Sebastian Vettel was not surprised by the new Formula 1 qualifying format’s failure to improve the spectacle or get more cars on track, saying that drivers predicted it would not be effective.
Last month, the F1 Commission unanimously voted in favor of adding quickfire eliminations to qualifying within the existing Q1/Q2/Q3 structure.
The belief was that it would punish drivers more severely for mistakes and shake up the grid while also getting more cars out on track for the session, improving the spectacle for fans in the stands.
However, its debut was met with widespread criticism after pole for the Australian Grand Prix was ultimately decided with four minutes remaining in Q3, leaving the track empty at the end of the session.
Vettel was far from surprised about the difficulties, saying that the drivers had seen it coming when the idea was first raised.
“I don’t see why everyone is surprised. We all said what is going to happen,” Vettel said.
“It happened. We were told to wait and see. Now we saw and I don’t think it was very exciting.
“It was a bit crazy in the beginning with all the cars pushing and trying to do a lap before they get kicked out, so managing traffic is busy but for no reason because the time is there in the session to do it.
“For the people in the grandstand, I don’t feel it is right way to go. There are no cars to watch. They want to see Lewis, Nico, Kimi, whoever – pushing to limit at the end of the session when the track is supposed to be at its best.
“I don’t think we need the criticism now. We had the criticism already but surely it is [the] wrong way to go. That is what we said.”
Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.
Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.
PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session
FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP
Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.
Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.
Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.
Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.
“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”
Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”
Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.