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FIA president Jean Todt 'optimistic' F1 teams will agree to qualifying change

Lars Baron/Getty Images

Jean Todt believes Formula One will be able to agree on an improved qualifying format at a meeting with teams and stakeholders in Bahrain on Sunday.

After F1's new live elimination qualifying formula resulted in an anti-climactic Q3 session in Australia, the system has come under heavy criticism from drivers, teams and fans. Plans to change Q3 to last year's style of qualifying ahead of this weekend's race in Bahrain did not receive unanimous approval from teams last week, who wanted all three sessions of qualifying to revert to the 2015 format.

Todt, who did not offer a full scale switch to 2015-style qualifying as an option ahead of Bahrain, says all ideas would be welcome at Sunday's meeting and is hoping Saturday's qualifying session will provide more evidence of the positive aspects of the Q1 and Q2 sessions under the live-elimination regulations.

"I suggested to host a meeting tomorrow," Todt said in the Bahrain paddock on Saturday. "Why tomorrow? Because we will probably have some more learnings from this afternoon's qualifying. The meeting will be with all the teams, with the commercial rights holder, one representative of the Pirelli and I made the trip specifically to attend this meeting."

Todt said the initial plan to change qualifying this year came from race promoters, who wanted more of a spectacle for trackside fans in Q1 and Q2. He argues that the new system offers this and only Q3 needs to be rethought.

"In my opinion Q1 and Q2 could be optimised. There was a complaint that in Q1 and Q2 it was too long before we saw the drivers on track, so the idea was for the fans and spectators, when they come to the race, they will see immediately the most competitive cars and drivers out, and that has been achieved.

"About Q3, clearly it was the biggest problem. There were a lot of opportunities, one was that we could have one more set of tyres and that would definitely improve the show. Another possibility was to take the first eight in the classification and the eighth in the classification goes and then when he is coming back the seventh goes out, so you would have one car on the track with unpredictable final results. I feel it was necessary to give one more chance to this frame of qualifying before simply reverting back to the 2015 regulations.

"We wanted to change Q3 [ahead of Bahrain] because we think that the biggest problem is coming from Q3. There is evidence that there is some good idea behind Q1 and Q2, so now after the qualifying today we will meet tomorrow at midday with the teams, the commercial rights holder, an FIA representative, Pirelli and address what is the best thing from China, where hopefully we will get a unanimous agreement in the interests of the sport. I hope that the decision which will be taken tomorrow in light of the second qualifying [under the new rules] and it will be a decision that respects the fans, respects the media, respects the promoter and respects everybody and will be a big step forward."

Asked what would happen if the necessary unanimous agreement was not reached on Sunday, Todt said: "I'm optimistic we will have an agreement tomorrow."

Defending F1's inability to change an unpopular format between Australia and Bahrain, Todt said it was important not to have knee-jerk reactions.

"We are in a world where there is too much overreaction. We must give a chance to things to be more understood. I was thrilled by the race in Melbourne, so I am happy to speak about qualifying but we should have a global vision about Formula One. Without changing the regulations [ahead of Australia's race], simply the cars became more competitive, we had the privilege of one American team doing bloody well and we saw one horrendous crash without major consequences. It had a lot of positives."