Lewis Hamilton says it is strange that qualifying is unchanged at Bahrain GP

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton during qualifying for the 2015 Australian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but was beaten in the race by Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton says it is "strange" Formula 1 has kept the controversial new elimination qualifying format for this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Teams agreed unanimously to ditch the system after negative reaction to its debut in Australia two weeks ago.

Hamilton said: "It's strange we've kept it the same, particularly because the most important thing is the fans were unhappy."

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel added: "It's something we can't be proud of."

The new qualifying format was condemned because it ended with four minutes of an empty track in Australia as teams sought to save tyres for the race - exactly as they had predicted would happen.

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Hamilton said: "My engineers say it's going to be exactly the same this weekend. So the fans are going to be unhappy again, and I just hope that they do something afterwards."

Vettel added: "Put it this way: You sell ice cream, and it's vanilla and everybody that comes to your shop is asking for chocolate ice cream.

"And the next day everyone comes expecting you to sell chocolate ice cream but you sell vanilla again. You do what your clients would like you to do. You are not really doing your job by doing the exact opposite."

Jean Todt
FIA president Jean Todt prevented the 2015 qualifying format being reinstated

The plan to revert to the 2015 format of three knock-out sessions in which all eligible cars run to the end was derailed by Jean Todt, president of governing body the FIA.

Sources say he was not prepared to be dictated to by the teams, so he did not present that option when the decision to change was put to a vote of the F1 Commission, which includes all teams, the FIA, F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone and representatives of the circuits, sponsors and tyre suppliers.

Instead, Todt offered the choice of a slightly amended elimination format - with the first two sessions slightly extended and only the third session running as 2015 - or to stick with the new rules.

McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Williams all voted against the tweaks because it was not what had been agreed by the teams in Australia.

Insiders say by doing so they hoped to force Todt to run a second vote with the option of reverting to 2015's format but this did not happen.

Several drivers made the point that the fiasco underlined their reasons for writing an open letter last week pleading for F1's governance to be changed to stop decisions being made on the sport's future.

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, said he hoped the letter would lead to a "re-think of what is currently happening".

He added: "Obviously it is clear if you write the letter it doesn't change tomorrow, we didn't give any proposals, we just made clear something is not right and something has to change. our intention was to really question our current situation and decision-making and hopefully improve that in the future."

Hamilton is one of a handful of drivers who are not members of the GPDA but he said the drivers were unanimously behind the letter.

Australian GP: F1's new qualifying format explained

McLaren driver Jenson Button, also a GPDA director, said: "We wrote it to show we care.

"We're very passionate about the sport. We grew up loving watching F1 and dreaming of being in an F1 car and racing against the best drivers in the world.

"We are very emotional about our decisions, which sometimes is not the best, but you do need emotion about the way a sport should work and our input could be very useful.

"We're not putting a statement out to show how strong we are as drivers. Most of us don't care about that.

"We're doing it because we think we can help the sport we love very much and make it a better sport, for the fans, the sport and the whole of F1.

"We want the fan base to grow, we want youngsters to love the sport. With the short attention span most kids have these days with phones in their faces we need to make the sport more exciting."

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