only a tweaked version of his grand elimination plan or the current format, completely ruling out the old system.

Things were even worse in Bahrain, with the only hint of a saving grace being Lewis Hamilton taking pole position with three minutes, instead of four and a half, remaining in the session.

So, we’ve been left once again debating what qualifying format to use for China.

Here are the options being presented.

Remaining with the current system in the hope that it eventually does spark some life into a Saturday afternoon is Todt’s favoured option.

The second is keeping the elimination system for the first two sessions before reverting back to the old system for the final session, which would solve the issue for the final session but still potentially leave the other two sessions ending minutes earlier than scheduled. Todt is desperate for this system to work and it was only this format that he offered as an alternative.

The option favoured by Bernie Ecclestone is an aggregate system in last year’s format, where the two best times, rather than one, are added together to form the grid.

And the option favoured by drivers, fans, teams and observers is to completely revert back to the previous system. Something that isn’t being considered.

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Ecclestone (Left) and Todt (Right) have tinkered too much with something no one complained about. (Image Credit: jamesalleonf1.com)

This is just one sign of the power struggle between the two ruling powers in F1, Todt and Ecclestone, which is leaving a sport and its stars stuck in the middle.

For any mid-season changes to come through, unanimity, including Todt and Ecclestone, is required. Put simply, that is as likely to happen as the moon crashing into the earth.

Sebastian Vettel described the new aggregate idea as “s**t” and the old system as “something we can’t be proud of”, before saying that bosses of F1 would struggle to sell ice creams if people only wanted one flavour.

Jenson Button described the system currently in place as “worse than only allowing drivers to have one eye open”, while Lewis Hamilton suggested that those at the top rarely have good ideas.

Between them, they have eight world championships. Yet Ecclestone described them as windbags who shouldn’t be allowed to talk.

Despite them being the ones that attracted me and every other fan to the sport.

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The British Touring Cars Championship has been on the up for the last 10 years. (Image Credit: autocar.co.uk)

The British Touring Car Championship managing director Alan Gow said in an interview: “For me, qualifying is about half an hour, or hour, in which you have to set as fast a lap as you can. Simple.”

Now there’s a sport with transparency and a bit of common sense.

The BTCC is enjoying record attendances, a record 32 car grid and eight drivers with realistic ambitions of winning a championship. They’ve quietly announced a new TV deal with ITV too, and coupled with affordable pricing it is now among the most accessible motorsports out there.

Meanwhile, as a result of Ecclestone’s incessant need to milk the cows for all they have and Todt’s need for an ego boost, from 2019 F1 fans will have to pay extra to watch Johnny Herbert talk about a sport rapidly turning into a laughing stock.

Nobody wants that.

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