Lewis Hamilton is in pole position in Sunday’s F1 Australian Grand Prix, ahead of Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton flew to first place on the grid with a time of 1:23.837, almost half a second ahead of team-mate Rosberg.
Australia is the 50th F1 pole position for Hamilton, leaving him third behind Ayrton Senna and Schumacher for F1 career poles. Despite heavy rain for practice, the weather had eased off for the revamped qualifying sessions.
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) March 18, 2016
The new F1 qualifying rules, brought in for the first race of the 2016 season, has left drivers and teams less than impressed. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone spoke to Autosport after qualifying finished.
“I watched it, but I have to say I wasn’t enthusiastic about it from day one. It was pretty crap. But this is what we’ve got, until we can change it. The only thing about this [format] is that the quick guys could have run off the road, or done anything a little bit silly, and then you would get a mixed-up grid, which is what we wanted.”
Under the new F1 qualifying rules there are “live” driver eliminations which are supposed to spice up the starting grid. Instead of two drivers being eliminated after each qualifying session, now the slowest driver in each session will be eliminated every 90 seconds. Eventually, there will only be two drivers left and those two will fight it out -Hamilton vs Vettel in this case – for pole position.
Watch the F1 Australian Grand Prix qualifying highlights below.
According to Ecclestone, F1 needed the changes to avoid becoming predictable, “we should be discussing whether or not Hamilton has to push, whether the Ferraris are quick…but they can’t do that any more.”
“If we go back to the old system, I tell you what would happen: Mercedes would be first and second.”
As it happens that’s exactly the line up for Australian grid, Mercedes at P1 and P2 with Ferrari on P3 and P4. The Washington Post reports that with three minutes left in qualifying – an eternity in F1 – “fans were streaming out of the grandstands” and “drivers had parked their cars in order to save their tires.”
The F1 team bosses were quick to add their complaints about the new system. Christian Horner from Red Bull said F1 “should apologize…we have got it wrong.” Toto Wolff of Mercedes wasn’t happy either, saying the new system was “pretty rubbish.”
The Telegraph noted that FIA President Jean Todt, who was the F1 Ferrari boss during the Schumacher years, thought F1 needed to sort out qualifying before the next Grand Prix, Bahrain, on 3 April.
“We have expert people who can analyse in detail. I want my people discussing with the teams and drivers to come back with comments and light of that we will address totally the situation.”
Both F1 fans and teams “looked on in horror as most of the leading drivers stayed in the garage during the final part of qualifying…by the time the chequered flag waved there had not been a car on the circuit for three minutes.”
Vettel, starting at P3, said he didn’t know why “everyone is surprised…we all said what is going to happen. It happened.” He added that there are “no cars [for the fans] to watch” and the new system “is the wrong way to go.”
F1 fans on Twitter certainly agreed with Vettel.
Well, that didn't work so well with @F1 Qualifying. Not sure the new system is the go. Very confusing.
— Russell Ingall (@RussellIngall) March 19, 2016
F1 Qualifying an embarrassment. Complete farce. 5 minutes to go and we knew starting grid already.
Fair to say F1 stuffed it
— Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) March 19, 2016
— Eric Bana (@EricBana67) March 19, 2016
Although Hamilton has complained about changes to qualifying during F1 winter testing, he was upbeat that the format could be fixed, saying it was “a good step that we [F1] tried something new.” Hamilton agreed that it “wasn’t the right way” but was confident that changes could be made in time for the F1 race in Bahrain.
The F1 Australian Grand Prix will be held in Melbourne on Sunday 20 March, beginning at 1 a.m. EST.
[Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images]