Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2019

Poll shows most fans did not support reverse grid race plan – Wolff

2020 F1 season

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has explained why his team opposed plans to introduce a reverse-grid qualifying race at two of this year’s races.

The races would have replaced qualifying sessions at those events. Each would have been half an hour long, started with drivers in reverse championship order, and used to decide the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

Mercedes and customer team Racing Point are understood to be the two teams who blocked the proposal from being introduced. Wolff outlined three reasons why he opposed the idea, noting that it appeared to have very little support from fans.

“We said this is not the time to experiment with things that, interestingly, didn’t even have the support of Formula 1’s fan community, because in a survey only 15% expressed an interest in reverse grids.”

While Wolff did not specify which survey he was referring to, a poll of RaceFans readers conducted last year currently shows more than three-quarters of fans oppose the plan, most of them strongly.

The reverse grid proposal, which was considered last season but failed to win approval, was an example of F1 “digging out old ideas that have been analysed previously and rejected,” said Wolff.

“Then somebody thinks it’s great and it’s back on the back on the agenda. So you need to look at the reasons why we were against it. There’s three fundamental reasons.

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“First, I believe that Formula 1 is a meritocracy. Best man in best machine wins. We don’t need a gimmick to turn the field around to create more exciting racing.

“Number two, I know it from touring car racing that strategies become a very useful tool when one race result is basically making the grid for the next one. Just imagine one of the drivers not running well on the Sunday race of the first Spielberg weekend, and you decide to [retire] the car.

“That will be the car that starts from pole for the quali race. And if that car starting on pole on the quali race is within the midfielders, he will certainly be on pole for Sunday and win the race.

“There will be cars in the middle that will defend and block as much as they can and therefore, for the quick cars coming from behind, it will mean more risk for a DNF [did not finish] and that could influence the championship.

“And then, from a pure performance standpoint, whoever the fastest car may be, and it’s not necessarily us, will be penalised [relative to the] second and third quickest teams, because they will simply start in front.

“As we know the margins are often not very large, so therefore it’s a bit of an opportunistic move to give some teams an advantage.”

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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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41 comments on “Poll shows most fans did not support reverse grid race plan – Wolff”

  1. James Coulee
    3rd June 2020, 16:43

    It depends on the details of what that race is, how its grid is set, and its purpose: there’s a whole range of possibilities not included in the survey and that would produce, from me, very different answers.

    Having said that, when the new qualifying format was imposed over the flying lap, I recall that the fans almost unanimously were against the change, and now it’s the best format we ever had.

    1. Having said that, when the new qualifying format was imposed over the flying lap, I recall that the fans almost unanimously were against the change

      I actually remember the opposite been the case with the 2003-2005 single lap formats been very unpopular among a majority of the fans, Hence why they ditched it after 4 variations in 3 years.

      When the knockout format we have today was announced in late 2005 I remember fans been generally positive with the only thing that wasn’t liked been the fuel burn phase & having to qualify on race fuel in Q3. That along with the initial thing that ended all laps as soon as the session time expired rather than allowing drivers to complete the lap they were on.

      Going back a bit further however I think the consensus was that they should have never changed the 1 hour/12 lap format to begin with as everyone seemed to love that format at the time even if you had times when not much happened for long periods. And I always felt that was something that could have been fixed by simply doing away with the 12 lap limit & giving them unlimited laps as was the case prior to 1993 so they didn’t have to worry about wasting the limited number of laps/tyres on a dirty track.

      1. @stefmeister the “1 hour and 12 lap” system doesn’t seem to have been all that popular at the time either – there were a fair few people at the time complaining that it was a fairly boring system, as there were often long periods when people would be sat staring at an empty track.

        1. The biggest problem of “1 hour and 12 lap” was when one driver has made a mistake and caused a yellow / red flag, then all drivers on the track would lose one or two laps (depending on he was on the out-lap or flying-lap) in his limited 12 laps quota and no recoverable. Clearly it is not a fair rule.

          In fact the rule “1 hour and 12 lap” was set after the removal of the special “Qualifying” tires. As we are now having rules to control the total number of tires allowed in whole race weekend, limiting the laps in qualifying session is no longer necessary.

        2. As Anon mentions that format wasn’t all that great. Neither fans, nor broadcasters had much love for it. Not just because what @sb12 mentions, but actually far more because due to track evolution we would have most cars doing an install lap at the start before all cars returned to the pits.
          The next 30 minutes would at best have a few backmarkers, or someone who had an incident before checking the car repairs before the backmarkers started “cleaning the track” at about the 35-40 minute mark. The rest of the field would wait until the last 15-20 minutes to set their laps. When the track was fastest.

        3. Nikos (@exeviolthor)
          4th June 2020, 10:47

          That’s not how I remember it. For example I remember some great fights between McLaren and Ferrari in the Hakkinen/Schumacher years. Also we could watch all the laps of the top drivers (not just the end as it happens now).

          It only became boring in the Ferrari/Schumacher domination years. Also it did not suit TV channels as you never knew when the top guys would go out.

          As a knee jerk reaction the one lap qualifying format was introduced.

          My opinion is it did not need to be changed as firstly any format would be boring when one team/driver combination is so dominant and secondly TV channels preferences should not dictate the weekend format.

      2. Now it’s clear that the previous format was boring, but at the time most fans defended that the current format, regardless, was a disrespect to the F1 essence and tradition.

  2. Spot on, Toto.

    1. Toto only mentions the cons (some of them without solid foundations like mid-field teams being able to block the top runners from overtaking them in Speilberg) and does not mention any of the pros. Basic tactic for bringing people to support their decision.

      1. What pro? I can’t think of any myself.

    2. Spotting your spot on, @jerejj! Keep F1 sane, not inane.

  3. I can understand Wolff’s second point. I am not sure if the grid last year was one of the messiest, as it appeared to have many first lap incidents. I am not sure on this, but it seems like the grid last year had more first lap incidents than previous seasons, and the last thing you want is to get caught in chaotic starts.

  4. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    3rd June 2020, 17:34

    The idea of Wolff & Mercedes, who have won all of the most recent titles, have won the most races and set more pole positions over that period than all of the other teams combined defending F1’s structure as a meritocracy, rewarding the ‘best man in the best machine’ is rather irritating because it’s really not that at all. The financial disparity between the top three teams alone is bad, but compared to the rest of the field it leaves most of the grid without a hope. If you have the money to spend high, you have the best technology, and thus the best cars and drivers. That’s not a meritocracy, it’s essentially buying success.

    Until that’s sorted in any tangible way I think we do sometimes need gimmicks to even the playing field out more than it currently is. Maybe the reverse grid isn’t it, maybe it is and needs tweaks, but it certainly needs something.

    1. ‘That’s not a meritocracy, it’s essentially buying success.’

      That’s obviously wrong. You can’t win anything by piling cash in a field and burning it.

      1. Of course, everyone knows that RedBull, Ferrari and Mercedes insane budgets are absolutely unrelated to their success …

      2. Except they aren’t ‘piling cash in a field and burning it’ – they are spending it more designers, better design and simulation tools, more highly talented management staff, the highest rated driver…..
        They aren’t just throwing money at nothing, they are spending it on things that increase their chance of success.
        The more money you have, the more you can spend on those things – and in the case of personnel, that means that other teams can’t have those resources.

    2. Then fix the financial disparity problem, don’t lower F1 to gimmicks like reverse grids. These sticky plaster ideas are just foul tasting low hanging fruits.

      1. Precisely this

      2. They are fixing the financial disparity problem too. They can walk and chew gum at the same time. They floated the idea of a reverse grid quali race experiment for the coming back to back weekends, and it has been declined. Now they’ll move on but that doesn’t mean they were simply putting all other issues aside, mind you, the other issues have already been tackled and are only being delayed due to the pandemic. There is a stellar new era on the horizon, Liberty and Brawn having done a massive amount of work since they took over. Sure if they hadn’t done all that and were talking about reverse grids, perhaps I’d be upset. But thankfully they’ve already done the heavy lifting for the new chapter, and can now think about things that are low hanging fruit and aren’t going to affect the meat of F1’s important aspects to any significant amount either way.

  5. Says a lot that one needs to explain common sense to the F1 administration

    1. We don’t want common people in F1, or any of their ‘sense’, thankyouverymuch…

  6. I am not sure if I fundamentally and categorically oppose the idea of qualifying race. But then again, the case is rather strong for a solitary charge is search of that elusive perfect lap…

    1. I am not sure if I fundamentally and categorically oppose the idea of qualifying race.

      All the arguments against the proposed ‘qualifying race’ are based on the reverse grid part. There are not that many voices against a qualifying race, except for the non-reparable damage part (but you do not need a race for that).
      On the other hand I’m not sure what a qualifying race adds to a weekend if it is not ‘spced up’ with a reverse or random grid.

      1. Well that’s the thing.
        The point of having a qualifying reverse grid race isn’t to make qualifying more interesting – it’s to make the race more interesting.
        So many arguments don’t consider the bigger picture.

        However, it is still just another case of F1 trying to solve one problem with an unrelated ‘solution’ which doesn’t address the original problem directly at all.
        Just as DRS doesn’t allow cars to follow more closely through corners – a reverse grid race doesn’t alter the fact that the field performance spread is too great.

  7. The most important news in that story was that Racing Point did what Mercedes told them to when it came time to vote.

    1. The most important news in that story was that Racing Point did what Mercedes told them to when it came time to vote

      And that is where exactly?

      1. The didn’t need Racing Point’s vote as it had to be unanimous, so Mercedes resistance alone was enough.

  8. I think F1 should introduce Plus Weight Per Championship Point system (for example +10dkg/point, less or more). It means if a driver has got 25 championship points he has to carry +2,5 kg as a minimum weight for the car because it is a simple, cheap, fast, effective solution to decrease dominance and differences and we don’t need unification or freeze development. Finally the best wins because when differences are small in championship points and in weights the fastest wins but the whole championship would be much more interesting and balanced. Moreover if you have the best team and car you have to work harder to remain the best.

  9. All one has to do is think back to the freight trains behind Yarno Trulli to realize that reverse grids are a very poor idea.

    1. I don’t think that was the same Trulli had always good qualifiers but race pace he was terrible. Most driver couldn’t overtake him so the train. I wonder if those drivers were good enough..

  10. “While Wolff did not specify which survey he was referring to” I can’t count the number of times I have read someone claim unsubstantiated survey or research results. And research has demonstrated time and again that these people are lying.

    1. @danmar if you bothered to read the rest of the sentence that you quoted, you should notice Keith links to a Racefans survey corroborating roughly what Wolf said. Jeez some people…

      1. I did. It seems completely irrelevant to reality. I’m always baffled by apologists – they always seem to be offended by comments that have nothing to do with them.

  11. pedallingmonkey
    3rd June 2020, 22:11

    The only thing I think about this is that it could have been interesting, at the moment track position is king, so teams are encouraged to build cars that run fast to be at the front of the grid (or as far up it as you can), line them up sunday morning, in the order of fastest to slowest, so built for speed that they can’t follow cars …. but say there was a benefit to being able to overtake other cars, and run closely to them, because they had to overtake the entire grid, I wonder if the same design desicsions would be made

  12. NeverElectric
    4th June 2020, 5:01

    F1 is not just about the drivers, it is also a constructor’s championship. With margins as tiny as fractions of a second per lap, how did they imagine a constructor would develop a car that is fast, spend money on R&D and staff, only to see themselves forced to start from the back of the grid for…what reasons again?
    What’s next, Barcelona will be forced to play with Messi in goal to even out the chances and make things more interesting? Or Tyson Fury will now box with one hand tied behind his back because he’s too good for everyone else?

    1. Correct me but the only reverse was the start of the sprint race was in reverse championship? So the race should have the normal start because i expect Lewis to be nr. 1 anyways even starting in the back of the sprint.
      The only dissavantage of this is the damage possiblilty in turn 1 of the sprint race.

    2. pedallingmonkey
      4th June 2020, 8:37

      If that was the case wouldn’t they build a car the was able to run close and overtake, because that is how you would win the championship, rather than build a car that would run and hide

  13. Statistics are just above dirty lies and regular lies.

    In current conditions if poll was done, much more people would support it.

    Especially if it’s a back to back race. First one regular, second one reverse grid.

    I don’t see how it’s good to see two copies of the same race 1 week apart.

    It would be amazing to see a “what if” Scenario.

    George Russel starting from pole on second race, and Lewis from the back.

    Just imagine that? Silverstone race 2, Lewis Hamilton in the back, alongside Verstappen and LeClerc. There abouts would be Vettel, known to make an impact… pun intended.

    I am sure fans would be convinced. Also check recent times, all top rated races feature a non-Mercedes winner.

    If the dominant team starts from the back we would get statistically significantly better race.

    So with all due respect, Toto is protecting his race winning results, Liberty Media should step in and get the rule changed so we get reverse races. This needs to be done to protect their investment and test out this race format for the future. Nobody would blame them if they get it wrong, hey it’s a testing season.

    And if they get it right, they will atlest know the result of the tests.

    1. @jureo I don’t disagree with your points. Oh it’s not like I was so looking forward to this concept being tried, and now I’m disappointed, but I have objected all along to those many who have claimed this is Liberty Media trying to force this through. To me they were only trying to ‘force through’ an experiment so we could really see what it would be like. And to say ‘force through’ is ridiculous anyway because they have only ever put it to the teams to decide. The teams have now decided. What could be more fair?

      I don’t envision Liberty keeping up the idea any longer, and would expect that if as we have seen in this unique season with several back to back races there still isn’t an opportunity for the experiment in Mercedes’ and Racing Points’ eyes, then it likely won’t ever happen. And for me the wholly new cars once on track should negate the need for this concept anyway. There should no longer be a pressure to ‘shake the usual running order up’ as the drivers will be able to do that in cars not clean air dependent. And yes of course I realize the usual running order isn’t just going to change overnight, but there will be much more room for surprises and amongst the top runners should be less predictability too.

    2. @jureo are you really sure with your claim that “In current conditions if poll was done, much more people would support it.” Since at least 2015, every single poll of the fan base has shown a significant portion of the fan base is strongly opposed to the idea – it’s been fairly consistently tracking at around 80% of the fan base.

      The general attitude of those fans suggests that it is still very unlikely that they would suddenly and radically change their opinions in the way you suggest. They don’t want what is decried as a stupid gimmick to try and force action to occur – they want to have a race where that action evolves naturally.

      Your comment that “all top rated races feature a non-Mercedes winner” is also not accurate either, unless Hamilton and Bottas mysteriously drove for somebody else when they took their 1-2 finish at the 2019 British Grand Prix – a race that was very highly rated.

      @robbie the reason why many feel that Liberty are trying to force the measure through is the fact that Liberty Media is asking the teams to vote on the measure again and again – the indication is that they’ve asked for this every single season since they bought the sport – giving the impression they are not going to stop putting it forward as a proposal until they can find a way to get the vote to go their way.

      It’s also why people don’t trust claims that it’ll just be a temporary measure or that it’s “only an experiment” and “just a testing season”. On the contrary, people believe that is simply an excuse to try and slip things through that normally wouldn’t be accepted, but which are justified for now as “temporary measures” – mainly because they then expect Liberty to go “well, that worked well – why don’t we keep doing this next year?”. There are multiple gimmicks that have been introduced into the sport that were supposedly just meant to be short term changes, but which have never been revoked – why are you so trusting that this will be any different?

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