George Russell, Williams, Mugello, 2020

Reverse grid races would make us look “stupid” – Russell

2020 Tuscan Grand Prix Ferrari 1000

Posted on

| Written by and

George Russell has joined several of his rivals in criticising Formula 1’s plan to introduce reverse grid sprint races.

Following the Italian Grand Prix F1’s motorsport director Ross Brawn indicated he wished to revive the proposal to replace qualifying sessions with reverse grid sprint races at some events. The scheme was blocked by teams in 2019 and again earlier this year.

Russell is 20th in the championship and would start from second on the grid, behind Romain Grosjean, in such a race. But the Williams driver said last week he was “against” the idea.

“The fact is we are in the slowest car on the grid, or one of the slowest cars on the grid, and we would just get eaten alive,” said Russell.

“We will be defending like crazy to try and hold the faster cars off who are behind us. But, as drivers, you’ll be made to look a little bit stupid because ultimately you’re battling against guys who are in cars much, much quicker than yours, who can brake 10 metres later into a corner, who can lunge you from really far back.

“If I was in one of the top cars, I’d actually really, really want it because it would make those drivers look like heroes, lunging drivers from miles back purely because they’re in a superior car.”

He admitted the proposal might give him and team mate Nicholas Latifi a better chance of scoring points. “But for our image, not just me and Nicholas but the Haas guys, the Alfa guys, it’s just impossible to race cars that are so much faster than yours,” Russell added.

Don’t miss anything new from RaceFans

Follow RaceFans on social media:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Formula 1

Browse all Formula 1 articles

82 comments on “Reverse grid races would make us look “stupid” – Russell”

  1. Just leave it to the drivers to decide.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with him, the same as with Toto and Seb.

  3. Was to be expected when Liberty came in. They will follow the slow but steady strategy towards entertainment first, sport second. And Brawn, well look at his team boss days.. he likes to bend a corner here and there, so he wont object to the hand that feeds him

    1. I certainly don’t think it is a given that even just an experiment will take place, given how many inside F1 seem to be against it. I’ve said all along I’m fine with the experiment, and I would not be fine at all if this were happening on Sundays, and I can at least find it a bit palatable on Saturdays.

      But anyway, the thing for me about Brawn is that I’m not going to castigate him for trying to get an experiment going, for the show, when at the same time he has completely revamped the cars such that there is a very good chance drs will be gone. My point? If Russell thinks reverse grids would make them look stupid, that is what I have been thinking drs has done all this time. And Brawn has never liked it.

      Anyway, sport is a show and is entertaining, and all I have seen Brawn do is work towards a drivers vs drivers series with cars that can actually race closely, so this thought of a potential experiment for Saturday reverse grids that I think too many inside F1 will object to for it to even go ahead, doesn’t phase my belief in Brawn and F1’s new direction.

      1. Nicely said.

      2. I would also add: to the extent Merc has benefited from engineering a car that never has to follow in dirty, hot air, this could genuinely make them slower to run away if and when they DO make it to the front. That will only be amplified without DRS as a long straight won’t just be a chance to swap places, people will need to overtake more organically.

  4. Reverse grid will work if the cars are closer together like in F2, but in F1 the difference between the have and have nots are super big, so like George said it will only make the slower teams sitting ducks, if implemented initial hamilton overtaking the backmarkers spectacular but as the time goes on it will become mundane and boring like artifical. So it’s best qualifying is left as it is, and try to bring parity in performance between in competitive way and not like penalizing mercedes for just being fast.

    1. Not all cars will be sitting ducks. Look at Monza: the Alpha Tauris, depending on tracks, might get a chance at a top 3 from time to time. Williams is also decent lately, Russel was mixing it with the Ferraris in the last race (I know, this doesn’t really say much). I for one would love to see more of that, just mixes things up for the grid starting positions.

      Also, these races would mean more stress for the PUs of top teams, causing more issues with reliability, which also might mix things up championship wise.

      1. So the goal is not more racing but to “mix up the championship”, e.i. give those teams who’ve done a great job a handicap and a leg up for those who’ve built a lemon. Does that sound remotely like any fair and equal sport?

        1. how is it fair when corporations can afford to spend billions mainly for marketing purposes while legendary teams like Willams struggle (and ultimately fail) to keep their family passion for the sport alive? Nobody said anything about F1 being dair, at least not until a correct distribution of profits and a strongly enforced budget cap.

          1. Fair is a silly concept for children.

            Williams failed by Force India aka Racing Point did better with less cash.

          2. The corporation that built the engines that other teams are using??

  5. I’m still struggling to believe that a man like Ross Brawn thinks this is suitable for F1.

    It makes me wonder what he’s planning to implement while people are distracted by this smoke screen, because I can’t believe he is serious.

    1. I’m also struggling to understand why fans are so against ideas that could make racing more interesting. At least try something new… What are we really gaining by keeping this qualifying format intact? In 2020 the qualies have been outstandingly boring, the Mercs even without party mode just cruise to a clear 1-2, with Max usually 3rd. There is absolutely no surprise at the inteviews after qualy, they might just as well skip those.

      I know that a gimmicky idea will not change overnight the underlying problem with F1, but at least try something new until the new regs and budgets caps will hopefully make the racing closer.

      1. We are not against the reverse grid, as I have said in my above post, the reverse grid will not work if implemented now in f1s current form, reverse grid will work only the performance parity between the top and the backmarkers gets reduced, so let people see how the budget cuts are implemented in F1 and how the performance goes and then implement revrese grid in future,

        1. Why would it not work on reverse championship standings, out of interest? I think that’s what i’ve heard proposed.

      2. @gechichan I too am fine with experimentation, and ideally, I’d like to see a mixture of qualifying formats used during the season. I would hope that we wouldn’t get reverse grid qualifying all the time, because I don’t see how it could be suitable at a track like Monaco.

        I think though a lot of people are rightly wary of reverse grids being sold initially as an “experiment”, and fear they’ll then be stuffed down our throats. Whenever F1 seems to think they have found a solution to boring racing, whether it’s high-deg tyres or DRS, it’s often sold as a stop-gap measure that can be reversed or modulated but it then becomes more or less codified. I don’t think Brawn is really doing much to assuage those fears.

        I think that’s a shame, because personally, I’m not convinced by the argument that reverse grids would be boring because the leaders would blow by the backmarkers—multiclass sportscar racing is brilliant precisely because of the pace difference, and isn’t F1 essentially multiclass racing these days? Prototypes overtaking GT cars are meaningless to the overall order, but fighting through traffic is an opportunity for both classes to manage the situation and pounce on each other when they make a mistake. Hamilton fighting to get past Russell isn’t compelling, but Hamilton and Verstappen and Bottas all fighting each other to get past Albon who at the same time is trying to get past Ricciardo and Leclerc who are trying to get past Russell sounds a bit more interesting.

        1. This is it. I want to see the fast group make their way through the field. I think that, in itself, may create some good racing between this fast group. @markzastrow you’re absolutely right, it is essentially prototypes/GT cars these days.

          1. @ecwdanselby

            I’m in the other camp and would respectfully suggest you should just go and watch prototypes/GT cars and don’t bother with F1 then.

            My point of view would be: there is plenty of what you suggest/want in other racing series. There is none like F1, even when it needs a few things fixed, but quali isn’t one of them…

          2. Fully agree, if you want lottery racing or a spec series then go watch another motorsport, there is nothing else like F1 for it’s fans to go watch if they ruin it trying to please a few fans who will still not be happy anyway.

            If we must try out this stupid idea then make it a non championship race with no points so there is no impact if/when it’s a complete disaster. Imagine Monaco whereby a midfield team wins simply because passing is impossible, makes the achievement of a Monaco win meaningless.

          3. @baasbas Fair play to tell me to watch more sports car racing, but “don’t bother with F1 then”? Are you really that afraid that I, a commenter on the internet, will ruin it?

            I would respectfully suggest that of all the qualities that make F1 unique among racing series, its qualifying format—which has changed many times over the years—is not one of them. I understand you feel that reverse grid qualifying would undermine F1’s meritocratic values, but I disagree—if implemented judiciously, the best drivers and fastest cars will have ample opportunity to still finish at the front. I’m not interested in reverse grids for unpredictability, or for shock results like Gasly’s win. I just like variety, and I think it’s a good opportunity to see different skills be tested.

            @slowmo With respect, I think I already addressed all of your points. What I’m talking about is neither lottery racing (I want to see the fastest cars qualifying at the front, but testing their overtaking skills amongst each other to do so) nor a spec series (where did that even come from?), and I specifically said that reverse grids wouldn’t be suitable at Monaco.

          4. A lot of these 20th century ‘purists’ need to go the same way as Bernie did, because their denial in technological advancements is hurting the entertainment within the sport.

          5. Jay, so, your attitude is to go “thanks for your support over the years – now get lost because we don’t want you any more”? That comes across as a far more damaging attitude that will do more to destroy the sport than anything else.

        2. Coventry Climax
          16th September 2020, 16:33

          If that’s what you want @MarkZastrov, to see more struggle to pass backmarkers, there’s a much easier solution then a rule that rewards the slow, and punishes the fast. And one that’s a lot more fair to drivers in general. And one that dumps another artificial rule from the past: Dump the blue flags.
          They were invented so to not interfere with the racing order – or even the championship – which, to my opinion anyway, is BS, because you are only the best and quickest when you have more than decent overtaking skills as well. Together with DRS passes, blue flag passes are the things that have made drivers look stupid all along.
          Imagine a scenario where reverse grid is crammed through our throats and has become the defacto situation. And then some genius with the FIA comes up with the brilliant idea to apply blue flags in the sprint races to those behind in the championship. You’d have a reverse grid with those that started at the front having no opportunity to defend. Sounds ridiculous? It’s very similar what DRS and blue flags are doing right now.
          Even the concept of sprint races itself is ridiculous. We’re currently saving fuel, tyres and what not, and then we’d introduce sprint races just to see them go flat out again? Wake up! That’s what we’ve been dying to see all along!
          FIA, please cut the crap. Now. You’re making the sports as dull as watching a game of chess.

          1. Why all this talk of sporting fairness and cutting meritocracy out of F1 with reverse grids when the entire F1 game is rigged from the start with glaring financial unfairness, I simply do not understand.

            Frankly I think this idea is a gimmick that will go nowhere, but I also think that it is nothing less than a blatantly unbalanced F1 deserves anyway, so bring it on and let us enjoy the “artificial racing”…which was already artificial by financial design.

    2. Ross Brawn works for Liberty, the same Liberty who has lost millions and millions of dollars over the course of the season due to Covid. The prospect of another full season of Merc (predominantly Lewis) domination is not good for their brand. Sure, the 2022 regs will hopefully shake things up and allow cars to follow more closely, but what about next year? It’s the perfect opportunity to try something new.

    3. …also, another upside for a Saturday race is that there would be more chances to see your favourite driver race. What I mean by that is for example Max in Mugello: on Sunday he couldn’t even get past Turn 2, which for me felt like the race was almost over before it began with nobody left to (sort-of) challenge for the win. With 2 races in a weekend, we could have seen more of Max or any other favourite driver: Sainz, Gasly, etc. and hopefully more action.

  6. This is relevant and includes quality opinions on Brawn as well :-)

  7. Good thing it is the likes of Russell, Vettel, etc saying this is a stupid idea – and not a certain driver who, were he to come out and oppose the idea, the vitriol thrown at him would be astonishing.

    1. He should come out and support the idea. That way all the fans will be against the proposal. :)

    2. You can see what he thinks of it at the link in the comment above @riptide

  8. I am not in favour of reverse grids, has anyone considered the implications of junior or affiliated teams letting their senior team cars through easily, but impeding rival teams. I.e. AlphaTauri letting Red Bull through and impeding Mercedes, Alfa Romeo letting Ferrari through etc.
    This is not really a consideration now due to blue flags, but if one of these cars is ahead on track they can make it as difficult as they like to overtake.

    1. Well said! +1!

      1. @paulcook @bulgarian Mounted machine guns – that’s the answer!

  9. As if the racer in Russell waves by faster cars for fear of looking stupid.
    Does he really think anybody considers Williams pace as ‘smart’ under current conditions?

  10. Everyone seems to have all the answers, like you cant overtake at Mugello, then we get there and its ooh there are 2 overtaking lines at turn 1. Is it even remotely possible that we don’t know all the consequences of a reverse grid? There are always unintended consequences to any change. The Mercs are bad in traffic for example, they overheat so they may not be doing any lunging after a few laps.

    But no lets keep the status quo, we will then see predictable outcomes which as we know is the life blood of live sport ! Who doesn’t love seeing the same team win, week in week out? Nobody, its brilliant, lets leave it.

    1. You can’t use that line of reasoning for everything. People are drawing the line in a different place to you.

      1. So we do a 30 lap sprint race on Saturday evening and if it suxxx we park it. I don’t get this, I know best, don’t try it mentality.

        Henry Ford said if you asked the people what they wanted, they would say faster horses.

        Now, I have used that quote before, I hope that is ok with you?

        1. Give it a try, maybe in some hole of a track like Sochi or Abu Dhabi.

          Some much worse things have been tried on Saturdays in the last 10-15 years…

  11. How many drivers will feel they are the best if they win a championship because they always got promoted from the back to the front.
    Why don’t we have Djokovic or Federer play with a bat instead of a racket. Or we could have Banyern Munich start the game 3 goals down just to give the other team a fair chance. How about Ronaldo and Messi playing football with roller skates.
    If we accept Mercedes is the problem with F1, why don’t we have their cars serve a drive through every 10 laps, so we get a healthy competition amongst the other cars and lets see who is the next team dominating.

    1. Ever seen gp2 or 3? Perhaps not or you wouldn’t be so disrespectful to 2 series that regularly serve up great races and run reverse grids.

      ‘ should we run reverse grids ‘ yeh lets give Messi rollerskates’

      What sort of rational argument is that? None.

      Btw you know FIFA outlawed a lot of tackling in football to stop your Messi’s from being kicked off the park. That’s right they give back the advantage to the attacker to improve the show. You not ok with that either?

      1. When has kicking someone’s knees and ankles ever been part of the rules of football.
        Football is about kicking the ball and not your opponent.
        Likewise in motor racing you make the rules and everyone operates within those rules. If others don’t get it, why should the person who did his research get to pay for the others indifference or lack of focus.
        If you enjoy watching GP2 why do you then want F1 to be converted to GP2.
        If you truly want a random outcome, then lets do away with qualifying as a whole and have some random method like rolling of a dice or random pick from a bucket to determine the grid.
        Because if we use reverse grid, we will always have the same set of cars starting at the back and then it becomes entirely predictable as we have it currently.
        Messi playing with roller skates is similar to Mercedes starting from the back for excelling and an artificial method of handicapping.

      2. Maybe not the best time to wonder what damage Djokovic could do with a bat…

    2. Don’t disgrace human sports by comparing it to technical ‘sports’, especially Motorsport. There is a reason only one of them is part of the Olympics with athletic skills making the difference.

      1. You use the brain to build machines.

      2. Right, coz the Olympics are the universal rules and philosophy to determine what sport is…

        The Olympics are nothing more than a sporting organization that wants to make money, alot of money.

    3. OOliver I don’t disagree entirely with what you are saying, but just wanted to point out this isn’t just a Mercedes problem. Reverse grids would affect the other top drivers like Max just as much. It is not just Mercedes that would be ‘penalized for success.’ And the problem is not just having Mercedes dominate. It is the dirty air effect that affects all the cars that causes processions and the ‘need’ for drs or otherwise a vast difference in car performance to make a pass.

      For me, sooooo much is going to be solved with cars able to race closely by no longer being so dependent on clean air.

  12. To be fair he can look pretty stupid on a regular grid

    1. Good one tony

      1. Argh. No. Not.

  13. Ive spent years watching the support series, both in F1 and MotoGP; and I pay less attention to the reverse grid races in F1 these days. And for those who do watch GP2 & 3 they can’t but notice that a large number of those who participate and commentate count the reverse grid races as being lesser.
    If people want a reverse grid to artificially close up the championship, or pretend that a lottery is going to improve the racing , then go ahead. But don’t expect those who see it for what it is joining in with the pretence.

    1. The argument is to try it. Stop running away with the idea and exaggerating everything about it. I guess there are 2 sorts of people, those who say try new things and those who don’t like change. Good to see you are happy to admit that.

      1. I dont like reverse grid quali races and I wouldn’t want it to become a permanent thing. I wouldn’t mind them trying it out for a couple of races next year though. I cant take 2021 seriously anyway as it was supposed to be the big reboot and now its just a continuation of this year so yeah go nuts, try out everything you ever dreamed of then back to normal for 2022. No hard feelings.

      2. No there are not two kinds of people. So stop your petty little retorts. But given this is your usual response to anyone who has a different view than you, not surprising.
        Personally I prefer a more structured approach to change, rather than desperately stirring the pot and hope something decent floats to the surface. But clearly that idea is too complex for someone like you who can’t understand anything beyond simple black and white.

        1. Now say that without crying.

          ‘desperately stirring the pot’ exaggeration when it was quite rationally put forward that we could experiment with RG in a race or 2 in this unique season. You sound like you get upset every time someone disagrees with you. As someone else has pointed out on here, @bullfrog I think, there have been plenty of worse things tried in the last 15 years. Anyway you and rational debate are not comfortable bed fellows so I will wish you good day. Good day.

  14. Reverse grid would never happen…ever.

  15. F2 and F3 races only have reverse grids affecting them for half of the weekend and quite frankly those sprint race podiums always feel pretty deflated and disingenuous even though there may have been a little bit of action during the race.

    But the F2 Feature races have been nothing short of spectacular over the past several years – fantastic wheel to wheel battles with cars on different strategies- all set up with a pure qualifying session on Friday for sheer speed.

    If F1 goes with sprint race qualifying then that basically ruins it for me. I want to see an underdog driver AND team come through to win without any artificial gifts (like Monza) and I don’t care if there’s only one every couple of years.

    1. F2 and F3 races only have reverse grids affecting them for half of the weekend… …set up with a pure qualifying session on Friday for sheer speed.

      Yes, this is very important point against reverse grid races in F1.

  16. I’m against this idea. But I’m a bit surprised by how lightly this idea is been treated. There are many ways to implement reverse grid, so what’s F1´ proposal ? Everybody (team principals, drivers, fans including me) are voicing their opinion… But on which bases, since there is no clear proposal on the table. For instance, if only the top 10 starts in reverse mode (like in F2), Russel and the Haas would still be starting at the back, only the best 10 cars would be impacted (so the whole content of this article would be irrelevant). Or, are talking about reverse grid system based on a qualification (which would be terrible, everybody would be adapting his speed in an effort to be the best placed) or based on a sprint race on Saturday ? Also, with a 20+ race schedule, why is F1 not testing some ideas in 1 event? Make it fun, a special event, and try it… Places like Sochi would certainly need a bit of special feature to compensate for the lack of spirit. Again, on the principle, I’m against reverse grid, this is a gizmo that has no place in F1, IMO.

  17. Here’s an idea why not do a different kind of reverse race. Spray Hamilton and Bottas with Champaign on the podium before the race (make sure to get some in the eyes) then send them out :-p

    1. If Hamilton went crock a week ago I wonder how many would be demanding change; or instead looking forward to Max and Bottas fighting it out at the front of the grid for the rest of the season? Max would probably be leading if it wasn’t for the DNFs
      It certainly did the trick for MotoGP. Marquez out and half way through the season there are nine drivers within one race win of each other.

  18. Rubbish.

    The alphatauris won’t fight the redbulls. But will block ferraris and Mercs.

    1. You are right! For example, Jaime Alguersuari was slammed by Helmut Marko or even pushed out Toro Rosso for not allowing Sebastian Vettel immeadiately to pass him.

  19. :D Yeah I don’t buy it.

    Everyone is against reverse races. But every time a leader starts from the back we get a race with much higher rating.

    You all are saying one thing but then vote the other way when it is time to rate a race.

    1. @jureo Fair comment, however, it isn’t that often that a leader starts from the back and that is usually for what I would call a ‘spontaneous’ reason, not a prescribed and made up reason. So there is something more ‘natural’ if you will about us suddenly finding out on a Saturday that one certain bloke has to start from the back on Sunday. That’s different than reversing the order for all drivers on purpose.

      But further to that, the reverse races proposed are for Saturday qualifying. So I envision a reverse order race, at the end of which the top cars have for the most part made their way into the top 10, and then even if the usual suspects aren’t starting in the top 3 or 5, so they might be 6th or 8th, they still have a great chance to then on Sunday continue their drive and get past those cars in front to finish in pretty much their usual order. ie. that’s not the same as a driver starting from the back on Sunday. He started from the back on Saturday but started well in the top 10 on Sunday.

      I do take your general point about the rate the race ratings though. I’m sure that reality plays a part in why Brawn sees value in an experiment. For me though as I say there’s a difference between occasional and spontaneous, and predictable and prescribed or artificial as some people call it.

      1. @Robbie the example of “A” leader starting at the back and cutting through the field doesn’t really hold all that much weight because it will be a far different story when all the leaders start at the back.

        All of them at the back will be far more complex and we’ll see them getting in each other’s way and not progressing anywhere near what has been suggested.

        Couple that with the fact that those running from position 7 through to 17 are all not all that far off the pace and we’ll end up with some huge blockages about half way through the pack.

        In a short sprint, it’s highly likely to just end up being a complete mess with a very high risk of damage.

        It’s the fallacy that these so called much faster cars will all get to the front that is the problem. Monza pretty much proved that.

        Brawn might have done some good things which I look forward to seeing in 2022 but reverse grid qualifying isn’t one of them. It’s an experiment that shouldn’t even be considered as to me it just cheapens the good work they’re doing.

    2. Ha ha yep. Hit the nail better than I have tried to. Its the same few voices. Same ones who hate change where they live and picket bike lanes and stuff.

    3. As we do with rain. So sprinklers? And least that will be down to skill, but obviously not the outcome that the lottery fans would like to see. Same as the suggestion to put decisions in to the hands of the drivers/ put buttons where they have to take their hand off the wheel to use them/ and the same with gear stick. Thereby opening up the chance of more driver mistakes. Idea rejected as the skilful would benefit.

  20. A reverse grid qualifying sprint race on Saturday would be fantastic.

    It might not work well, but surely it’s worth trying especially late in the season when the championships are done and dusted.

    1. Tommytintop (@)
      16th September 2020, 21:42

      A reverse grid qualifying sprint race will be more of a slowmo sprint race, as the top drivers will be trying to go as slow as possible, to make sure they are at or near the front on Sunday.

      1. Reverse grid on the Saturday to qualify on Sunday.

  21. The problem isn’t reverse grids etc, its the perverse situation of having locked down engine development and an almost fixed spec, ie V6 hybrid. How about just letting the teams build what they want, fixed physical max size and weight, and safety tests (obviously). 4 wheels, 6 wheels, V6,8,10 whatever, turbo, gas turbine, nuclear reactor !!! It’s F1, should be the pinnacle of sport and engineering, not the spec series bore fest it’s morphed into.

  22. Reverse grid races is fine and even appropriate for the junior series. Those series exists solely for the purpose of developing and identifying drivers with the potential to succeed at the highest level. One of the most desired skill is the ability to race and pass in traffic. Artificially mixing the grid gives everyone the chance to exercise those skills. Once they’ve graduated to F1 it’s all about being at the front and winning not practicing your racecraft. It doesn’t belong in F1.

    1. If I was a preacher I would say “Amen” after your comment. So true!

  23. Nothing says cost savings like wrecking equipment, fighting to get around lapped traffic.

    The anti blue flag folks might actually like reversed grids.

  24. Interestingly F1 Fan Voice emailed an invitation to complete a survey about this to me this morning.

    The questions were so skewed, it was impossible to answer them in a way that clearly would NOT support Reverse Grid qualifying races so I ended up choosing not to participate rather than provide any answers that could only be interpreted as supporting the concept.

    I’ll wait now for them to say that they’ve conducted a survey and an overwhelming majority of fans have indicated that they want Reverse Grid Qualifying races (because there was no other result possible). Such an incredibly predictable and dishonest way of going about things.

    1. I took part in this survey. You can make your voice heard too. Some questions were tricky (I answered not agree and not disagree on them), but there was the main question (do you agree reversed grid should be considered…) as the last one. So, please take part in this survey.

  25. This is like penalizing teams for building a better car, saying how dare you build a better car. Make a car which is worst in performance to start from the top. Joke of an idea
    If this comes in every team will stop spending on development and will only make a car good enough to start at the top
    Just to please a few things are getting worst in F1

  26. Reverse grid ? Bad idea.
    Somebody may end up dead.

  27. Like a Footbal World Cup game starting Germany 0 Tanzania 3 ?
    Does that help the sport ?

Comments are closed.