Vettel: Reverse grid races “would be wrong in the name of sport”

2020 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel has criticised Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn’s plan to introduce reverse grid races, saying it would go against fair sporting competition.

Following the Italian Grand Prix Brawn indicated he would make a fresh push to win support for his proposal to hold reverse grid sprint races instead of qualifying sessions at some rounds.

Vettel said the idea of reverse grid races is “completely wrong”, and the fact they are being considered shows other attempts to improve the racing have not worked.

“If you are pushing in that direction [it’s] a testimony that you failed to come up with regulations and tools that bring the field more together and make racing better on the track,” said Vettel in response to a question from RaceFans.

“I mean, as a reminder, we had new front wing regulations which cost everybody a fortune, but ultimately haven’t changed much in terms of racing.”

Last year Formula 1 announced plans for radical changes to car aerodynamics for 2021 in order to improve the quality of racing. These were postponed by a year as a cost-saving measure following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Obviously the hopes are on 2022 for the regulation changes,” said Vettel. “I think we need to fix that and address the main points rather than trying to play the lottery.”

Vettel said using a reverse grid to produce unexpected results “is just against the element of sport and competition.”

“As a competitor, as much as I don’t like other people to win, I have to accept if other people win or do a better job,” he said. “Therefore I think it would be wrong in the name of sport to try and mix things up that way.”

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39 comments on “Vettel: Reverse grid races “would be wrong in the name of sport””

  1. This is from someone who loves the sport and it’s history and just recently bought Mansell’s old Williams. He doesn’t like it, most of us don’t like it and it wont win over people who can’t put their smart phones down for 2 hours and convert them to paying Sky subscribers. Actually it cost them a subscriber this week because they keep banging on about it, trying to persuade their subscribers its a good idea. It was a total eye opener to see how good C4’s coverage is and even the driver interviews are better because they talk about driving rather than trying to sensationalise every little thing to create drama. If such gimmicks were a good idea then why wouldn’t the BTCC have more viewers in the UK than F1 does?

    1. Ultimately BTCC still uses a traditional qualifying session for the first race of the day.

  2. In a way I’m sad Seb chose to continue with Aston because I think he’d suit Brawn’s role so much better. This is a guy that adores F1, he’s like us fans but happens to be a driver as well.

    They need to listen to him.

  3. Not that I’d expect any better from Croft or Brundle, but I couldn’t quite believe the propaganda they were spouting back in Monza about introducing reverse grid races. Admittedly I only saw the Channel 4 highlights of yesterday’s race so I don’t know if they brought up reverse grids during commentary again. Whilst they’re entitled to their opinion, IMO it’s not a commentator’s job to campaign for rule changes in the middle of doing the job they’re supposed to be doing, regardless of whether those changes are good or bad for the sport.

    1. I agree. I don’t even think Monza was a good ‘advertisement’ for reverse grid races because really the pace of most cars was quite similar, which meant there was very little overtaking. Only the two Mercedes were out of their usual places, and it showed that Bottas couldn’t make any progress despite his theoretical pace advantage, while Hamilton made quite a bit of progress, albeit generally against the slower half of the field. If anything it just highlighted the difficulties the current generation of cars have in following and racing each other.

      The race was exciting because some freak occurrences coincided to allow three relative underdog teams to compete for the win and podium. A reverse grid race wouldn’t reproduce that kind of race because A) The top teams would have two races to get back to the front and win anyway, rather than around half a race for Hamilton here, and B) It wouldn’t generate anywhere near the excitement because after a couple of examples of reverse grid races, we would know pretty much what to expect, and if it allowed an underdog team to win then it wouldn’t feel very special.

      But in any case even if the commentators are in favour of trying reverse grid races, trying to ram it down our throats mid-race was very ham-fisted, and I would rather they had those kind of discussions in separate features outwith the race program.

    2. Agree. They were clearly talking about this to further a push by their employer to “fun up” F1

  4. Have to agree, he needs to be involved in the sport in the longer term. Ive also been impressed with Rosberg. Putting the Sky crowd in their place when they try to convince people that they speak for us. It was worth the subscription money just to hear Nico rip croft a new one everytime he talked nonsense. Which as you can imagine was quite often.

  5. This is the type of an individual who should be spearheading the sport. Ideas coning out lately from Liberty and FIA seem hell bent on making F1 into WWE.

    1. I agree. Despite many disliking Vettel for his past or perceived actions, he’s one of the brightest among the drivers, if not in the whole paddock, and I believe he would do well in any executive position, be it in a team or in the F1 organizing structures. F1 would definitely need a direction from someone who’s directly engaged in the sporting side of the things, because the pure dominance of the business aspect has created a moloch serving as a marketing platform for manufacturers (or a manufacturer?).

      1. I’m not a Vettel fan but I don’t dislike him. The issue tends to be his fans being in denial of the silly errors he makes that have arguably cost him a chance at fighting for 2 WDC. I wouldn’t ever take his word on anything though.

        1. @slowmo
          You are right you don’t dislike him you actually hate him.

          Just look at your argument so because of his fans you will dismiss his opinion though what he’s saying is right.

          1. No I don’t hate him. I dislike his fanbase like you it would seem though.

        2. @slowmo
          Interesting, because Vettel seems to have a smaller fan-base compared to any other WDC. Hamilton, Kimi, Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Max… they all have a larger fan base than Vettel. That reflects in RaceFan’s comment section too, not many defends or worships him here.
          And before you say something, nope, this is coming from a Häkkinen & Kimi fan.

          I wouldn’t ever take his word on anything though.

          Based on what?

          1. Well it’s not like he seems to honour any agreements with his teammates in what we’ve seen throughout his career so I wouldn’t take his word as gospel on anything.

          2. Ahh… why engage? [-_-]
            Best case scenario it’ll be effecting a single person’s opinion.

            Okay, what does him ”breaking agreements with Webber” have to do with his opinion’s validity about reverse-grid races? From a neutral perspective, those are mutually exclusive. An informed & properly expressed opinion isn’t a gospel, you see.

            F1 and the wider world is full of people we disagree with or simply don’t like. Let’s not preemptively cancel everything they say or do. Otherwise we appear to be either obtuse or bitter.

            Finally, there has been definite impact of his past wrongdoings. As I wrote, he has a much smaller fanbase compared to any other WDCs.

          3. @praxis I think people have taken my point that a majority of posters “dislike” Vettel as meaning I disagree with the point he made which is not the case. I agree with him that its a bad idea to have reverse grid races. My posts on here reflect my complete opposition to them.

            What I was highlighting that most people don’t dislike Vettel but instead don’t agree with his fans who have a very high opinion of his abilities and defend him despite numerous unforced errors in his career. It was in response to Pironi saying people dislike Vettel which I think is not the case. The critique of Vettel is often justified and not hating or disliking.

            Ultimately I agree that just because you don’t approve of someones actions doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to an opinion. Not entirely relevant but as an example, I really hate Bono but that doesn’t stop me appreciating the music of U2.

            Vettel was also underhanded in his behaviour last year so this isn’t just about Webber. I think he’s every right to act however he wants but let’s not all be revisionist and pretend it didn’t happen either. Would Vettel have the success he has had without that attitude, possibly not and that’s why there’s no reason to hate him for it.

  6. I couldn’t agree more with him the same as with Toto. One shouldn’t be punished for success, as otherwise, what’s the point in participating in any sport or competition in general?

    1. @jerejj
      “One shouldn’t be punished for success”.

      Except when you participate in F1, where punishment of succes has been part of it’s core DNA since the discovery of a tv-audience.

      I have nothing with reverse grids, but since the FIA failed miserably when they noticed the headstart of Mercedes in the hybrid era and refused to intervene, it’s as good a band aid as DRS. (Which is quite horrible but still beats watching a train of cars with a 1,5 second interval.)

  7. Maybe some brave people in the media can dare to ask him a follow-up question: How do you plan on getting the slower cars to race faster cars on Sundays?
    Just because drivers get to enjoy driving F1 cars and being paid millions to do it, should the viewers just shut up and enjoy the laptime processions as well.

    Reverse championship races are being seriously considered because they would ultimately end up being just another gimmick for entertainment purposes without preventing the ‘best driver and best car’ from winning the championship.
    But drivers like Vettel would definitely lose out a little and find it difficult to become champions.

    Also F1 has repeatedly failed to come up with competition by changing the technical regulations. They just swap one dominance for another.

    1. We had pretty nice championships between 2005 and 2012 – then F1 realized it would tragically die without manufacturers and gave them a power of unprecedented domination and blocking any sensible change that would bring competitiveness back.

      As per the reverse grids, it’s just too artificial. It wouldn’t hamper the competitive order a bit, it would be just an arcade game for the richer teams. I would much rather see DRS go, getting rid of strong engine modes in the race was a step in the right direction. F1 needs McLaren performances from Monza, not shaking up the order if a vain hope that Hamilton will be prevented from winning.

  8. Can someone inform me why F1 keeps bringing up reverse grid races when most of the fans do not want them, most of the teams don’t want them, and most of the drivers don’t want them?
    I thought we put this issue to bed last year.

    1. because people rave when an unexpected podium turns up after an otherwise tedious race with pretty much no overtaking. A guy goes from P10 into the lead by a lucky pit stop. Woooohoooo best race evar!!!!!

      Demonstrating that the majority of viewers don’t care about “fair” or even just “racing” in general, they just want random results.

      The actual F1 fans would like fair racing and will just put up with the lack of overtaking or the repeating wins form a driver who is clearly a cut above the rest. As long as it’s fair and not constructed by the organisation (banning tuned mass dampers as an “aero device”, banning tyres half way through a season)

    2. Because Sky want them & due to paying more in rights fee’s than any other broadcaster (As well as having close ties to Liberty) they have way more power than a broadcaster should.

      1. @gt-racer So if Sky wants them, does that mean they have solid evidence that shows they will be effective in growing the audience? Or is it the experiment that they are keen for, as they themselves aren’t sure what it will do? I suppose they would have to advertise heavily for this if it were happen, as otherwise it will just be the usual crowd watching and debating it and therefore presumably fewer people, if one were to go by the reaction to it by the majority here.

        I’ve been all for the experiment all along, but particularly as it wouldn’t happen on a Sunday, and is a quali thing. But the more I have sat with this I have to agree it’s artificial and just a sad concept borne of the sad decades long addiction to aero downforce that has never been stronger…right when they’re about to change that drastically. At most, a race or two for kicks while we’re stuck with these cars for one last season? A bit of a novelty? If it were to happen that is where I hope it would end.

        Surely the new regs will take care of any need for this concept, not to mention, as bad as the dirty air effect is, the vast majority seems to prefer to stick with what it is, as processional as it can be. What we have is better than what we would have artificially reversed. We don’t need to see strong cars passing weaker ones just because it is action. And it would take time for there to be a buzz, if there were to be one, such that the audience would theoretically grow.

        So surely a non-artificial means of improving the way the cars race together, come 2022, with proper car regs to make cars raceable rather than just fast on their own, will say it all, and negate reverse grids and drs from the F1 vocabulary. Surely they should at least ‘experiment’ with a season or two of the exciting, revolutionary, new regs, which is the actual really big news, rather than muddying it with something that seems would only put a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, including the drivers (and we want them happy and stoked), right when that is the last thing Liberty should want in their real F1 debut…their grand opening vs the soft opening we’ve had for the last three years.

  9. I think that to a certain extent the majority of viewers have a point. In general most people want the best team/driver (in their opinion) to win. And preferably not through gimmicks (at least the real racing fans would not like that), however what we nowadays miss is a bit of unpredictability. I know that we had dominating years in the past as well. But not for a 7 year period and not seeing the same two drivers in the same two positions in qualifying and the race for several seasons in a row.

    Bringing unpredictability back would be great. That is why many people (including the drivers) also were looking forward to a circuit like Mugello. Away with the asphalt run-offs, finally a track where a driver error could result in serious time-loss or even retirement instead of just loosing a few tenths for going too wide. Furthermore with the cost-driving measures all equipment (especially Mercedes) are extremely reliable and we do not see a lot of retirements anymore. And lastly instead of the drivers having to sort out how to drive the cars in the fastest way possible, they are almost micro-managed by the pitwall, which means that even more unpredictability is taken away.

    I am an avid F1 fan since 1980. But lately I have been giving up on being hyped about who is going to win the GP. I am much more interested and focused on the F1.5 category because at least there it is unpredictable and you do not know in advance who is going to qualify ahead and who is going to be faster in racetrim. Without Mercedes and Max we would have been having a thriller of a F1 season.

    1. The Michael Schumacher winning years at Ferrari were very boring to watch (I was neither a fan of his not Ferrari’s). I agree with you though, the F1.5 is exciting to watch. I am watching F1 to see excellence and domination when earned and am also glad to see the F1.5 close fights. The main issue for me is the fact that car development time and testing is so restricted. That is the real issue – even greater than the challenges of dirty air when following the car in front. I would bring budget caps and have a team of financial auditors checking for excess spending. Then let the teams come up with technical ideas throughout the year, every year.

  10. While I agree with Seb’s conclusion, I’m not sure all his arguments hold water. His argument about the front wing overlooks that if the new front wing regulation had not been put in place, the racing would be even worse because teams would have found ways to get even more downforce generated, which would make following and overtaking even harder. So as counterintuitive as it seems if things haven’t changed from previous years that’s actually a step in the right direction.

    Also his argument of being against the sport and competition falls apart when you look at Ferrari’s shenanigans the last few years. So he may not be the best messenger for a sporting competition argument.

    1. But you missed the point he made which is that the teams wasted millions of dollars on the front wings and still ended up with the same result, which is no change in relative team hierarchy. So that money would have been better spent elsewhere.

      1. The original goal of the 2019 wing regulations was to promote overtaking, not to change the relative team hierarchy or to act as a cost savings measure. By reducing the wings effectiveness they didn’t achieve better overtaking but it did not get worse, which is undoubtedly what would have happened had the aero designers been left to work their magic at developing downforce.

        1. Yeah for sure. The wing change was to reduce some outwashing and rather direct air inward of the front wheels, thus creating cleaner air behind the car, and a trailing car theoretically less affected performance wise. A small measure that the likes of TW said they made up for in other ways, and likely then some.

          Personally I never thought of it as anything but a small effort that Brawn was never trying to sell as some big fix and he made that clear…simply a small measure. Perhaps a way of taking a bit away from the teams from making it even worse one season to the next, just as is being done with the floor work for next year to take some downforce away that they know the teams will claw back to some degree.

        2. @g-funk the thing is, if you ask Willem Toet, his opinion was that the change in front wing regulations meant that, at best, the new wings were basically the same as the old ones in terms of outwash, and at worst he reckons that the outwash generated by the larger teams is probably higher than it would have been without the rule change.

          In that sense, that rule change for the front wings was a failure – it increased costs and required a redesign of the cars, but the benefits of those changes appear to have been fairly minor and potentially even more counterproductive than if they hadn’t changed the rules.

  11. Vettel’s reasoning is very clever. Only mercantile minds without a gram of love for the sport can suggest these tricks to improve the “show”.

  12. Again, we see a pretty clear statement from a current and very involved driver.

    I must admit to being stunned when past drivers, employed now at pundits, sing the praises of the idea of reverse grid qualifying and I’m absolutely positive they wouldn’t if they were still driving. Similarly if Ross was still a team principal I imagine he too would be massively opposed to it.

    I’m waiting now, after Sunday’s race for Ross and the team to suggest that future races should feature loads more gravel traps and a way of arranging the sort of carnage we saw (maybe random safety cars) to similarly spice things up.

    They’ve already planned and implemented a cost cap and new regulations that should make things very different in the future, all of which seem really positive. Please …. let’s just allow them to happen and stop with the constant meddling.

  13. One can’t but help suspect this is supposed to be another way of handicapping Mercedes. The best way to handicap Mercedes is for the other teams to catch up to them.

  14. Obviously the hopes are on 2022 for the regulation changes,” said Vettel. “I think we need to fix that and address the main points rather than trying to play the lottery.”

    I agree with Seb, but the problems have been ever since the decided to go the aerodynamic root.
    And then there are only 2 options, you either change the tracks (Tilke has now tried for 20 years and all his track are abominable), or you change the cars.
    Since the tracks are legendary and the cars change every year anyways, changing the cars is also far more logical than changing the tracks.
    Another problem is that the FIA and LM prefer simulations over cars on track, which is the reason why we get talk like removing practice time.
    F1 is the only sport in which one never practices, play games on a simulator, windtunnel and cfd, and excercise in a gym, but actually driving a car it is completely out of the question. It honestly is mental.

    1. Your last point is so true and seeing written down make me realise the madness of it all.

      After all, Hamilton’s best ability might be that he’s a quick learner. Maybe other drivers would be able to beat him if they could practice as much as they needed. There are so many drivers that might have failed because of this. Does Vettel himself just need to be allowed to practice more to be as great as he once was? Will Alonso have enough practice time? Would Albon have the measure of Max if he could practice more?

  15. 100% agree with him.

  16. I’m absolutely against reverse grids. Always too much shenanigans goes on. But I saw a comment somewhere in which the person recommended no qualifying, and to reverse line up the grid according to points. If they do decide on reverse grids, that would be the only way that I can see to keep the sandbagging down. But as a whole, I am against reverse grids.

  17. If there was reverse grid, would the drivers not then qualify at the slowest possible speed in order to get pole. I would.

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