Wolff slams ‘rubbish’ new F1 quali format after Oz flop

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Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff labels the new F1 elimination-style qualifying format introduced at the Australian Grand Prix “rubbish”, saying it has made the show “worse”.

Hastily devised ahead of the 2016 season, the knockout system was first sampled in Melbourne on Saturday. It resulted in farcical scenes where drivers sometimes did not have enough time to complete a flying lap after they had to return to the pits to bolt on a fresh set of tyres.

It also led to an anti-climatic end to the session with both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel confined to the Ferrari garage and not able to challenge the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Consequently, there was virtually no action on track in the final four minutes of Q3.

While naturally pleased to see his drivers lock out the front row for the season-opening race, Wolff is quick to admit the new qualifying format simply does not work.

“I’m the first one to say we shouldn’t be speaking badly on TV about some of the things but I think the new qualifying format is pretty rubbish,” he told Sky Sports.

Asked if it can be changed for round two in Bahrain, the Mercedes motorsport boss added: “I think we need to discuss that. Everybody is trying to do their best to improve the show and sometimes when we find out we haven’t improved the show, we have made it worse, we need to sit down and say ‘what can be done, can we come back’. I think that discussion is going to take place.”

The new elimination system was brought forward following important meetings of the F1 Commission and Strategy Group that took place in Geneva at the end of last month. Wolff, who took part in the debates and deliberation, explained the rationale that led to the changes in the first place.

“We all sat in the room and what we wanted is to listen to everyone who sells tickets and promoters. If the Saturday is something that needs to be improved then we need to look at it, that’s what we did. The solution is not good, that’s my personal opinion, and that’s why we have to have a look at it again.”

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Qualifying as it happened