Wolff compares reverse grid F1 races to NASCAR’s ‘Chase for the Cup’

2020 Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff remains opposed to introducing reverse grid races in Formula 1, describing the idea as being like NASCAR’s ‘Chase for the Cup’.

Formula 1 motorsport director Ross Brawn is renewing efforts to introduce reverse grid sprint races following last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

Wolff, who has previously opposed their introduction, sarcastically suggested: “I have a better idea: I would do a reverse grid in alphabetical order of team names and then we would change our name to AMG.”

He likened the idea to NASCAR’s ‘Chase for the Cup’ points format which was introduced in 2005 and is now known as the ‘Playoffs’.

“I don’t think that we should mess with any of the format. We see racing series that have tried to change format that has historically been understood by the fans, NASCAR and the Chase comes to my mind, and I don’t think we should be messing around.”

Under NASCAR’s Playoff rules, the points between the leading 16 drivers in the championship are reset and levelled out prior to the final races. A knockout format is then used to ensure four drivers remain in contention for the championship until the last round.

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Despite the introduction of the format, which was intended to ensure the championship is not decided before the final race, the series continues to wrestle with declining viewership, though it remains America’s most popular form of motorsport.

Mercedes have taken pole position for every race this year and stand to lose more through the introduction of reverse grid sprint races instead of qualifying sessions. But Wolff insists he opposes the idea on principle and does not want F1 to turn into ‘reality television’.

“This is not because I have a Mercedes bias, on the contrary, I like the variability and unpredictability and we will have races that will be very different, such as the Monza race.

“But nobody wants a winner that has started from a reverse grid. I don’t think we should be designing freak results where it is almost impossible to overtake, just because we believe that the pecking order should be a different one.

“This is a meritocracy, this is a sport where best man and best machine wins, and this is not worldwide wrestling where the outcome is completely random.

“If you want to do random, let’s make it show. But I think the core DNA of the sport is being a sport and then an entertainment platform. But it’s not a show. It’s not a reality show and it’s not Big Brother. And I don’t think we should be going there.”

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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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32 comments on “Wolff compares reverse grid F1 races to NASCAR’s ‘Chase for the Cup’”

  1. It’s was never a good idea.

  2. Reverse grids will destroy corporate sponsorship

  3. Can’t imagine a reverse grid ever becoming accepted by the drivers at this level.

  4. After Ferrari had a couple of dominant seasons (2001 but more so 2002), the FIA brought in one lap qualifying, qualifying with starting fuel, changed the point structure in order to even the series and blunt Ferrari’s edge.

    Mercedes have dominated since 2014 now and the FIA has just sat on its hands. Makes me laugh that people used to talk about Ferrari International Assistance.

    We need to even up the series by any means. 2021 is going to be a repeat of 2020 which is unacceptable. Just hand over the 2021 trophies to Mercedes and Hamilton now.

    1. This may sound flippant, but if you don’t want the best team and best driver to win, F1 probably isn’t for you.

    2. This sport has been FIAMG for a while now: from special tyre tests with Pirelli to the DAS free pass.

  5. F1 chooses to rise above racial equality and pursues the concept that all lives matter so why is reverse grid even being discussed?

      1. All includes, you know, all. While some people use it to complain about loud noises, “all lives matter” is literally the true answer. Every. Singe. Response. to “All Lives Matter” proves that they all matter. I’ve seen the Biblical story about the shepherd & the sheep being mentioned, where the shepherd leaving the 99 to find the 1. Yes, that means “All”. The stupid “All Buildings Matter” to recognize 9/11 yesterday also proves that “all lives matter” because even their own, very ignorant argument seems to have missed the fact that more than the two towers were destroyed, including the fact the two towers were symbols rather than buildings in and of themselves. People won’t give random black man the same outpouring of emotion of Obama died on the same day.

        So yes. All. It’s too bad that it’s been a response by racists, but it’s still absolutely, 100% factually true and correct. And BLM is incredibly segregated, demanding that all minorities follow their lead, support them, raise a ruckus for BLM…….but when the dead and dying are not black, they are silent, refusing to lend their voices to help those who they demanded help from.

        Furthermore, it doesn’t belong here. If F1 wants to pursue equality it should do so, not virtue signal its intentions. The same for the drivers, reporters & teams.

        1. @neiana the problem though, as you yourself acknowledge in your post by commenting “It’s too bad that it’s been a response by racists”, is that a significant portion of those who use the phrase “All Lives Matter” are often the sort of individuals who are opposed to that philosophy.

          It has become a deliberate act of deception to present an acceptable face that pretends to espouse equality, but in reality is often then used by those same figures to distract attention from any one particular area of reform and making it impossible to do anything, reinforcing the current situation that they do not want to see changed.

  6. Bondo where did you get your crystal ball. I could use one too. You want to give the trophy’s out for next season already. Why?
    They will still fight race after race lap after lap. And anything can still happen. Maybe the teams looking up to the better performing teams should learn how to improve their own business by just trying to win inspite of all odds (Gasly).
    Luck is an important part of F1. Go get yourself some instead of showing a sad face and rise to the occasion.

  7. But Pro Wrestling isn’t “completely random”. The end result is already known to the company and competitors, unless some freak occurance or mistake changes the ending

  8. Toto would have to redesign his car so it can follow! So we should love the idea.

  9. this tinkering and tweaking of rules mid season is doing my head in … F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport..where the best car best driver best strategy wins…those who cannot do this have no business being in formula one.

  10. Two things.

    Utter blindness to where F1’s current dinosaur format is heading.
    Drivers aren’t happy with conservative driving.
    Engineers aren’t happy with limited technical regulations.
    Fans aren’t happy with malnutrition in on-track racing.
    That’s right, the end is near. Hence the voices growing louder and panic amongst those whose livelihoods depend on it.

    Misconceptions about what can be done as of now, especially the inclusion of reverse championship races.
    Drivers will be happy that they can and have to go all out with their skillset.
    Engineers will be happy with more technical freedom to design even faster better race cars.
    Fans will be happy with the on-track action and can see why a driver/team combo is winning/not winning.
    It’s a win-win upgrade that keeps a non-spec sport going.

    But given the F1 push-pull the first scenario is more likely to happen rather than the latter. Bernie will be happy that the sport didn’t last much longer either.

  11. Spot on everything, I couldn’t agree more with him.

  12. Perhaps they could make Hamilton drive in reverse. At least it will give Bottas a chance.

  13. Well, what have we here. Team that starts from pole, mostly wins, is against loosing their advantage? Thank you for your opinion mr. Wolff.

    Last week Hamilton was last after penalty and restart. Things developed in to a fun race from there.

    Imagine if there was Verstappen second last right beside him, we would have an almighty scrap.

    1. Hamilton started last and 25 seconds behind the field. If he had started at the back of the pack he’d have won the race.

    2. @jureo not really – as a number of commentators have pointed out, as soon as you got past the first lap of both halves of the race in Monza, most drivers did not overtake anybody else in those races.

      If you look at the position changes in Monza, there were very few changes after the opening lap – basically, the only change in position was that of Albon passing Giovinazzi if you exclude those who gained a place when Vettel broke down.

      If you then look at the restarted race, you see exactly the same thing happen when you have the restarted race – most of the position changes occurred on the opening lap, and after that the race order was pretty static. Excluding Giovinazzi and his penalty, only two drivers saw their position change due to passes on track – Kimi, who went backwards, and Hamilton as he went forwards.

      In reality, a reverse race is a sticking plaster solution that is intended to disguise the fact that, for most teams and drivers, it’s not going to increase the spectacle.

  14. I’ve watched many excellent races where great drivers in quick cars have come from the back of the grid to get a podium or even win. Some examples:

    HAM 2018 german GP 14th – first.
    RAI 2005 japan 17th – first
    VER 2017 China 16th – 3rd

    ALO, BAR, MSC and many other drivers have achieved similar results.

    Bear in mind the reverse grid qualifying format will make this much easier to achieve. For two reasons –

    Firstly in all the above races there were competitive cars at the front. In the suggested format the cars at the front will be most likely Williams, Haas etc, lapping over a second slower. So the field will not be so spread out.

    Secondly the drivers at the back don’t need to overtake all the cars during the qualifying race. They will have longer to carve their way through the field. A half distance qualifying race plus a full race distance. 1.5 x a GP plus 2 starts – when great drivers can make up multiple positions.

    F1 has stuff that needs fixing. Toto should accept that and let F1 try reverse grids.

    1. Watching faster cars very easily drive by much slower one’s isn’t the sort of racing that I think would be that fun or exciting to watch.

      I mean how fun is watching cars been lapped?

      The focus should be on wheel to wheel competitive racing between cars of similar performance fighting for actual position. You know actual racing & not some artificial gimmick just to create a high number of utterly meaningless & unexciting highway passes that are about as fun to watch as cars been lapped.

      1. @roger-ayles as you note, in several of those cases the drivers had such an advantage that all it really emphasised was how superior their cars were.

        In the case of the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix that is being cited, when you looked at the onboards, what struck you was how easy it was for Verstappen to make up that many places in just a couple of laps – it didn’t matter where the driver in front positioned their car, Verstappen could pretty much pick whatever line he wanted and was able to corner so much faster that he could drive round them whatever they did.

    2. Don’t forget Vettel’s incredible podium Abu Dhabi 2012 after going to the back of the pack. He didn’t have a Mercedes just a 2012 RBR.

  15. Reverse grid F1 will be a completely different sport than the real F1, actually it will become just a show. Forget about statistics (pole positions, front row starts) and just enjoy the show. I love F1 as a sport, no matter if it was Ferrari era, Red Bull era or Mercedes era. Sooner or later other team’s era will come if the real F1 remains a sport. It is impossible to win all the time.

  16. I heard that George Russell was asked about reverse grids yesterday & said that he is against the idea not only because he wants to start at the front on speed & not because he’s at the back of the championship but also because he thinks that it will just make the slower teams look worse as they are been easily overtaken by the faster one’s.

    He also said that you wouldn’t get any real racing as the backmarkers/mid-field would be so focused on not losing time to each other that they wouldn’t bother fighting the faster cars & would just wave them past knowing there’s no point fighting them which he doesn’t think would be that exciting to watch.

    I also remember when the idea came up last year that not a single driver said they were in favour of the idea.

    1. Good argument

  17. If you changed your name to AMG and ran alphabetical order still wouldn’t be on pole. Alfa romeo, Alpha tauri????

  18. Kind of weird headline being that it was not a comparison between reverse grid F1 races and NASCAR’s Chase. He compared NASCAR’s Chase to how NASCAR tried to change things a few years ago, not to reverse grid racing. That’s the first problem, here. It’s misleading.

  19. Don’t think reverse grid races will ever happen.

  20. Mercedes are champions for the past six years based on merit and not through gambling. Reverse grid race does not even add up in here. Other teams should also come up with cars capable of challenging the Mercedes. Red Bull and Ferrari were there for few years as well.

    1. FIA changed rules and regulations to blunt Ferrari and RBR’s advantage when they were on top.

      Didn’t have anything like Mercedes advantage since 2014 either.

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