Top 20 Stories of 2016

Top Stories of 2016, #15: F1's elimination qualifying farce

Motorsport.com's countdown of the biggest racing stories of the year continues with one of the more farcical episodes in recent Formula 1 history: the failed experiment that was elimination qualifying.

Formula 1's elimination qualifying fiasco was a perfect example of trying to fix something that was not broken to begin with.

The first sign that the sport had made a mistake with the idea of a new system came when its introduction was announced less than a month before the start of the season, leaving fans in shock and teams in a rush to prepare for something on such short notice.

Under the proposed new system, championed by Bernie Ecclestone, the slowest car in Q1 would be eliminated after seven minutes, with another car dropping out every 90 seconds thereafter until 15 cars were left.

The same process would be followed in Q2 to eliminate all but eight cars, and a 14-minute Q3 period would see a car eliminated after every 90 seconds starting at the fifth minute, with the last car remaining taking pole position.

Despite warnings from several drivers and teams - with Ferrari saying it did not "accept" the system - the plan went ahead, but soon hit a stumbling block.

Just a few days after its introduction was confirmed, Ecclestone announced the software would not be ready for the start of the season and the system would instead only be used for the first time in the Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth round of the season.

By March 4, 15 days before the first qualifying session, teams agreed (again) to use the elimination system in the season-opening race in Melbourne, but talk of a possible veto did not go away, as Ferrari continued to push to at least delay its introduction.

The final confirmation that elimination qualifying would be used in Australia came on March 10, nine days before its first trial.

As many had warned, the new system proved to be a disaster in Melbourne, with no cars on track in the final minutes of the three segments and pole position decided with the cars in the garage.

Despite calls to scrap the system right away, an emergency meeting with F1 chiefs resulted in the format staying for the second round in Bahrain, where it also proved highly unpopular.

Discussions continued after the Sakhir event, and proposals for tweaks - including an aggregate system that would count drivers' best two laps - were rejected after teams unanimously requested to revert to the 2015 format immediately.

Their request was accepted, and the elimination system died after just two races, the sport returning to the previous format in the Chinese Grand Prix - much to the relief of the fans.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Article type Special feature
Tags elimination qualifying
Topic Top 20 Stories of 2016