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F1 teams unite in call to return to 2015 qualifying format

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The 11 Formula 1 teams have written a letter to the series’ bosses expressing their united call to return to the qualifying format used in 2015, according to reports.

The F1 Commission agreed in February to add quickfire eliminations to the existing qualifying structure from the Australian Grand Prix, only for the new format to prove highly unpopular.

As the F1 Commission could not unanimously agree on what format should replace it for Bahrain, the eliminations remained in place and once again failed to improve the session.

On Sunday in Bahrain, team officials met with F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt for 90 minutes to discuss a possible change in the format of qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix. However, all that was agreed was to hold another meeting today.

Ahead of the summit, the 11 teams have informed Ecclestone and Todt that they are now firmly united on returning to the old qualifying format according to multiple reports including BBC Sport and Autosport.

Previously, some of the teams had been undecided on what format should be used, but now there is unanimity between them.

At the meeting in Bahrain, reverting back to the old style qualifying was not discussed as being a viable option due to opposition from Ecclestone and Todt.

Instead, an aggregate system was favored whereby drivers would have their two fastest times in each stage of qualifying added together to form the grid.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was particularly vocal about the idea, calling it “s**t”, and it appears that the teams have come to a similar view in the wake of their letter.

Underpinning all of this is the power struggle between the teams and Ecclestone/Todt, as explored by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton in his latest blog post.

The F1 Commission will vote on qualifying again at today’s meeting, but unless an agreement can be struck, it would appear that the eliminations will remain for the Chinese Grand Prix on April 17.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.