Formula One is set to retain its unpopular qualifying format at next week’s Chinese Grand Prix after teams rejected a compromise backed by the governing FIA and called for a return to last year’s version.
Sources said the teams expressed their united position in a letter to commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and International Automobile Federation (FIA) head Jean Todt who both ruled out going back at a 90-minute meeting in Bahrain last weekend.
One team source said the letter expressed a willingness to experiment with new formats once the championship was decided.
The impasse is likely to mean the new live elimination format introduced this season, condemned by fans and teams as a failure, will remain in place for at least a third race.
Any change to the 2016 regulations requires the unanimous approval of the FIA’s F1 commission which groups the teams, commercial rights holder and governing body as well as other stakeholders.
Teams agreed at the Bahrain Grand Prix to vote by Thursday on the compromise solution which would see each driver do at least two laps in each of the three phases of qualifying with the times aggregated.
“If we don’t agree to a compromise we are stuck with what we’ve got and I think everyone agrees what we’ve got isn’t right,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner had said.
Williams deputy-principal Claire Williams said on Sunday Todt and Ecclestone believed “going back to 2015 will create more confusion than is necessary”.
The argument is about more than finding the best way to line up 22 cars on the starting grid, however.
In a sport that can crunch vast amounts of data in milliseconds, it comes down to power and who really calls the shots, the teams or the FIA and Ecclestone.
World champions Mercedes and Ferrari supply eight of the 11 teams, giving them more muscle in decision-making.
“The FIA should write the regulations and say ‘these are the regulations. If you want to enter the championship you enter. If you don’t, don’t,” Ecclestone told reporters in Bahrain.
He said the change to the qualifying format came at the request of promoters, keen for more action during the early phases of the Saturday session, and a desire to shake up the starting grid.
Dominant Mercedes have won 34 of the last 40 grands prix and eight in a row.