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F1 Chinese GP: Qualifying format to undergo latest key vote

F1 qualifying comes back under the spotlight today as team bosses and F1 powers meet to potentially vote through yet another new format.
Qualifying is back in focus today as F1 stakeholders meet yet again to consider a revised format and potentially vote it through ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.

The heavily panned elimination qualifying format made its debut in Australia to poor reviews, but despite team bosses planning and hoping to revert back to the 2015 format, the FIA blocked the option to do so. With no unanimity, the format remained in place for Bahrain, where it was again criticised.

With another meeting on Sunday ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix yielding no formal solution, an alternative proposal was tabled, which largely combines an aggregate format with last year's system.

How does it work?

A driver's two best laps from each of the three knockout sessions determine the order, with the slowest seven drivers eliminated after Q1, seven eliminated after Q2 before eight drivers will attempt to go for pole with by setting two fast laps.

The format is considered a way of ensuring teams have to get their cars out on track for longer after current criticism that the cars complete one lap and sit out the remainder of the session as they don't have the tyres available to attempt to go quicker.

Have we been here before?

Aggregate qualifying isn't a new format for F1 having been used in 2005 as part of the one-lap shootout that ran between 2003 and 2005. It proved unpopular with drivers and fans though, with some lasting just a handful of races before it was changed, paving the way for the knockout qualifying format we had until the end of 2015.

Drivers have already had their say, with Sebastian Vettel calling it 's***', while Jenson Button says 'driving around with one eye open is better than this one'

Will it get passed?

With FIA and FOM keen to maintain their ground having made it unequivocally clear F1 will not return to the knockout format, there is a suggestion that teams will bow to this format in an effort to rid it of the unpopular elimination system.

Indeed, opinion so far from the team bosses – who arguably hold the key to whether this format gets past – has been cautiously positive, albeit far from a ringing endorsement. That said, it would take just one stakeholder too go against for it not to get passed, of which the odds remain relatively high.

Will it work?

Regardless, there are complaints that the format won't achieve the aim of unpredictability, with analysts pointing out the likes of Sergio Perez would have made it out of Q1 with two laps in Bahrain, whereas Stoffel Vandoorne and Pascal Wehrlein wouldn't have enjoyed such notable qualifying results had they gone around twice.

Lewis Hamilton, having made a mistake on his first fast qualifying lap in Q3 in Bahrain, would have started in third place and his stunning record-breaking second effort may not have received due adulation as a result.

For this reason, another drawback is the 'historical' importance of the format, with aggregate times proving something of a blot on the pole winners' list as it must show the total time, not the fastest lap. For instance, Hamilton's record pole would not show on the all-time rundown.

What do you think? Should qualifying remain all about that one, pressured single lap, or does this new format have potential… and is anything better than what we have at the moment?

by Ollie Barstow



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