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Pick your battles - FIA and Ecclestone yield on F1 qualifying. More battles ahead

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Pick your battles - FIA and Ecclestone yield on F1 qualifying. More battles ahead
Apr 7, 2016, 5:06 PM

The FIA has confirmed officially that the format of qualifying will revert to 2015 specification from the next race onwards after a show of unity f...

The FIA has confirmed officially that the format of qualifying will revert to 2015 specification from the next race onwards after a show of unity from the 11 Formula 1 teams, who published a letter to demand its reinstatement.

The FIA statement said: "At the unanimous request of the teams in a letter received today, Jean Todt, President of the FIA, and Bernie Ecclestone, commercial rights holder representative, accepted, in the interests of the Championship, to submit a proposal to the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council to revert to the qualifying format in force in 2015.

"This proposal, if approved by the F1 governing bodies, will take effect as from the Chinese Grand Prix and will apply for the rest of the season.

"Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone welcomed the idea put forward by the teams to have a global assessment of the format of the weekend for 2017."

The letter was sent ahead of a vote between the teams, the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone, due to take place today. This qualifying topic has been an irritant, but it has to be seen in context; it is the first battle in what is likely to be a choppy few months for F1.

At the end of this month the three parties must agree new rules for 2017 and by then the engine manufacturers need to come to the table with meaningful concessions on engine costs and supply.

Ecclestone and Todt are very wily and experienced operators and know when to pick their battles.

The latest development in the saga of qualifying formats follows the first two races of the 2016 season where a new elimination style system has been widely criticised at the Australian and Bahrain races.

Eric Boullier

A meeting on the Sunday morning of the Bahrain Grand Prix to analyse the second running of the elimination format ended with another new consideration; an aggregate system.

That idea would have used a similar format to the 2015 qualifying sessions but with each driver completing two timed laps in each of the three segments and an aggregate time then forming the basis for the grid.

But the letter from the teams rejects the aggregate system.

XPB.cc Bernie Ecclestone Jean Todt

In Bahrain, the aggregate system did not appear to have gained much support among F1’s drivers, either, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo saying the proposed format sounded more suited to endurance racing.

He said: “Qualifying is one lap, that one perfect lap. To have an aggregate it starts to sound more like endurance racing, or something. I wouldn’t be too keen on that, no.”

Daniel Ricciardo

McLaren’s Jenson Button was more open to the aggregate idea, but only as he believes “anything” would be better than the elimination format.

He said: "If it's an aggregate system, I'll give it a go. That's all you can say. It's better than this one. Anything is better than this one.

"Drivers driving around with one eye closed would be better than this one. I look forward to change, and that's what's hopefully coming."

Jenson Button

F1 has experimented with an aggregate system before. Back in 2005 the sport used two qualifying sessions – one on low fuel on Saturday and one with race fuel on Sunday – to determine the grid.

But that format was panned and subsequently dropped after six races before the knockout system was put in place for 2006 and remained until the elimination system was introduced just two weeks before the 2016 season got underway last month.

 Jenson Button 2005

What do you make of the latest twist in F1’s qualifying saga? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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