Start, Monza, 2019

F1 teams yet to agree on plan to test Saturday races in 2020

2020 F1 season

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A plan to experiment with new race weekend formats during the 2020 F1 season is being considered by teams.

The proposal requires the unanimous support of the field to go ahead once it has been finalised. Teams have reacted positively to the idea of testing new formats at up to three rounds on the 22-race 2020 F1 calendar.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto told La Gazzetta dello Sport last week teams had backed a plan to trial a series of mini-races on Saturday to determine the qualifying order. This has prompted some reports claiming teams have agreed to ‘scrap qualifying’ from next season.

However RaceFans understands the proposal for ‘mini races’ is only one of several options being considered. Others could include holding full reverse-grid or Formula 2-style partial reverse-grid races. Teams are conducting simulations of the various possible formats to help decide which should be tested next year.

Formula 1’s managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn said last month he wants to take advantage of the stability in the technical rules for next season to evaluate possible changes to the sporting regulations.

“The basic race format is good,” he said, “but would a sprint race be interesting or some variation in qualifying be interesting? I think the teams are up for doing some variations during a Saturday to see if we can touch on a better solution.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 47 comments on “F1 teams yet to agree on plan to test Saturday races in 2020”

    1. I still can’t believe how many people want a change to the format when the last race have proven the format isn’t the issue of F1. It’ll do more harm than good.

      Tweaking the format dilutes the idea of the big race on Sunday. Not only that, but Nascar proved gimmicky formats drive fans away. And let’s remember this is a way to punish success. It’d like making the leaders on football leagues start matches with goals against them before the game even begins

      1. Um mm yeah, unless they’re going to hold off a playoff style race I’m not too worried.

      2. It was already proposed before the last race as the German Auto Motor und Sport reported a couple of weeks ago.

        The idea is to hold qualifying races in four of the most boring races like Shanghai, Paul Ricard and Barcelona to spice them up. Zandvoort is named as well and circuits like Monaco and Singaporeare explicitly excluded because you can hardly overtake. The other races have the usual qualifying format.

    2. How about:
      Replace fp3 with a “30 minute warm up” session.

      Then a 30-40 minute +1 lap sprint race on saturday With the grid for that set in reverse championship order. All drivers must start on the softest compound tyre. No mandatory pitstops, it’s a free for all. Fits nicely in a 1 hour tv time slot.

      The result from the sprint race is the grid for the main sunday race. With the fastest lap in sprint race gaining 2 grid spots for the main race.

      Might work? Too messy? Would defo need a bigger power unit allowance for the year to make it a proper spectacle.

      1. The problem with reverse grids is that the faster driver sometimes won’t win the race, it’s ok in some categories but in F1 that’s a bit far from it’s essence.

      2. It would be more interesting WITHOUT DRS. With DRS it would be incredibly boring with the Mercs just flying past the slower cars up the field without a battle.

    3. The solution is to have 2 races…
      -friday morning, saturday morning (and sunday morning) are FPs, QP, and 1 race of the first race.
      -friday afternoon, saturday afternoon and sunday afternoon are the FPs, the QP and the race of the other race

      or you can stay with the current situation: friday is open to everyone, satuday is FP, QP and race of first race. Sunday is dedicated to the second race.

      Here is how to get fruity with this:
      -since each team has 2 driver, each can be with only 10 cars (one driver focuses only on 1 race). A driver is assigned to 1 race by drawing lot on Thursday.

      -one race is with the usual direction of the track and the other race is the opposite direction of the track (which needs revamping a bit the tracks…)
      (it is really stupid to have only one track per circuit…)

      I think ideally, each race would be with 20 cars and 1 race is in the opposite direction of the usual race. Each race would be a long race.

      1. Not a bad idea, actually. Would be great for those of us who live outside the golden GMT+-5 Europe-favouring timezones, and who then have to watch the current Sunday races at awkward times (typically monday morning for me, just before work).
        As the future of F1 will surely be in the massive emerging markets of Asia, South America and Africa, the sport will have to re-examine its massively pro-European-fan bias.

    4. For a moment there …. I thought it was March 32nd. Too bad.

    5. Friday: FP1 and FP2
      Saturday: Qualy followed by Sprint Race
      Sunday: Grand Prix

      Only Q3 drivers enter the sprint race and it will be run in reverse grid order from 10th to 1st. No pitstops. Around 30m of racing what will be 15-20 laps in most tracks.

      That way you diminish the reverse grid effect since it does not directly define the main race order.

      Monaco would need a special format since it’s almost impossible to overtake.
      One interesting idea would be to release the Q3 cars with 5s gap between them in the sprint race and the final position be determined by average lap time. That way drivers would need to push every lap at the limit, it’s the most interesting thing that can take place in Monaco.

      1. To further explain my idea, the sprint race would take the Q3 place in the qualy.

    6. The fact that Ross Brawn is even entertaining this sort of “spice up the show” crap is really disappointing. I’d have thought he’d be above the sort of gimmicky stuff that Liberty seems hell bent on bringing in.

      Soon we’ll be seeing the drivers compete in a pushbike race or a swim leg or have to pair with a celebrity driver because for some reason Liberty thinks it has to have a “show”.

      They used to call it the F1 circus back in the early 80’s but now they’re actually trying to turn it in to one.

      1. Agreed 100%. Maybe changing the weekend format is natural way of progress…but the recent proposals are downright scary.

        1. I agree. I decided to take 2 weeks off from F1, but this article is so “disturbing” that I cannot stay silent. I liked F1 Qualifying format of 1990s – 1 hour on Friday and 1 hour on Saturday. Any sort of intentional penalty for the best teams and drivers (reversed grids) is absolutely appalling to me. If a change is needed then the length of the Qualifying sessions can be tested, the number of Qualifying sessions can be tested, but, please, don’t break the back of F1 by introducing 2 races, reverse grids and other similar horrors.

        2. I would be ok if they emulated Formula E group style qualifying with a top 5 shoot out but extra races and such silliness will stop me watching..

    7. Sounds like a terrible idea, hope it doesn’t happen. In addition it would almost certainly mean shorter main races, which are already too shirt in my view.

    8. Dude, its proposals for a TEST – relax. Not even actual tests yet.

    9. More artificial atrocities?
      Leave your hands off the race weekends!

    10. I’m a bit torn because I think the weekend format is absolutely fine as it is, particularly qualifying which is often the most exciting part of a race weekend other than the build up to and start of a race.

      But, if they had to change the weekend format to keep people with 3 minute attention spans interested, why not do the following:

      Friday: FP1 (1 hour) / FP2 (1 hour) / FP3 (30 mins)
      Saturday: Qualifying (current format) / Full reverse grid sprint race (30 minutes plus 1 lap)
      Sunday: A proper no nonsense Grand Prix.

      1. What does a sprint race with a reverse grid (reverse of what?) bring apart from artificial tension? There are lenty of race classes where these kind of gimmick are brought in, still F1 is for more popular than any of those worldwide. I think that is because most people like me just want to see a fight between teams and drivers that shows who is the best. Nothing more, nothing less.

    11. I think they should leave the racing as it is and just have a think about what they want to sell to new markets. In my opinion F1 has always been about the drivers so I’d like to see them showcased further, if that’s outside of an F1 car doing something else in front of a prime time Saturday evening audience all the better.

      I’d speak to the promoters and say “look, we have the top 22 drivers in the world, what can you offer us to show them off to the world that works for live fans, social media and potentially TV”. I don’t think this should be the same thing at every venue or even done every race weekend. I’m sure Abu Dhabi could put something exciting together, somewhere must have an epic karting setup that could be used for an annual charity spectacular as part of a race weekend, they already have the soccer game in Monaco etc. Let them trial a few things next year, some things might stick, other venues might want to put something on the following year and just grow some new traditions, made for the modern market, organically.

    12. This may sound stupid but can someone please explain how qualifying races work?

      1. @lebz A qualifying race is essentially just a shorter race with the finishing positions determining the starting positions for the main race.

    13. Just leave the GP-weekend format alone altogether. It’s perfectly fine as it is, so no point messing around with it. ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    14. I predict a 4 hour program consisting of 10-lap sprint races interspersed with 20 minute advertising breaks and promotions about lifestyle brands. And a regular Villeneuve’s Hot Takes video blog. Plus a bit of Celebrity ESports Challenge.

      1. I know this is a joke, but if the strategy group got hold of this they’d probably push it through.

        1. I hope the new owners of F1 understand that F1 should primarily be a SPORT and only then a show. Mandatory pit stop during the race, the fact that top10 drivers of the Qualifying start the race on the used tyres compared to 11-20 drivers to me is completely just a show element and not the sport related element. I am scared that F1 will become just a show.

    15. It’s probably a sign of how disengaged Liberty are that they want to TRIAL sprint races, this implies they don’t know if it will improve the show, it might be better or it might not, they don’t know. There is definitely a lack of a vision for Formula 1 at the moment.

      1. @emu55 I think they are showing the opposite of lack of vision. They are considering various ways that they might test to see if something better can come out of qualifying. They are consulting with teams and will only act if there is consensus even just to trial ideas. So not only do they have vision to seek out whether or not there might be a better way, they are only doing it with the teams’ agreement to even just examine possibilities. This is a far cry from the BE days.

    16. If they do go the reverse grid qualifying race format for next year i’ll just not bother watching those races as I loathe the idea.

      Qualifying should be about performance. That one final lap at the end of the session where drivers are on the limit gunning for the pole. The driver with the fastest lap time starts on pole & the one with the slowest starts last.

      Just leave the general weekend format & especially the qualifying format alone, There’s nothing wrong with it & i’ve not seen any proposal that I feel would be an improvement.

      1. Also my biggest issue with them testing different weekend & especially qualifying formats during a season is that I don’t think testing ideas like this should be able to impact the championship battle as it no doubt would.

        A driver losing the title because something happened at the 1st corner of a qualifying race or something just because F1 wanted to test silly ideas to artificially mix things up would in my view not be fair & do nothing but devalue the championship.

        1. @stefmeister I also do not want to see a qualifying reverse grid format. But if anything, I would say leave the race format alone, and Brawn has already implied they would, but consider something better for quali. My opinion on quali right now is that while it is acceptable, I also find there is too much downtime as cars come out and do a run in the first third of q1,2, and 3, then sit idle for the middle of each session, and then come out again for the final third. That is why I didn’t mind the thought that came out last year of adding a q4 within the hour. Shorten the existing Q’s by adding one so that we are not sat there watching nothing going on for the middle part of each Q.

          Generally I am confident that the teams will not agree to trial ‘silly’ ideas, and that only ones that have potential of making qualifying even better will be considered.

          I am mindful too that a significant part of Brawn’s desire for team consensus to consider other options (particularly for Friday’s methinks) is to make for a shorter work week for teams, saving money and making it easier for them to deal with an expanded number of races over the seasons.

    17. Qualifying is the best part of the weekend why do they want to change this! It’s crazy.

      Change FP2 if you have too but leave the rest of the weekend alone!

    18. If it’s not broken don’t fix it

      But I would like to see the whole weekend shifted a day earlier in some countries, like Bahrain and UAE. Where the weekend is fri/sat not sat/sun.

    19. Why not just award points for qualifying?
      Same number and scale as race points.
      Make qualifying count for more than just grid position.

    20. What about having a rulebook, tracks with track edges , Q and race.

    21. I hate the idea of reverse grids. The teams will simply drive as slowly as possible and still be in the rules, so that they start on pole. Apparently none of these bright ideas have involved getting a handful of engineers into the room and saying “OK– How do you break this idea?”

      The engineers job (or strategist, or team sporting director, whatever it’s called) is to get their car across the finish line before anyone else, for as many races as possible. That means maximizing limited resources (engines, tires, fuel), optimizing race pace, and making sure their car starts as high up the grid as possible.

      Either let the best qualify at the front, or draw positions from a hat– there is no middle ground where the outcome can’t be rigged.

      Have a qualifying race, you say? Then how do you line up the grid for that race? Based on position in the championship? That runs dangerously close to penalizing the successful drivers and teams, which isn’t a championship, it’s the “everyone’s a winner” olympics.

      The teams are always going to act in their own self-interest. Tire rules, qualifying changes, safety cars, virtual safety cars, track limits, weight limits, scrutineering– it will all be exploited for maximum benefit to teams and drivers.

      And for eff’s sake, stop trying to make the drivers’ jobs harder! Keep kneecapping the drivers, and you don’t get “unpredictable” driving– you get BAD driving. You get unprepared drivers. That leads to accidents, and that leads to injuries.

      What the FIA and Liberty needs to ask themselves, is do they want a world championship, or do they want WWF wrestling style spectacles?

    22. i am really not in favor of qualifying races or shorter sprint races of any sort to be honest. think they take away from the main race which is what i believe the attention should be on as the big end cap to the race weekend which everything builds towards.

      and i’ve never really felt that qualifying races add anything. more often than not they are not that exciting to watch as everyone is taking it easy to avoid unnecessary damage to the cars which could affect there starting position for the main race.

      and reversing the grid to the qualifying race is about as gimmiky and artificial as you can get and if they do that then i simply stop watching as that is a gimmick too far as far as i am concerned.
      but again i guess it says a lot about the direction liberty want to take things, they care not about the sporting integrity and just want an artificial, gimmick ridden show aimed at the lowest common denominator. they don’t care about the fans that have been around long term and stood by f1, they are actively trying to turn us off it seems chasing those with low attention spans who care not about the history or heritage of the sport and who won’t stick around to watch everything like the diehard, dedicates true fans do.. before they drive us away that is.

      just look at nascar for proof. they drove away the true fans in favor of a more casual audience that never stuck around. as such tv ratings and circuit attendance has plummeted so they went harder into the gimmicks to try & get the casuals back which further pushed away the actual fans. now the series is in limbo because they have a much smaller dedicated fanbase than they did as they drove them all away.

      1. @roger-ayles I too am not convinced of qualifying races or sprint races, but wouldn’t mind all that much to see a trial of those. As to reversing grids, I agree that is too artificial.

        What I disagree with you on though is this rhetoric about Liberty not caring about the sporting integrity and that they ‘just’ want gimmicks etc etc. They don’t care about us long terms fans? Of course they do. Actively trying to turn us off in favour of the lowest common denominator of fan with the shortest attention span? As if.

        Of course they want to try to grow back the audience which means bringing back long term’ers that have fallen away, as well as trying to make today’s youth into life long fans. Why wouldn’t they? All sports are trying to do that.

        NASCAR is not proof of anything other than that when the global recession hit in 08, many many entities took a hit, including all racing series. Marketing dollars dried up for all racing series. Audience has been falling away for a number of years, F1 as well as NASCAR. And that started long before anyone even knew who Liberty Media was, and before Brawn had retired from F1 only to be coaxed back for his current role. It wasn’t the introduction of gimmicks that precipitated the smaller audiences for NASCAR or F1. It was the global economy, or sometimes things feeling like the same old same old one season to the next, that started the drop in audience, PayTV in Europe especially also not helping the F1 audience, and then measures have been taken to adapt to that afterwards, trying to retain and/or grow audience. I think any racing series risks messing with the existing audience when they feel changes need to be made to try to grow the audience that sometimes has faltered through no fault of their own. It is far from easy for them to do the right thing for everybody.

    23. This is the format they use in world championship motocross (MXGP). What winds up happening is, it turns into a full blown race with all the dangers and breakage and wear and tear, but with no points or money. They use full race resources and risks for nothing more than a gate pick. Its only advantage is an extra show for the fans.

    24. As long as they don’t test on tracks which favor one or the other team. It could ruin next years championship battle. Imagine RB need a win in Hungary…and then they decide to change the format during that weekend and completely make a mess of it….

    25. It’s interesting that Ross is talking about reverse grids & Qualifying races now considering that in March he was saying he was against those things for been gimmicks.

      https://www.autosport.com/f1/news/142077/f1-against-gimmicks-like-reversed-grids-for-21

      1. @roger-ayles But to be precise, in the article above he is not talking about reverse grids. In the article you cite from March he discounts reverse grids as too gimmicky and he talks about not wanting to go gimmicky. You should be encouraged by that March 2019 article as he is saying all the right things. In the article above he talks of simply seeing if there might be consensus to trial a few things, such as sprint races or some variation in quali, but he has been pretty consistently clear from day one that he is not for gimmicks and wants it to be about performance on the track…racing performance that would enthrall the audience, knowing that gimmicks are not the way. To me a sprint race is not gimmicky because it does not reverse the grid or what have you.

        As I’ve said elsewhere, I wasn’t against the idea that was proposed last year of adding a Q4 to quali simply because I think there is too much down time in the middle third of Q1,2, and 3. I wouldn’t consider a fourth session in qualifying to be a gimmick but rather a way to have more action on track and less time watching drivers sitting in their cars between their first runs and their last runs of each session.

    26. The weekend portion of a GP weekend are fine as they are.
      Here is my proposal for how to spice up the show:
      On Friday evening, after P2, have an Esports style race for any F1 drivers that want to participate. The virtual race could be broadcast in real time at the track and beyond. The prizes awarded could be “anti-penalty points” that could be used against the various equipment allotment penalties that are currently messing up this sport. For instance, the winner could bank 5 grid places against their next engine allotment penalty.
      This would be a minor show that wouldn’t upset the championship too much, while still offering value for participating drivers and teams.

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