By Alan Baldwin
MANAMA (Reuters) - Formula One stakeholders will meet on Sunday to decide what to do with the much-criticized new qualifying format, with the head of the sport's governing body saying he is confident of reaching a solution.
"I am optimistic that we will get a unanimous agreement tomorrow," FIA president Jean Todt told reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday.
"I hope the decision which will be taken in the light of the second qualifying (of the season) will be a decision which respects the fans, the media, the promoters and be a good step forwards."
The Frenchman agreed the new format which made its debut in Australia two weeks ago had been a disappointment, and was aware of the backlash against it, although he said that the FIA "cannot be guided only by social media."
The format was agreed only weeks before the season started, aimed at creating more excitement in the Saturday session through instant elimination of the slowest drivers at timed intervals.
While the first and second phases of qualifying involved more action, the final eight-car session in Melbourne proved a flop with drivers watching from the garages as the clock ticked away the closing minutes.
Todt said the change had been sought by race promoters but team managers had signaled before the start of the season that there would be a problem, unless Pirelli made more sets of tyres available or the third and final phase reverted to the 2015 format.
He added that Pirelli could only provide more tyres, at an extra cost to teams, from the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 17.
"One more set of tyres would increase the show," Todt said, adding that another option could be for the final eight-car phase to see each run alone on track in descending order with the fastest from the second session going last.
Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff told Reuters there were several interesting possibilities but the sport needed to put the issue to rest.
"I think there are more formats that are worth a try but we just need to be reasonable in assessing them properly, and whatever we find out should be implemented," he said.
"We just started the season, we had a disastrous qualifying in Melbourne, we are trying it another time now and we need to go with a safe way for the rest of the season."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)