F1’s political war over qualifying looks set to be resolved, as the governing body seem poised to return to the 2015 format. Fans, media and the teams have been lobbying to scrap the much maligned elimination qualifying format after two hugely unsuccessful sessions in Australia and Bahrain. Despite two weeks of political gridlock, common sense has prevailed and it seems that Saturday’s will once again end in a crescendo.The start of the 2016 season has been mired and overshadowed by a power struggle – played out very publicly – between F1’s governing body and the sport’s competitors. The storyline surrounding qualifying over the past weeks has largely not been about how the grid is decided. Arguably, it has centered primarily around how F1 makes it’s critical decisions.
The political gridlock which had emerged was unquestionably concerning. While the constant need for unanimity has proved problematic in the past, this has been the first notable example of where a minority can essentially apply the brakes and prevent the sport from moving forward.
It was immediately after the Australian Grand Prix that teams reached initial consensus that elimination qualifying had not worked, and identified that a return to the 2015 format was the best way forward. However, this move broke down when put before the F1 Commission as a whole.
Despite the unanimous disapproval for elimination qualifying in its Melbourne guise, F1 found itself in the embarrassing position of being unable to make the necessary changes, as similar unanimity could not be achieved when choosing the replacement format.
However, it seems that all parties have swallowed a dose of common sense. In another extraordinary day of political shenanigans, the teams have written to the FIA stating their ubiquitous desire to revert to the popular 2015 qualifying format. Essentially ending any possibility of an alternative way out of the elimination qualifying conundrum, it seems that Ecclestone and Todt are poised to concur.
Should this consensus lead to a unanimous vote in the F1 Commission, the rule change will then require ratification by the World Motorsport Council. Given that the latter step is typically a rubber-stamping exercise, qualifying could return to a familiar format for the forthcoming Chinese Grand Prix.
Relief has been the predominant theme among fans on social media following the news, with the debacle summed up in adept fashion by @formula_frank.
What this saga has demonstrated is that the sport is in dire need of a political restructure, to ensure that democracy is not at the expense of practicality. It could be argued that there were simply too many cooks attempting to formulate the regulations when a smaller team of rule makers could have potentially reached the common sense solution quicker.
If F1 is to formulate it’s “masterplan” for the future, it requires a more efficient political system as a foundation. Given that the current structure seems entrenched until 2020, this may be another challenging hurdle to overcome in the short term.
For now, at least, it is high time that F1 turns a corner and leaves the negativity behind. Following two excellent races to start 2016, in which fantastic strategic elements have combined with close wheel-to-wheel combat, this campaign could be a thriller.