Vettel is not in fine fettle

Drivers irate over failure to review qualifying format

Sebastian Vettel. Photo: Getty

Alan Baldwin

Formula One bosses would get it wrong even if they were selling ice cream and everybody wanted one flavour, Sebastian Vettel said yesterday as the sport's qualifying format drew further criticism.

The Ferrari driver said at the Bahrain Grand Prix he was "as disappointed as probably anyone I know" the new system was not changed after failing on its debut in Australia on March 20.

"Put it this way, if you sell vanilla ice cream but everybody who comes to your shop is asking for chocolate ice cream," explained four-times world champion Vettel.

"The next day you open you expect to sell chocolate ice cream but instead you just sell vanilla again.

"Usually you do what your clients would like you to do but you are not really doing the job if you do the exact opposite. It's something we can't be proud of," added the German.

Team bosses and commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone agreed after qualifying in Melbourne the elimination format had not worked and needed to be changed before Bahrain.

Instead of an exciting battle for pole position in the third and final phase, there were no cars on the track in the closing minutes in Australia as drivers sat in their garages and watched the clock tick down.

Drivers and others called for qualifying to revert entirely to the 2015 format, or for the third and final phase to be held according to the old rules. A subsequent vote failed to secure the required unanimity, however, and the format was kept intact with a promise it would be reviewed after this weekend's race.

Not right

The Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) wrote to Ecclestone and Jean Todt, president of the governing FIA, after Melbourne to call for a change in the decision-making processes and governance.

"We made it clear there's something that's not right and something has to change," said Vettel, one of the GPDA directors, with drivers expressing fears that fans would be turned off.

Triple champion Lewis Hamilton, who is not a member of the GPDA, said he backed the drivers' stance but was not surprised to see the qualifying format stay the same "just because of the way Formula One is".

"There's never like a clear-cut decision," he said.

"It is back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. One minute it is one way, one minute it is another way, the next minute it is another way."