Hindsight can be a cruel mistress sometimes, but in F1 it is a cruel mistress that steals your savings and makes off with the family Labrador at the same time.

Whilst it is admittedly a little extreme to say F1 reached its nadir with its new qualifying format on Saturday, it did serve to fairly succinctly sum up the political shortcomings of a sport at a time when it is accused of being indecisive where it matters and impulsive when it really shouldn't be.

F1 can do knee-jerk very well. After all, the FIA does listen to complaints from teams, drivers and fans - as well as the loudest of them all, Bernie - , and it does react when the chorus reaches a particular decibel. From here, however, vested interests, commercial pressures and the desire to ensure everyone (well, most) get their say often means we get stuck in a loop of discussion and adjournments until either nothing happens or something quite different happens.

The independent engine proposal is a perfect example. FIA proposes it, teams get spooked, another discussion takes place, it goes away. In the meantime, media feverishly covers every angle and a few months later it is forgotten. Even the radio communication restrictions this weekend were hot news coming up to the race, but an eleventh hour relaxing after months of preparation simply neutered its impact and just left everyone more confused.

So how did we end up with 'that' qualifying? Of course, the big reaction to the new format was why change one thing (the one thing) that wasn't ever considered to be crying out for modification with something that on paper had some good elements but mostly garnered a reaction of 'hmmm'.

Prompted seemingly by a desire to bolster Saturday ticket sales and shake up a format which had gone largely unchanged for around a decade, it was pushed through - despite a lukewarm reaction - remarkably late in the day, coming up mid-way through testing. Under this pressure to change 'something' amidst other discussions that were struggling to find conclusion, it was passed (apparently begrudgingly by some).

Indeed, talking to my contemporaries and to drivers beforehand, as well as reading forums here, the general consensus was that the new system is a bit frivolous but 'let's see how it works in practice'.

In practice, it was, well awful. Now, it's important to note that some of the problems of Q1 and Q2 wouldn't necessarily happen again, such as teams now realising they couldn't complete a fast lap before being eliminated. That said, more problems can occur later - Albert Park isn't a terribly long circuit, so there would be even less time to get out and around in time at somewhere like Spa or Singapore, which is unfair on those who don't go quick enough first time as they can't get back to the pits for another shot. Part of the rules, maybe, but then you're literally left with a one-lap shootout format, which we have had already and few liked.

Essentially one lap and the bottom three or four are guaranteed to go out. No elimination, they just physically can't improve. It rather limits the drama of the 'baaajooo' elimination sound when they have already pitted, got out of the car and are giving interviews to Sky before they are actually ruled out. Sebastian Vettel had time to change into his jeans before the official press conference with not an ounce of sweat on him.

As for Q3... fans were voting with their feet and were also out of the door before the lone chequered flag man waved at no-one. From the tweets I received, it wasn't that they thought it was rubbish per se (those watching on TV did however), they didn't have enough of an idea what was going on to form an opinion, the only thing they saw was an empty circuit when it should have been buzzing and drivers getting out of their cars way before the end of the session. Hardly a Saturday spectacle.

Personally, I feel the format is open to tweaking to improve it and emphasise its best elements, but to do so would complicated matters further. Essentially, it is simply pockmarked with not just flaws, they are fundamental flaws at that.

What is perhaps most remarkable is that these fundamental flaws were not unforeseen and shouldn't have been unravelled on the public stage... the teams and the drivers certainly saw it coming, but Toto Wolff said by the time the 'simple' idea had become complex, it was too far gone into the process of implementing it.

"When the Strategy Group and F1 Commission decided to follow that idea in order not to shut the door, some of the race track promoters, who came up with the idea of spicing up the Saturday, we felt we should follow them. Once the sporting directors and technical guys showed it was much more complicated than the simple thought, we were probably too far in the process already. We couldn't convince the relevant bodies to change their mind."

In a way, it's ironic that a sport that is constantly derided for over-thinking makes a quick poorly-thought out decision and gets it entirely wrong. But really, given these problems were known, throwing it out into the public domain is extraordinary and I was personally disheartened that the first major headlines for F1 in the wider media this year were brandished with words like chaos, shambles and farce. Professionally I love controversy, personally it pained me to write it.

Of course, though F1 is certainly not alone in having blunders play out on a public stage, this weekend's Australian Grand Prix qualifying shambles was a perfect storm for an already embattled sport bobbing about in rough seas.

Then again, at least the sport is big enough to accept a U-turn and return to what we know - out with the new, in with the old. At worst, it's a retrospective feature article for the future when we will look back and go 'remember when F1 tried that odd qualifying format for one race'. Probably sometime around 2021, alongside an article about teams still debating how to make F1 more exciting.

It's just as well the race proved something of a relief-inducing tonic for F1 bosses (and fans, since don't forget they don't want their favourite sport to struggle either). Whilst I will personally downgrade my opinion from some views that it was a 'thriller' to my take of it being 'competitively dramatic', it at least wasn't a walkover by Mercedes, despite the familiar end result.

A missed opportunity for Ferrari, almost certainly, Vettel should have been given the chance to go wheel-to-wheel with Rosberg on the same tyres at the restart (not that Ferrari was expecting Mercedes to pull that trick anyway) and trust the four-time world champion to keep his potentially slower car in front. Whether it would have worked, hardly any point in speculating, but he'd have had the measure of a surprisingly flaccid Hamilton, who was lucky to go from seventh to second by overtaking just two cars on track all afternoon. Damage limitation indeed.

As someone that has worked across different forms of motorsport on two and four wheels for several years, your heart never stops skipping when you see a wreck and Fernando Alonso's huge shunt in the race made me go cold at first glance. Not for long though, the Spaniard up and about quickly because he wanted to show his Mum he was OK (awww)! We talk about halos, but that right there is incredible testament to F1 safety already and the FIA deserves massive credit.

One 'new for 2016' introduction that did work well in practice (but ironically, wasn't talked much about), was the extra tyre compound from Pirelli. Granted there was a bit of confusion over what, where and when, but it threw in an element that the red flag allowed teams to take advantage of. Would Rosberg have defeated Vettel without that extra medium?

And finally, Haas. What a performance. Strategy and a red flag helped but it was its first-ever such call and it nailed it. After such a troubled build up and Romain Grosjean starting 19th on the grid, it's an astonishing result for a new team and I am not ashamed to say I had a little lump in my throat of pure pride when the Frenchman crossed the line and went justifiably doolally on the radio.

See, F1 does do fairytales sometimes... and it's not always as the Grinch.

Follow @OllieBarstow on Twitter

 

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