Niki Lauda says that avoiding a reverse-grid rule is what led to the current qualifying format that was slammed on Saturday after the first grid-deciding session in Australia.
The new format was introduced for the first grand prix of the year less than a month before the start of the new season, after F1 chiefs had voted in favour of it in a meeting.
The vote was followed by days of confusion, with Bernie Ecclestone saying the new software needed would not be in place for the first race, then stating that it would be ready in time.
But on Saturday the system proved to be far from a success, as pole position was decided several minutes before the end of Q3, without any sort of shootout in the dying minutes.
Lauda, a non-executive chairman at Mercedes, said after qualifying that the only reason the new format was chosen to stop Ecclestone from introducing a reversed-grid system.
Speaking to Sky after the session, Lauda explained: "We started the meeting, then Bernie stood up and said 'We have to make practice [qualifying] more exciting, so the first in qualifying will have to start from 10th position, and the 10th guy is starting from first position'.
"So it all started. We all laughed, but it was serious.
"And then Charlie [Whiting] came up with this new system, so to get out of the problem with first and 10th, we were led into this big mistake, and this is the way it happened."
Lauda labelled the new format as "the worst decision in F1" and admitted the sport had completely lost its direction.
"We've lost all direction," he said. "Now it is very simple.
"The whole system is blocked at the moment, everybody is defending its own position. Nobody is thinking globally what is the best for the sport and therefore we make these decisions."