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Qualifying format still unknown for Melbourne

Formula 1 News - March, 2016

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Mar.3 (GMM) The 'will it, won't it' saga of the ever-changing qualifying format for 2016 continued in Barcelona on Wednesday.

The F1 Commission recently agreed a tweaked 'musical chairs' format for the new season, but Bernie Ecclestone said it would be delayed until May so his software writers could catch up.

However, team bosses met with Charlie Whiting on Wednesday and a new solution was agreed that can reportedly make its debut on time in Australia.

It will see Q1 and Q2 switch to the one by one, 90-second 'musical chairs' elimination, before the final eight runners duke it out for pole as per the old format.

But just as that news broke, some insiders were claiming that the deal is still not done.

And that is not just because Friday's World Motor Sport Council meeting in Geneva will have to rubber-stamp it, but because the strategy group and F1 Commission may need to be reconvened to agree the latest tweak.

According to SID news agency, McLaren-Honda chief Eric Boullier agreed that Wednesday's meeting was "not a final decision".

"It was just a discussion," he added. But he said his belief is that, as it stands, qualifying will be 'musical chairs' in Q1 and Q2, and "Q3 the same as before".

"Date of introduction unknown," the Frenchman admitted.

Even the FIA did not want to talk about the debut date of a tweaked qualifying format in 2016, although spokesman Matteo Bonciani suggested it was only ever Bernie Ecclestone who spoke about a delay.

"We never communicated anything to the contrary," he is quoted by the German news agency SID.

What is clear, however, is that frenzied discussions are taking place. Indeed, even the drivers were convened for a rare meeting with F1 race director Charlie Whiting after the sun set in Barcelona on Wednesday.

Sergio Perez was quoted by DPA news agency as saying afterwards: "We are not very happy with these changes.

"The new system seems very complicated for the audience and for us. We believe that the qualifying we have had until now was right," the Force India driver added.

Kevin Magnussen, meanwhile, spoke for others who are concerned that the precise qualifying format is not known just two weeks before heading to Australia.

"Obviously it would be nice to know," said the Renault driver. "It would make it easier for everyone to prepare.

"We will just have to see what happens. We can give our opinion, but it's not up to us."

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