Vettel hits out at 'circus' nature of qualifying idea

Sebastian Vettel signs autographs for fans as he arrives ahead of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Sebastian Vettel signs autographs for fans as he arrives ahead of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • As Formula One's bosses lurch towards another futile-looking meeting tomorrow in a bid to resolve the new and catastrophic qualifying format, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has described the proposed aggregate system as a "s*** idea".

After the qualifying shambles in Australia last month, the teams decided, unanimously, to change it. But the same system was applied at last weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix and a crisis meeting before the race failed to reach an agreement.

There was a suggestion, from veteran commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and International Automobile Federation (FIA) president, Jean Todt, of an aggregate system under which the drivers' grid positions would be based on their two best laps in each qualifying session.

However, Vettel said: "It's time to go to the circus. It's a good idea if you want random things to happen, but Formula One should be about racing. It's a s*** idea."

He was supported by his former Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who said: "Qualifying is one lap, that one perfect lap. To have an aggregate, it starts to sound more like endurance racing. I wouldn't be too keen on that, no."

One leading team principal, who declined to be named, said in Bahrain on Sunday: "The trouble is the men who run the sport are too pig-headedly stubborn to admit they made a mistake and return to the old qualifying. There was nothing wrong with it.

"We tried the aggregate system (in 2005) and it was soon scrapped because it didn't work. And that wouldn't result in a more random grid, which is what they are trying to achieve."

Mercedes have continued to dominate the sport, with Nico Rosberg scoring a maximum 50 points after winning in Australia and Bahrain. But the German believes Ferrari are closer to Mercedes than the results have suggested.

"We know Ferrari are super close, we saw it in qualifying and we need to keep pushing," he said. "They've had so many mishaps that have cost them dearly, so we haven't seen the real Ferrari yet. We need to be careful, they are coming at us strong."

There was evidence to suggest that Ferrari have closed the gap and could have won in Australia and Bahrain.

In Melbourne, Vettel finished third after a wrong tyre strategy call while Kimi Raikkonen retired with what looked like turbo failure.

In Bahrain, Vettel qualified third but retired before the start with a power unit failure. Raikkonen made a poor start from fourth but fought back to finish second.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Vettel hits out at 'circus' nature of qualifying idea'. Print Edition | Subscribe