After four grueling months, fans of Formula One finally got their fix as the 2016 season finally kicked off in Melbourne, Australia. However with a new elimination-style qualifying format rushed through in the closing stages of pre-season testing, F1 was in for some shock results... er, or not. With a lack of running on Friday practice due to inclement weather conditions, the teams would have to make the absolute most of the third and final practice session on Saturday morning. With both low and high fuel runs being completed at different stages of the session it was still not entirely clear what the pecking order would be even with a dry track. Qualifying has always been about extracting the maximum performance from the car and there's no doubt that under this new system, this premise still holds true. However, drivers who are able to extract that performance may find themselves eliminated mid-way through a session if they haven't gotten their lap together in time before drivers start getting eliminated. Essentially, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the way this new - and needlessly confusing - format works, the slowest driver at the end of each 90 second interval will be eliminated from the session, irrespective of whether or not they are on a faster lap. However these eliminations don't start until a certain time in the session has been reached. This means that there is a flurry of action to start each session as drivers must get out and set a fast enough lap so that they're not vulnerable come elimination time. Hamilton takes pole amidst the qualifying chaos. Now, this all sounds very exciting in theory, but as it was plainly showcased today, this system just simply does not equate to better viewing. This is because teams and drivers simply don't bother to go out again if they've gotten the best lap they can, or if they don't have enough time to set a faster lap. The net result is a qualifying session where the first five or so minutes are spent actually qualifying, and the next 7-8 minutes are spent sitting in the garage watching the clock count down. The third and final qualifying session was a prime example of this as the pole position was determined with 3 minutes still remaining, with TV pundits like Damon Hill stating after the conclusion of the session that the irony of the whole thing was that Lewis Hamilton had enough time to pull into the pits, hop out of his car and wave the chequered flag to mark the close of the session as a grand total of zero cars circulated the track. There's no question that the new system has not worked as intended, and the teams' engineers and drivers knew that this kind of thing would happen, but still the FIA ignored them and pushed ahead anyway. Still, the FIA can't be all to blame for this silly idea as it was the teams themselves who unanimously agreed to the change in format with just two weeks before the start of the first Grand Prix. Why they agreed? Well, they thought it might improve "the show", but clearly it was a mistake. Christian Horner and Toto Wolff have both stated that the new system is total rubbish and that the fans should receive an apology. With such a negative backlash to the new scheme and with the teams having the power and as it would seem, the intent, to enforce the return to the older and vastly superior system, whether or not we'll see the elimination qualifying ever return again... Well, you do the math. But! If the teams and the organisers are short sighted enough to implement a system such as this in the first place, it honestly wouldn't surprise me to see it remain, either. Sebastian Vettel would claim a familiar third place after being pipped by Rosberg towards the end of Q3. In essence it's designed for the purpose of mixing up the grid to facilitate a more variable race come Sunday. However for all the good intention they had, we still ended up with a grid that resembles Noah's Ark. Anyway, there were actually some cars out on track today, and with the new qualifying overshadowing things rather a lot, here's how the grid is shaping up for Sunday's race. Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding qualifying, I've got to say that given the grid positions, this could actually be a very enjoyable race. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 1:23.837 Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) - 1:24.197 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - 1:24.675 Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) - 1:25.033 Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) - 1:25.434 Felipe Massa (Williams) - 1:25.458 Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso) - 1:25.582 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) - 1:25.589 Sergio Perez (Force India) - 1:25.753 Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) - 1:25.865 Valtteri Bottas (Williams) - 1:25.961 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) - 1:26.125 Jenson Button (McLaren) - 1:26.304 Jolyon Palmer (Renault) - 1:27.601 Kevin Magnussen (Renault) - 1:27.742 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) - 1:27.835 Felipe Nasr (Sauber) - 1:27.958 Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) - 1:28.006 Romain Grosjean (Haas) - 1:28.322 Esteban Gutierrez (Haas) - 1:29.606 Pascal Wehrlein (Manor) - 1:29.642 Rio Haryanto (Manor) - 1:29.627* *3 place grid penalty for collision with Grosjean in the pitlane at the start of FP3. What is your take on the new qualifying format? Do you think the race will be exciting? Can Ferrari finally challenge Mercedes on race pace? Images credit: F1Fanatic.co.uk Update: The team principals from all teams have had a meeting this morning (Sunday 20th) and have decided unanimously to ditch the new system and revert back to the previous season's system for the next round in Bahrain. The decision will obviously need ratification from the Strategy Group, F1 Commission and the FIA, however if successful, which is highly likely, we will be seeing the return of the old system in place for Bahrain.