Formula One: Teams agree to revert to old qualifying for Bahrain, according to reports

Mercedes motorsports boss Toto Wolff walks past Formula One fans at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, on March 18, 2016.
Mercedes motorsports boss Toto Wolff walks past Formula One fans at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, on March 18, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Formula One will revert to the old system of qualifying for next month's race in Bahrain following the debacle of the new elimination format, reports said on Sunday.

There was widespread condemnation of the new qualifying format after its first operation at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

The qualifying session embarrassingly petered out with Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg not bothering to improve their times against the rampant Mercedes world champion Lewis Hamilton in the final minutes, leaving bewildered fans watching an empty track.

The decision was reached following a meeting of team principals and managers at the track ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff told reporters: "There was a meeting, with a unanimous decision taken to go back to the old format from Bahrain onwards.

"It needs to be ratified by the F1 Commission, but I would like to see who puts his hand up for yesterday's qualifying. It should be done in the next few days."

He said some teams had wanted to retain Q1 and Q2 in the current elimination procedure and only switching Q3 to the old format to ensure there would be action throughout.

"There were positive discussions and there were some teams who thought Q1 and Q2 would shake up things and would be interesting, but fundamentally common sense prevailed.

"We are now back to something we understand, where we have regulations and not reinvent something new."

Former F1 driver and now television commentator David Coulthard tweeted on social media: "Panic over, back to what wasn't broken for Bahrain qualifying."

F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, who criticised as "pretty crap" Saturday's first and now last showing of the revamped mechanism for race grid positions, is understood to have made his views known to the team bosses by phone, reports said.

According to reports on various motor-racing websites, the same group of team managers several weeks ago agreed a revision to the elimination system that involved Q3 running to a traditional format, with no eliminations and all the drivers able to run at the end, as in the past, but it never went back to the F1 Commission in that format.

The decision at the Melbourne meeting has to be agreed by all the teams before it goes to a vote of the strategy group - the six top teams, Ecclestone and International Automobile Federation chief Jean Todt - and then onto the F1 Commission and World Motor Sport Council, for formal ratification.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Saturday that F1 should apologise to the fans, while his Mercedes counterpart Wolff said the new system was "rubbish".

Ferrari's Vettel even attended the drivers' media conference immediately after the session in team casual wear, not overalls, as if he was making a point.

Vettel did not pull his punches when he said of the new format: "There's a certain responsibility. We can't just try things that many of us criticise, us included. You can't just turn around and say, 'It was the wrong thing.' We need to be sensible and try to do the right change (in the first place)."

Niki Lauda, former three-time world champion and now the chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas team, said the new qualifying system was a "big mistake".