Williams confident F1 has learned from qualifying farce

Claire Williams believes Formula One chiefs have learned from the recent qualifying farce, most notably that new concepts should not be rushed nor trialled in public.

Hastily devised on the eve of the 2016 season, the elimination-style format flopped from the get-go in Australia. Despite team bosses quickly moving to revert to the old system, failure to reach unanimous agreement in the F1 Commission meant the much-derided knockout principle returned in Bahrain.

The show was hardly better in Sakhir, with F1’s key stakeholders subsequently locked in a power struggle to decide on the format for the remainder of the season. FIA president Jean Todt and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone initially opposed a return to the previous system but teams had the final say after demanding the switch in a letter to the governing body and commercial rights holder.

The reinstatement of the old qualifying format was eventually rubber-stamped by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council last Monday, meaning it will take immediate effect from this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

“I think that we have learned that we need to make more time to consider proposals that come to us – absolutely,” Williams is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com.

“We don’t want to play out scenarios like that in public. They should be done behind the scenes.

“Williams is relieved that F1 is going back to 2015 [qualifying]. It is obviously what the fans want, I hope it is what the media wants, it is certainly what our partners want.”

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Williams adds that teams are open to change the qualifying format amongst other potential tweaks tabled for future discussions, but she says allowing a longer timeframe was the right call.

“It will give us a period of stability during which time we can sit down to properly analyse what a potentially new 2017 qualifying system could look like. We have to look at a race weekend with a declining audience coming to watch live and turning on their televisions.

“We have to look at what we are putting on, at the track and away from the track, to make sure we are retaining the audience and attracting a new generation of fans.”

Eric Silbermann ponders the outcome of the qualifying format row

Chris Medland’s 2016 Chinese Grand Prix preview

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