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F1 2016: What’s up with Bernie Ecclestone and his ‘Musical Chairs’?

Sports portals all around the world have been posting news about the new Formula One qualifying sessions and there have been mixed feelings regarding the change in many different aspects. So, what is the big hype about such change and how does it affect the race?

The qualifying rounds have been given a new look and will be undergoing a very different elimination system. Commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone claimed that last season was ‘the worst season it has ever been’ and let’s just say, some of us partially agreed with it with ample reasons such as engine problems, team mistakes, ‘could haves’ and ‘could be prevented’ scenarios.

However, the sport’s governing body- the International Automobile Federation (FIA), has come to an agreement to make a change in the rules and regulations of the sport. The F1 Strategy Group, which includes Bernie and President Jean Todt met in Switzerland on Tuesday to discuss ways to improve the sport.

Photo Credit: thisisf1.com
Photo Credit: thisisf1.com

Cars will be much heavier compared to last year and tyres will be wide alongside bigger rear wings. There will be greater downforce from the under floor. Also, a ‘Driver of the Day ‘will be voted by fans and presented on the day. Quite intriguing.

The latest change to take place is the new qualifying round. This year’s Saturday races will be split into three sessions as usual but will be taking a much different approach. Each session will last 14, 15 and 16 minutes respectively, with one racer being eliminated just before the 9 minute mark and six racers will battle the clock for a 90 second survival before time is up and advance to the next round until one racer remained the polesitter.

As fun as it sounds, such format seems awfully familiar. Perhaps one of those games you play on the Play Station? Where your game ends just right after the elimination countdown. Now you get to see it in real life.

The race will not be inclining to huge changes (except for being faster by an average of six minutes) but it will serve as a publicity stunt and we do need to keep in mind that commercial is the biggest influence one can take advantage of to increase turnover rates.  Viewers definitely will be enjoying it, as I can imagine the loud screams and hearts will beat as fast as the cars when the 90 second countdown starts. ‘Need for speed’ will be the motto this time round.

Photo Credit: luxurypitstop.com
Photo Credit: luxurypitstop.com

Don’t get me wrong because the new style is indeed interesting but why is it getting some negative reactions? Let’s not forget, playing a video game just requires buttons and you can restart when you crash whereas the real drivers will be feeling the impact and there’s no turning back.

“I don’t know if I will like it or not,” said Williams’ Felipe Massa as quoted from BBC. “I need to have a little bit of time to sit down and understand the rules, understand the changes.”

“The only thing I understand is that they want to create some chaos around and this will happen for sure.” And the Brazilian is right.

Jolyon Palmer, whom will be making his debut under Renault this year, claimed that the change was a ‘strange idea’ and thought the original was alright as it is.

Three-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo both agreed that the rules will not have  drastic effect on the practicality of the race but one thing Hamilton did voice out is the lack of communication between the ones behind the wheel and the ones behind the organization.

Photo Credit: Sky Sports
Photo Credit: Sky Sports

“I don’t agree with the changes that are made, and have been for many, many years. We just live with it.”

Hamilton is one of the traditionalists in the sport who backs the old styles, including the V12 engines, wider tyres and pin the 80s as his favorite era. The Briton also claimed that the cars have gotten about a 100kg heavier and from a racer’ view, such is not practical as cars should be getting lighter.

Our question every year: What is Bernie Ecclestone thinking? What exactly runs through that mind of his?

For the past many years, Bernie has been thinking of better ways to make the sport much more attractive and also counterbalance the rising costs. Trial and errors were done in the case of white elephants like the South Korean Grand Prix and Turkey. The V6 were opted for more environmental friendly purposes. Some perceive Bernie to be just a man who’s in it for the cash and heavily commercializing the beauty of the sport.

Photo Credit: dailycarblog.com
Photo Credit: dailycarblog.com

Yes, he does come off a little eccentric and strikes up a love-hate relationship with the fans and drivers. He may look like does not know what is he doing – some even suggests that Christian Horner should replace him shouldn’t we give Bernie just a little more time?

After all, Bernie is the man who made Formula One emerge from an amateur sport to a world class act which garnered fantastic attention just like the World Cup. He is a man of unsurpassed authority in F1. Give his shoes to another person and I can guarantee you that no one will be able to try as hard as Bernie to ‘save’ the sport.

Contradicting opinions have been sparking up between the viewers and drivers. Let’s remember Bernie is a businessman, not a sportsman. He has had his fair share of competing in his early days but that is about it. As of now, he will do whatever he can to make sure the sport gets to retain its international fame besides thinking of what’s best for the drivers.

Bernie has a long history of strange suggestions to upgrade the sport. Remember the extra pit stops team winners had to make? Back in the 80s, where the decade was heavily influenced by legends Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, McLaren-Honda became the limelight and were predicted to win every season. But no, such things will not happen on Bernie’s watch. The ‘ringmaster’ just had to suggest a compulsory extra pit stop for the winning teams in order to ‘slow them down’. Of course, an extra pit stop takes up another 3 seconds and that does make a huge difference.

Photo Credit: dailycarblog.com
Photo Credit: dailycarblog.com

Not to mention the grid lottery where the fastest ten was drawn by lottery for the grid or the sprinklers to provide wetness to the race because Mother Nature is not giving them a chance to use the wet tyres.

With the new set of rules, little do we know, Bernie has made the race to be less predictable and that is what we want. This means that cars will have to press on the oil a little harder and make good judgements and rely just a little on luck.

“It has been done at short notice and so I think all of us are going to make mistakes. That may mean cars are out of position, with quicker cars a bit further back, and as we all know, that has given us some great races in the past,” said Williams’ chief technical officer Pat Symonds as quoted from the Daily Mail.

Bernie has long been known for his uncanny moniker ‘special dictator’. His ways may not be able to attract full-on support from everyone but it’s his hands that lead the sport to its powerful existence. The man himself has ridiculed plans of democracy within the industry – in fact anywhere, and believes that a true leader needs to ‘lead’ and be smart enough to think of ways to teach people and guide them.

Now, Bernie Ecclestone is a smart man, despite what people may think. He may be a dictator but he is a capable leader. The Briton and Max Mosley were a part of the FISA-FOCA war with Jean-Marie Balestre for the control of the sport. Balestre and Bernie tried to outplay their cards with each other and it was as exciting as it could ever be. This showed everyone what Bernie was made of. Several times, he had put his own money at risk and had to secure support from the British teams. In the end, Bernie won the war despite Balestre calling it a compromise.

Photo Credit: madtv.me.uk
Photo Credit: madtv.me.uk

Balestre was a man whom sported a lavish lifestyle and used FIA expenses to live the most glorious presidential suites. If Bernie and Mosley didn’t push him down, what would the sport be like today?

A lot of people still only see the outer layer of Bernie and do not fully understand his decisions and efforts. No matter how horrible a situation may seem, Bernie always has a different perspective. In the case of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, whom was convicted to corruption last year, Bernie said this during an interview in Sochi, Russia last year: ‘I don’t think he should have ever stepped down, and I don’t think he should have ever been challenged,  because it’s because of him we have a lot of countries around the world that are now playing footbal. And if these people allegedly have been corrupted to make things happen in their country, it’s good. It’s a tax football had to pay.’

Not to say Bernie is dealing with corruption but this man has a mindset we can never understand and only a few people would be able to do what he’s done for Formula One. Unlike Blatter who ran the football association, Bernie owns Formula One.

All in all, the change to the qualifying and other aspects seems to be controversial right now and whether or not it fares well this season, we will need to take a look at the Australian Grand Prix in March.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the change is a yay or a nay?

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