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Bahrain qualifying will be another fail, says Wolff

Lewis Hamilton took pole position in Melbourne, but the new system left drivers watching the final minutes of qualifying in their garages rather than on track

Formula One’s much-derided new qualifying format faces more criticism in Bahrain this weekend after a disappointing debut in Australia, Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff said on Tuesday.

The Austrian warned also that the sport was ‘under scrutiny’ and needed to think carefully to extricate itself from a self-imposed problem.

“This weekend we will see the new qualifying system continue after a less-than-impressive debut in Australia,” Wolff said in a team preview for Sunday’s second race of the season at the Sakhir circuit.

“The teams were unanimous in their opinion of it on Sunday in Melbourne and it wasn’t a positive opinion. We haven’t found the right format with this change and it’s hard to see how it might be more entertaining for the fans this weekend in Bahrain.”

Teams had agreed unanimously only weeks before the season started to change the qualifying format to create more excitement in the Saturday session, introducing instant elimination of the slowest drivers at timed intervals.

While the first and second phases of qualifying saw more action, the final eight car session proved a flop with drivers watching from the garages as the clock ticked away the closing minutes without anyone on track.

Wolff, whose team qualified first and second with triple champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, had said in Melbourne that the new format was ‘pretty rubbish’ and needed changing.

However, a subsequent meeting of teams and F1 stakeholders failed to find unanimity and decided to leave it in place for at least one more race rather than be rushed into a knee-jerk decision.

“The sport is under scrutiny on this matter, so careful thought is required in order to make coordinated, intelligent steps forward from the position we are in right now,” said Wolff on Tuesday.

“The fans want close racing, in a format they can understand, between the best drivers and cars in the world — in that order. We should be capable of delivering that to the people in the grandstands and watching around the world.”

Hamilton, who finished second to Rosberg in Australia, qualified on pole last year at Sakhir and will be chasing his third successive Bahrain Grand Prix victory on Sunday.

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