Australian Grand Prix Qualifying
Today was the debut of Formula 1's new qualifying rules. The result? An embarrassing mess.
That this weekend’s race is in Australia makes it a bit impractical for us Europeans to watch it live. I wasn’t really planning to get up at 7 in the morning for the qualifying session, but when the Heir to the Throne decided that a quarter past six was a great time to start the day, I decided to make the most of it and to watch how the new qualifying rules would work in practice. I was, after all, pretty sure they would lead to some thrilling racing during the qualifying sessions.
Boy, was I wrong!
Q1 started out like we’d all hoped, with a lot of cars on track from the beginning. But did it ever become more exciting than qualifying used to be with the old rules? No. If anything, it turned out even more anti-climatic. With over five minutes left of the last qualifying session, several of the drivers left their cars in the pits because it simply wasn’t anything to gain from going out again. If you ask me, that’s a massive insult to the spectators on the track who paid good money to watch the qualifying sessions. It only lasts for an hour, including breaks between the sessions, and to deprive the spectators of over a third of the final, 14 minutes long session is a shame. As a driver, you could at least sit in your car in the pit box and pretend you give a shit.
Pretty much everyone and their grandmother agreed that the new qualifying rules don’t work in real life. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel - who was one of the drivers who decided to flip off the crowd by leaving his car in Q3 - even managed to include a classic “I hate to say I told you so” when asked to comment about the disaster:
“We all said what is going to happen. It happened. We were told to wait and see. Now we saw and I don’t think it was very exciting.” - Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
Formula 1’s main problem isn’t the rules, though. It’s Mercedes dominance. The qualifying results show that very little has changed since the 2015 season: Mercedes still locks out the front row, Ferrari is the only real contender (but they are still half a second behind the slowest Mercedes), while the rest of the teams are scattered somewhere in the background.
I’m honestly not sure if Formula 1 is something I’ll spend any of my precious spare time watching this season. I’ll probably give it a chance by watching a couple of races, but if Mercedes, and my arch enemy Lewis Hamilton, continue to dominate, I’m out.