F1 qualifying can be changed for Bahrain - Ecclestone

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One needs to change its new qualifying format after it fell flat at Saturday’s Australian season-opener and tweaks can be made before the next race in Bahrain, according to the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone (L) reacts next to Former Formula One champion Niki Lauda as they watch the men's Alpine Skiing World Cup Super G race on the Streif course in Kitzbuehel, Austria, January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

The new format, based on racers being progressively eliminated during the sessions rather than at the end of each, was intended to add excitement but instead took away any suspense with no cars on track in the final minutes.

Asked by Reuters whether the format should and could be changed before the second round of the championship in Bahrain on April 3, Ecclestone replied “Yes”.

“This idea was the (governing) FIA’s,” added the 85-year-old, who is not in Australia for the race.

“If we can get them to agree to change and we agree to change, we can change it. Or if we get all the teams to agree with us, we can change it.”

Ecclestone caused a furore before the season started by saying Formula One was the worst it had ever been, comments that earned him a rebuke from Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche, whose Mercedes team are favourites to dominate for a third successive season.

The new qualifying format was agreed unanimously by the 11 teams and approved by the International Automobile Federation but Ecclestone stressed it was not what he had proposed or wanted.

“I had another idea. My idea was to leave the old qualifying alone and whoever won the previous race, or finished second or third down to 10th, would have time added to their qualifying time,” he said.

“You just add the times on. Qualifying would stay as it was in the old days, which is what I’d like...and it would have changed the grid completely so at least for two thirds of the race you’d get a lot of racing.”

Ecclestone said the first phase of the new qualifying had worked, with plenty of activity unlike in the past, but the last part had not.

Mercedes’ triple world champion Lewis Hamilton, who took his 50th career pole, knew he had it in the bag long before the end of the session and there was no incentive to venture out on track again.

“I think if you said they’ve got to stay out (in the final phase), it would probably do all the things perhaps that’s necessary,” said Ecclestone.

“The idea of all this was that maybe if one of the top guys had made a mistake, they would have been at the back of the grid.”

He disagreed, however, with the idea that Saturday’s qualifying was not the best way to start the new season.

“Yes it is, because you wouldn’t be talking about it otherwise,” he said.

“I tell you what you’d have done. You’d have said ‘Okay, they (Mercedes) are first and second on the grid. This is what Bernie said was going to happen and it’s all very bad’. So instead of that you are talking.”

Editing by Ed Osmond