Lance Stroll, Racing Point, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

Why drivers believe F1’s reverse grid plan would produce “really boring” races

2020 F1 season

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Last year Formula 1 cooked up a plan to drop qualifying sessions at a limited number of rounds and replace them with reverse-grid sprint races.

After two unsuccessful attempts to win support for the proposal, the sport’s bosses are making a third attempt to introduce the change for next year.

The proposal would involved replacing qualifying sessions at a limited number of events with half-hour ‘sprint races’. Drivers would line up in reverse championship order – the points leader at the back – and after 25 laps or so the finishing order would set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

Such a drastic change to the race format will inevitably disadvantage some and benefit others. But few drivers from either end of the grid have a positive word to say about the proposal.

George Russell, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020
Russell would start a reverse grid race from the front row
George Russell, who stands to gain more than almost any other driver from the proposal (see table below), rubbished the idea when he was asked about it at Mugello. He pointed out cars such as his Williams aren’t quick enough to stand any realistic hope of keeping the other drivers behind.

“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.”

It stands to reason that the slowest cars in the field will find it harder to hold back the quicker ones. But what about those in the midfield?

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The unfortunate reality of modern Formula 1, where drivers are ever-conscious of the need to preserve their fragile tyres, is that it doesn’t make sense for them to put up a fight against the quickest cars. McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl acknowledged this when Carlos Sainz Jnr qualified a superb third for the Italian Grand Prix:

Lance Stroll, Max Verstappen, Mugello, 2020
Stroll predicted “boring” reverse grid qualifying races
“Does it actually make sense to fight these guys or try to keep them behind? Because it could be that you in the end lose more performance by trying to do something which is simply not possible.”

F1 managing director Ross Brawn and other supporters of reverse-grid qualifying races are hoping they will create a frenzy of racing. But these examples suggest the actual spectacle will be more similar to watching the leaders lap slower cars.

For years, Formula 1 has attempted to tailor its tyres to the specific requirements of races, with varying degrees of success. Lance Stroll therefore suspects a shorter race format, which is not expected to feature a mandatory tyre change, would produce a procession.

“In today’s Formula 1 a short, 25-lap race would be really boring to watch, in my opinion,” he said when the idea was first mooted 12 months ago. “Today’s Formula 1 races depend on strategy which a 25-lap race wouldn’t really offer. So I think it would just be a train from start to finish and that would take away some of the excitement from the sport.”

Kimi Raikkonen believes the resulting races would be less exciting than qualifying, Daniel Ricciardo predicts “a lot of scenarios where it wouldn’t work” and Nicholas Latifi pointed out that the novelty of seeing unfamiliar names at the front would wear off quickly.

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But besides those drivers who aren’t convinced the reverse-grid qualifying race idea would work, there are many who also object to it on principle. Even those who don’t regularly qualify at the front embrace the ‘may the best driver win’ philosophy, and aren’t looking for a leg-up to the front from the rule makers.

Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri, Mugello, 2020
Kvyat says it wouldn’t address the “bigger problem”
“It sounds just like a short fix to a bigger problem which is just that we need to try and bring the teams closer competition-wise,” said Daniil Kvyat. Carlos Sainz Jnr made a similar case against the change.

F1 has already agreed sweeping new technical regulations to achieve this. However due to cost-cutting arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, these have now been postponed to 2022.

In the meantime they are keen to introduce reverse-grid qualifying races at a limited number of grands prix next year. They require the support of at least eight teams to do so.

If it was down to the drivers, they’d surely stand no chance. It remains to be seen whether their team principals believe they know better.

How the starting order for a reverse-grid sprint race could look

PositionAverage 2020 starting gridReverse championship standings (Change)
1Lewis HamiltonRomain Grosjean (-16)
2Valtteri BottasGeorge Russell (-14)
3Max VerstappenNicholas Latifi (-18)
4Lance StrollKevin Magnussen (-15)
5Sergio PerezAntonio Giovinazzi (-15)
6Carlos Sainz JnrKimi Raikkonen (-12)
7Alexander AlbonNico Hulkenberg (-2)
8Lando NorrisDaniil Kvyat (-7)
9Nico HulkenbergSebastian Vettel (-5)
10Daniel RicciardoEsteban Ocon (-3)
11Charles LeclercCarlos Sainz Jnr (+5)
12Pierre GaslyPierre Gasly (0)
13Esteban OconSergio Perez (+8)
14Sebastian VettelCharles Leclerc (+3)
15Daniil KvyatDaniel Ricciardo (+5)
16George RussellLance Stroll (+12)
17Romain GrosjeanAlexander Albon (+10)
18Kimi RaikkonenLando Norris (+10)
19Kevin MagnussenMax Verstappen (+16)
20Antonio GiovinazziValtteri Bottas (+18)
21Nicholas LatifiLewis Hamilton (+20)

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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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109 comments on “Why drivers believe F1’s reverse grid plan would produce “really boring” races”

  1. I think they should wait until 2022 at least. I think spectators need more of a feeling about following in dirty air to take part in voting, if there is any voting. To those who play F1 2020, Spain, Hungary, France (to some extent), USA (to some extent too) and Russia are tracks where following is literally just a nightmare, and it is tempting to just drop back at around 2-3 seconds in order to get better performance. In Spain and Hungary in f1 2020, they are just the worst, and I am not sure if that is quite representative to the effect of the dirty air in real life.

    1. @krichelle I’ve never really found it particularly difficult to follow cars on any track on the games. Yes, some of the dirty air effect might be in the games as well, but definitely not to the same extent as IRL.

      1. @jerejj That’s because the game has to tone down a lot of the dirty air in order to make the game fun for the intended audience.

    2. @krichelle It is considerably worse in real life. I have never felt like I’ve lost close to 20% of downforce following a car in the game. Personally, the dirty air effect in the game feels pretty minimal to me.

    3. F1 2020 is hardly an accurate sim.

  2. to drop qualifying sessions

    You may be against the change or in favour to test or even implement it, but we shouldn’t overdramatise it by calling it ‘dropping qualifying’.
    It is still a qualifying session, it’s just a different format.

    I would never support dropping qualifying unless the starting grid becomes 20 wide and maybe a curved line like in athletics.

    1. @coldfly It’s being billed as two races instead of qualifying + race, even though in practise race 1 is a qualifying session.

      1. Not sure by whom or where ‘it’s being billed as two races’, but that would be premature as it’s not even really in the planning phase.

        But even then a ‘qualifying race’ is both a ‘race’ and a ‘qualifying session’.
        And even today they could call it a qualifying ‘time trial’; which is also a type of ‘race’.

        Whatever the semantics, it is still a qualifying session as proposed by FIA/FOM.

  3. At the very least Liberty should wait to see the effect of the new rules, forcing these gimmicks only cheapen the sport.

    1. Drivers who could only win due to a gimmicky qualifying system would always have an asterisk next to those wins.

      1. Bit like drivers who have never not driven a championship winning car?

        1. Please- do name these drivers who have always had championship winning cars. Note emphasis on the always. I have a sneaky suspicion I already know the answer.

  4. The reason it was exciting to see Gasly at the front was because he was competing for a race win. It wouldn’t have been anywhere near as captivating if he was merely trying to get pole, especially if it was someone like him doing so every week. And even if he, or another mid-grid team, got pole, all it means is a slightly jumbled up first few laps of the race (as the top teams finish the job they started in the qualifying race), the same we see when qualifying is mixed up because of rain. Essentially, a bit of interest for the first few times they try this, and some jeopardy for the top teams who might crash out trying to overtake, and perhaps some undeserving winners at Monaco.

    Also, how is this going to be implemented at the first race of the season? And how would they ensure that a team going for constructors’ points doesn’t just sub in someone like Hulkenberg for the last race so he starts at the front of the qualifying race, gets an easy pole, and then drives off from the front?

    1. @f1hornet The first race of the season(s) wouldn’t be used for this experiment. It’d be two, three, or four events further into the season.

    2. @f1hornet Interesting point about using a sub. I would assume that any sub would start in the same position as the driver they were replacing would have started. Otherwise it could be abused, like you said. As Jere said, this would only be for a few races each season and they certainly wouldn’t consider doing it at Monaco, for obvious reasons.

    3. @f1hornet

      Another less important technicality is how they handle the 107% rule. But this is less important as the stewards can allow exceptions and it hasn’t been a problems recently.

  5. Surely the easiest solution would be put them all on the Hard tyre? Might as well get some usage out of it!

  6. This might have made some sense when the drivers could control engine modes, I am not so sure this would work with the new restrictions, particularly on those track which aren’t easy to over take on.

    DRS or not, you could in theory have slower cars driving in formation eg team mates driving next to each other, to keep the faster cars behind them. There are all kinds of opertunties here to disadvantage the obviously faster cars.

    Also would the engs stand up to this extra challenge, driving flat for 25 laps out to qualify, then the race the next day. Would the extra entertainment make up for the added costs, eg the extra wear and tear?

    1. Exactly. The engine rules makes even the concept unreasonable. You go from 21 races a season to roughly 33 races a season as regards distance covered, and all still on just 3 engines. If you have to increase the engine allocation, who will then pay for it.

    2. It’s not only the PU’s. How many more front wings, suspension parts and gearboxes are going to be damaged or destroyed.

      1. Tommytintop (@)
        23rd September 2020, 0:08

        It should only be done if the weekend is raced without championship points.

  7. At the end of the day this is simply about stopping Mercedes and in particular Hamilton from winning. Everyone knows that Williams, Haas, and Alfa will just become road furniture, and the midfield will be roughly the same, because they are already closely competitive. Whether Mercedes do in fact win is simply a factor of how long you make the “qualifying” race. The only question will be whether Mercedes can get by RBR or if RBR is on good form. The top two teams will already be in the midfield positions by lap 3. Even if Mercedes and RBR only make it to positions 4-6 for Sunday, they will be in the lead in a few laps after that.

  8. It would be easier to just try to nullify Mercedes advantage they’ve had for 7 years.

    RBR was allowed to dominate for one year before having their technology taken from them to neutralise their advantage.

    I don’t know why Mercedes are allowed to dominate unchallenged for so long.

    1. There have been several attempts to reduce or negate the advantage Mercedes have, the banning of ‘party mode’ being the latest. The problem is that Mercedes have developed their way around them and often come out even stronger as a result.

      Rule changes seem to benefit Mercedes and I’d say that’s what happens when you have the money and a talented team of engineers to throw at them. I’m looking forward to seeing what the cost cap will do in terms of reeling the top teams in.

      1. @gardenfella72 Aside from the party modes ban this mid-season, what are the ‘several’ other attempts to reduce or negate Mercedes advantage?

        1. @robbied90

          Banning DAS
          2017 aero changes (seen as a field leveller)
          Restrictions on oil usage (Merc probably suffered cooling problems due to this)
          Attempt to remove MGU-H from engines (voted down by teams)
          Insisting on same engine modes for same engines, regardless of end user
          Cap on PU costs

          1. @robbie

            Oil usage restrictions didn’t hurt Ferrari the most, though, did they? In fact, they were more competitive after the restrictions came in, until they got caught with their pants down, that is.

            “Please provide the articles/info” that’s hilarious. I shouldn’t have to point out the obvious to you.

            From your last comment, I can see you’re just sore that Seb got his toys taken away.

          2. @gardenfella72 No I actually wasn’t really a Seb/RBR fan at the time. As to ‘pointing out the obvious’ I’d still like to see evidence of Mercedes outrage at blatant attempts to curtail them. Anon provides some details, but was any of it significant and blatant in holding Mercedes back? Or did they just take it in stride as changes affected all the teams? I’ve only seen them dominate other than when Ferrari appeared to provide genuine competition in the first halves of ‘17 and ‘18, 19? which we now know may have not been genuine.

          3. @robbie with regards to the measures the FIA imposed, although it impacted some other teams, the indication is a number of those measures were quite clearly intended to hit Mercedes hardest as they were the team with the most advanced designs. The fact that Ferrari was so competitive in 2017 is credited in part because of the last minute ban on the suspension system Mercedes had planned to use, so in that case that measure did seem to work as a performance levelling mechanism that enabled Ferrari to then compete with them.

            The issue, though, is that it is not possible to provide the full details of what you are asking for because the FIA largely implemented those measures through Technical Directives. By their nature, the exact details you are asking for will never be known because those documents are private communications between the FIA and the teams – we have an idea of the broad outlines of those documents, and the impressions of those who have seen them, but the precise wording is known only to the teams and the FIA.

            Equally, there is the issue that, because the changes largely came about through Technical Directives, Mercedes, or equally any other team targeted through TDs, basically can’t do anything about it. There is no independent oversight of a Technical Directive, no appeal mechanisms against them or any other means by which a team can protest or attempt to have a Technical Directive overturned – it is effectively a mechanism by which rules can be changed that can be used by the FIA without the checks and balances that normally apply to a major regulatory change.

            Therefore, the fact that Mercedes have not protested is not a sign that they necessarily are OK with the changes – even if they objected, there is nothing they can do because Technical Directives sit in a legal grey area where only the FIA has the power to change a Technical Directive. How do you protest against something which cannot be protested and where the only body that can change a Technical Directive is the very body that issued it in the first place?

        2. The massive aero change in 2017..

          1. @gardenfella72 @N None of these changes were meant to curtail Mercedes other than perhaps the recent banning of DAS, the advantage of which is unclear, but the costs of which are not needed for an F1 that is on the cusp of trimming down costs. DAS was not banned to curtail Mercedes, but to save the rest of the teams the money of having to implement their own DAS system which is not vital to a good overall product on the track.

            Not sure how the aero changes of 2017 meant to speed up the cars was meant to hurt Mercedes alone. They all got faster, but unfortunately more aero dependent, which helps the leading team to keep cars behind in their dirty air. Oil usage? Affected Ferrari the most. Removal of mgu-h didn’t happen and was it for a fact meant to curtail Mercedes if it had? Same engine modes for customers as factory team? Doesn’t take away from the necessity in this generation of being a factory works team to make whatever modes work best.

            Let me ask it another way. Please provide the articles and/or quotes from a disgruntled Mercedes team complaining about rules changes meant to unfairly curtail them in this hybrid era. Please provide the info where in spite of draconian measures to curtail them Mercedes overcame the FIA monster anyway, and prevailed against huge odds. What exhaust blown diffuser type advantage was eroded from Mercedes season after season, ala RBR with Seb’s car over their four year run?

          2. @robbie the lack of Mercedes outrage doesn’t prove your point. Far from it.

            Take the recent ‘party mode’ ban, which even you must admit is directly aimed at them.

            Did they shout and scream and wail? No, they just said not wouldn’t change a lot and then proved it on the track.

            It’s a very British outlook. Talk softly and carry a big stick.

        3. @robbie in the case of the 2017 aerodynamic changes, the intention was to shift the series much more heavily towards aerodynamic performance.

          Both Horner and Marko commented about how Red Bull had been actively lobbying for the change in regulations, and that they expected that changing the sport to increase the importance of aerodynamics was a change that would give them an advantage – not for the first, nor the last time, was Marko predicting that the 2017 rule changes would see Red Bull return to championship winning ways.

          In that respect, it’s a question of whether you see it specifically as being intended to hurt Mercedes specifically, or rather that it was a rule change that was intended to benefit their chief rival (Red Bull), given that Red Bull seemed to believe it was a change that would be to their advantage.

          I am surprised, though, that the poster in question did not mention the multiple changes in regulations that have been targeted at Mercedes and their suspension systems in particular, as that would be a rather stronger argument – there would be the ban on the FRIC systems in 2014 and the later ban on hydraulic dampers in 2016, where in both cases Mercedes were widely considered to be the class leaders in those areas.

          It should also be noted that there were also instructions to change components or systems that came through the Technical Directive route, rather than directly through regulation changes – changes which, by their nature, are less transparent and therefore less is known about those.

          Mercedes are known to have been hit by a late Technical Directive by the FIA just before the 2017 season started, which arose from Ferrari putting in a late request for “clarification” on the rules which was really an indirect means of protesting Mercedes’s system. Whilst, to a lesser extent, Red Bull seem to have been partially impacted, the details in Ferrari’s protest and in the Technical Directive suggest the primary target was Mercedes and, indeed, it was cited as a reason for Mercedes’s car exhibiting problems with instability under braking in the early part of the 2017 season.

    2. Because they are that darn good Bondo

    3. David Bondo, asides from the fact that there have been repeated attempts to do so, but the problem is that individuals like yourself just want somebody else to magic up a solution without really understanding what they are doing or how exactly they are supposed to do that.

    4. So the FIA should make up some rules that makes all other the team suddenly as competent as Mercedes somehow? The issue is simply that the Mercedes team have been better in every single metric.

      I would perhaps recommend a new tyre supplier, drop the hybrid PU’s and remove all capes, winglets, bargeboards, etc. At that point you may have a chance of enough new knowledge areas to give teams a chance to catch up or pass them but it would come at a huge cost, completely at odds with the cost caps.

      As others have said, changes have been made throughout the years but Mercedes always come out better than everyone else. They’re simply a better team. This is all thanks to the team and processes put in place in 2010-2013. Eventually the dream team will split as happened at Ferrari and their performance level will drop. More than likely when Toto steps down.

    5. In addition to the solid arguments made above Bondo, and despite @robbie giving some reasonable, though IMO misguided, reasons why you aren’t completely wrong, the final reason for that is: take Mercedes out of the equation, and this year you have a Max rout, while 2014 would have a Red Bull 5th year continuation (so Vettel would have stayed, no out clause!). Still no midfield surprises.

      Or is it just that you hope Ferrari would have been a sometime winner by default in between?

      1. Just to recap my point here. When MS/Ferrari were on their WDC/WCC run, rules were changed, but never to disadvantage Ferrari in any significant way other than perhaps on paper, and indeed often the changes helped them. Imho Ferrari had Max and Bernies help in their run (they orchestrated it) and they were not interested in curtailing them. No complaints from Ferrari, and why would they complain?

        RBR on the other hand had their exhaust blown diffuser work incrementally diminished during their run, and we heard about that from Newey, dismayed at being handcuffed year after year from innovating.

        As to Mercedes, while there of course have been rules changes, and not insignificant ones, like the change to hybrid cars that eradicated RBR’s run, and like for 2017 for example, at no point do I recall, until LH spoke out this year about the quali modes ban, of which he mocked that it wasn’t going to change anything, any mention from them bemoaning rules changes meant to curtail them, akin to Newey’s complaints of more and more restrictions on them.

        And of course the proof is in the results. Mercedes has been on a seven year run, and I don’t begrudge them that, but let’s not make it sound like they’ve had adversity through rules changes meant to curtail them in any kind of significant way whatsoever, and that they have had to jump through hoops to overcome changes meant to harm them. LH had no problem being vocal about Mercedes allegedly wanting Nico to win in 2016, nor did he hold back over the modes ban this year. Where do we see/hear him (or TW) vocalize the supposed rules changes meant to hamper them throughout their run otherwise? If there had been such changes meant strictly to harm them, I’m sure LH would have let us know.

        As to RBR allegedly lobbying for the 2017 rules changes? From what I have read the rules changes were coming anyway because F1 wanted faster more aggressive looking cars. The cars weren’t faster enough than F2 cars. Yes RBR said that would suit them, as they have been known to be great with aero work, but agreeing with the rules, even agreeing that would help them, never meant Mercedes were disadvantaged by the rules changes. Unsurprisingly TW was against the rules changes and in favour of stability and convergence, not wanting to see their advantages risked. They claimed, and correctly so, that all they would have is faster cars, but that with the added aero downforce the racing would be no closer. I’d argue when all was said and done Mercedes benefitted the most as their superior pu helped them bring on the downforce without that taxing them with drag as much, whereas RBR were still not a works factory team with a strong pu and marriage of it to the chassis (the necessary ingredient in this chapter) and Ferrari were just ramping up (who knows how legally).

    6. It’s hard to ban something when everyone has the same thing. The problem is not only the Mercedes engine but also a great aero pack and superb subspension. This is what all teams have but just not doing as well as Mercedes.

  9. Hold on so now the argument against qualifying sprint races is that the fastest cars will get to the front anyway, and it will be really boring to watch?

    We’re now firmly in the stage of any argument possible against qualifying sprint races.

    1. @cduk_mugello it’s more the criticism that it does nothing to address the competitiveness of those smaller teams and that all such a move is really likely to do is to simply reinforce the current dominance of the top teams.

      If you look at, say, the 2018 British Grand Prix, where Hamilton worked his way back up the grid after being spun at the start, or the 2018 US Grand Prix, where Verstappen started in 18th due to his gearbox issues, the actual racing there was not particularly interesting.

      When you watched the onboard footage, it wasn’t particularly difficult for either driver to make up a lot of those places – the 2018 British GP saw Hamilton being able to make quite a few DRS passes on the Hanger Straight, whilst in the US GP it was a case of the midfield drivers being powerless to stop Verstappen literally just driving straight round them, as his car was ridiculously superior in terms of cornering performance.

      It’s the point that Kvyat raises – it’s the idea of a sticking plaster that does nothing to address any of the underlying issues, and might perhaps even make it worse by underlining just how superior the Mercedes and Red Bull cars both are to the rest of the field.

    2. @cduk_mugello The argument has changed over the decades (I first heard this idea in 2003) according to how the grid has been at that time, and what the biggest concern about it was perceived to be. The problem is that in a non-spec series, there is no circumstance where reverse grids work.

      They’re easy to game (in this iteration, simply “throw” the first few races and build up momentum, and deliberately “throw” any race which would otherwise yield a negative outlier result – it won’t work every time but will work often enough for any team that is a serious candidate to frequently lead the midfield, let alone title-winning outfits).

      They’re dependent on meaningful overtaking being neither trivial nor impossible to work (2020 has shown an odd combination of both, without middle ground) – and when the racing is in that happy zone, people state that moving where people qualify artificially is unfair.

      They’re also depending on overtaking not being primarily associated with gimmicks. Unfortunately for the last decade, DRS has been that gimmick for F1. With it, reverse grids come across as exalting the gimmick and reducing realistic racing.

      This time, there’s even more reason to be against: the related matters of damage and cost-caps. In a cost-capped series where teams meet the cost of parts, and meet the penalties for extra engines, increasing both by 50% interferes with teams’ ability to meet cost-cap without cheating. Which will encourage exercise of loopholes to avoid cheating, thus threatening the cost-cap itself. That’s before mentioning that COVID-19 will likely remain a factor next year and we could end up with another compressed calendar at short notice (I’m not even confident we’ll get all the 2020 races thanks to the breaches of bubbling I routinely see in the paddock, and the premature reintroduction of spectators at close quarters such as happened in Mugello).

      I’m not averse to changes to qualifying on principle. Completely randomised grid positions (perhaps with protections involving guaranteed X number of races in each half/quadrant of the grid), such as happened in Donington in 1939, seems a reasonable thing to experiment if there’s to be a compressed timetable.

  10. It’s a nice idea in principle, but is it really Formula 1? Surely f1 is about finding the fastest driver and team in the world each race weekend. If we reverse the grid, it cheapens the victory for any race winner.

    1. Yeah, but you are looking at it from a sport perspective. Liberty has a different perspective

    2. Correction F1 is about finding the fastest team in the world each weekend.

      Only at times of Fangio, Clark, Senna, Schumacher and Alonso has the fastest driver in the fastest team been matched up.

      1. Fangio had the best car. Clark had the best car. Senna had the most dominant car in history that won all but one race in 88. Schumacher had the best car and tyres and a laptop of a team mate. Alonso had the best car and a journeyman in Fisichella who was no competition at all. Selective memory or just poorly informed?

        1. *lapdog of a team mate

  11. For all the collective intelligence Formula 1 possess, it can sometimes be unbelievably obtuse and shortsighted.

    What is to stop the faster cars going slowly during the qualifying sprint race to ensure they do not finish at the front, and thus get themselves a more favorable position for the actual race?

    This is like the qualifying debacle at Monza last year that was predicted, but took the farce to happen before F1 decided to do something about it this year. And that was a plaster fix that wasn’t ideal either.

    So, is the FIA going to set a minimum lap time delta for Mercedes and other fast cars in the sprint race? If so, what about the mid field?

    This is just another face waiting to happen if it goes ahead. There is nothing stopping Mercedes or Red Bull going slowly so they can be overtaken in the race. The other scenario is a train of cars following each other for 25 laps where no one overtakes anyone – a la Monza qualifying 2019.

    Either way, we have a farce in the making.

    1. I think you’ve missed the point slightly, its not the main race that would have the grid reversed, its the qualifying/ sprint race where they would start in reverse, with their finishing positions determining the actual grid for the main race. So you’d still want to finish the sprint race as high as possible.

      That being said, I’m still against this Saturday race.

      1. @eurobrun The objection still stands, except that it would be the early races of the season that it would be advantageous to deliberately underperform in, not (or not just) qualifying.

        We effectively tried this in Silverstone 2004 and it was a disaster. No point revisiting this.

        1. I can’t imagine anyone would deliberately underperform for 4 or more straight races from the start of the season, just to take advantage in one race.
          Yes, maybe someone with a horrendous start might gain an advantage this way, but deliberately no.

    2. They are stupid @kbdavies, but not quite that stupid. As @eurobrun says, the plan is to start the Saturday sprint race in reverse championship order, then the Sunday race in the finishing order from Saturday.

      What IS stupid is doing 4 weekends, with the current cars. Also it was stupid to delay the new floor tunnel cars to ‘save money’ and then find they have to modify=redesign the cars anyway because the tyres that they decided to keep couldn’t cope.

      What they needed to do was announce the reverse sprint race format for a whole season (so it’s not handicapping) a year in advance, so that – and this is half the point – teams would design cars that are good at following and passing instead of being good at one lap qualy. This could all have come together for next year, and it would’ve been amazing.

      1. @zann Teams try to design cars that do well at following as it is (especially in the midfield), but are hampered by the technology.

        1. They can’t optimise a car for everything @alianora-la-canta, they have to prioritise. With qualy they have to optimise for one lap pace in free air, because the grid slot is SO vital. With a reverse grid sprint race it’s the opposite, so they would be making changes.

          Of course as you say the technology and rules are a limit, and it’d help if FIA allowed tandem wind tunnels. But still, the stability of the flows in dirty air would get more priority over peak efficiency for example. They might sacrifice some ultimate g for more front end bite. But for sure F1 teams would not stand still and see how it went, they’d develop for it.

          1. @zann My point is they already do – unless they anticipate spending lots of time in free air, as Mercedes and Red Bull do.

          2. My point @alianora-la-canta is it’s not binary. Atm they have to design for qualy and the race. If they did reverse grid Saturday races they’d be designing for that, which is more of one and less of the other. Not completely a lappery car, and not completely a traffic car, but a different mix, which would be racier. Yes a bigger difference at the front than the back, but still different.

          3. @zann Qualifying where most of the running is in dirty air + race where most of the running is in dirty air = same demands for qualifying and the race. Given the importance of qualifying tow that already exists at several circuits, this is already a thing. It just becomes more of a thing with greater convergence between the demands of the proposed qualifying and the race.

          4. A tow is done at a completely different distance from a pass @alianora-la-canta, and this means the wake and aero environment is completely different too, plus a tow in qualy is only done on a minority of circuits. So if the series went to reverse grids, the cars certainly would be redesigned to suit.

          5. @zann Towed air is dirty. The point is that there would no longer be a need for cars to run well in clean air unless they usually ran in clean air during the race due to dominance. That means the window in which the cars need to operate is narrower than now. Instead of having to run in clean, somewhat dirty, and very dirty air, most will only need to work well in somewhat dirty and very dirty air.

  12. Ideally they’d alter the financial and technological disparity across the grid so a Williams or a Haas taking a pole, win or podiums would be a low chance, but possible – instead of how it is now where it’s realistically impossible. That and change the cars aero and engines so they are more equalised on performance and able to fight each other fairly.

    But they’re not doing that, and the rule changes coming are a ‘hope it works’ thing.

    So reverse grids are a band aid solution, an attempt to change the status quo so things don’t stay as monotonous as they have been. An effort to add some variation, challenge or unpredictability that currently it sorely lacks. I don’t think it’s ever been touted as a long term solution, but a short term fix. So next year – super stable regulations before everything changes, is literally the best chance they’re going to get to experiment with available and reliable data. So let them try. Nealy 90% of what they try probably wouldn’t make it to 2022 anyway so there’s literally no harm in trying. Nothing to lose, lots to potentially gain.

    1. Grand Prix racing was always a pure form of racing – unlike the ‘handicap’ sprints that were a feature of Brooklands.

      Given the same amount of money, some teams will out perform others – that is the nature of things and should NOT be countered by artificial devices.

  13. It really does seem like this issue will only drive a greater wedge between the sport’s owners and the drivers. As illustrated in the article above, F1’s grid are in vehement opposition to the introduction of reverse-grid sprint races. Given it they are the ones who have skin in the game, it makes sense that their position on the issue is given some clout – which makes Liberty’s decision to conduct a fan poll even more baffling.

    It’s also important not to use a single race as reason enough to push through a regulation change – see Canada 2010 for high-deg tyres and Abu Dhabi later that year as birth-mother of DRS. The truth is that reverse-grid sprint races would not be up for discussion if we had cars that could follow each other without losing huge amounts of downforce and tyre grip.

    The 2022 spec regulations are a step in the right direction to solving such problems. It’s Liberty’s motivation that’s unclear. Do they see reverse-grid races as a long term option going forward or is it that, with Mercedes likely to go unchallenged again next year, the proposal is simply a means of bridging this gap until 2022, when we, as fans, get the quality of racing we deserve.

    1. Rob W, The fan poll seems more aimed at framing the press release than actually finding out anyone’s opinion on the matter.

  14. I am just so annoyed by Ross and others who have seized upon the Italian Grand Prix as a fantastic advertisement for a Reverse grid qualifying race.

    Did they actually watch the race – what was interesting or exciting about it?

    Basically cars that were out of position couldn’t overtake and couldn’t even challenge for overtakes. There was no “racing” to speak of.

    Sure – a couple of cars got lucky and it threw a different than expected result but it wasn’t because of some magical reversal of the grid, it was just a set of fluke circumstances that cannot be artificially set up.

    Unfortunately we, the fans, and the drivers won’t get any real say – the decision has been made and they’ll get it through by any means possible.

    1. @dbradock Fair comment. I’m just not convinced ‘the decision has been made.’ Yes Brawn brought this up again after Monza, and yes I agree it is folly to assume reverse grid quali sprints would duplicate the type of surprise or randomness that came with Gasly’s win, which is not even necessarily something we would want to duplicate given the lack of actual passing as you point out.

      But this just to say, that Brawn has brought this up again does not mean it is a done deal. There has been a F1 Fan Survey and I’ll assume the results will be mostly against the idea given the response in this site’s survey too. We have virtually all the drivers saying all the right things opposing the idea. So I would be quite surprised if Brawn still saw the virtue in this concept.

      But my main point? We the fans do get a say…and a big one. We are the boss. If this seemingly highly unpopular idea, even with the drivers, was to be rammed through, we could all just stop watching. Stop watching either those races with reverse grid sprint qualifiers, or stop watching F1 altogether, until quali is changed back. That would being an immediate end to the concept.

      As Sam Walton of Walmart said…’the customer is the boss. They can fire us in a heartbeat.’ Ie. they can simply choose to shop elsewhere. If a noticeable number of fans stopped watching, even temporarily, you can bet they’d stand up and take notice. That would be the opposite of what they are trying to do, even if they are wrong that reverse grid races are the way to achieve a larger audience. A larger audience is still the goal, and we can have a say in that without question.

      1. The only change F1 will make is their own decision. The romantic idea of “the fans”
        and “their” words only works at the ticket booth. When nobody comes to the races and no money exchanged hands then Formula One will react. Money will change the outcome not wishful thinking and pretending. You and I are powerless unless we stop buying tickets. That rings the bell of concern for F1 management. Stop attending and then see the willingness for change Perhaps the very reason we’re talking about it.

      2. @robbie the problem is that quite a few people feel the poll that Liberty Media has put out is rather transparently trying to push people towards a particular answer, such that many feel the poll is really more a piece of set dressing for Liberty Media (i.e. to give the veneer of appearing to consult the fans on a change, but probably will ignore them if it produces an answer they’re not keen on).

        I think this is now the fourth time that Liberty Media have put this question to the fans in fairly short order, even though the previous three occasions showed that a clear majority of fans were against the proposal and, if anything, the idea has become even more unpopular over time. When added to the lack of transparency over the poll results – there have been complaints that, as the poll has gone on, Liberty Media removed the option for people to see the percentage split in the results – it means that people are starting to be more mistrustful of Liberty’s intentions with this poll.

      3. @Robbie part of the problem is that large corporations tend to make decisions based on what their marketing people want, not actually what the market wants.

        The F1 Voice survey on this was a perfect example of a survey designed to support a marketing decision – it was almost impossible to to complete that survey without providing some answers that could be interpreted as supporting the concept. Even if your answer to the final question was “no” they’ll still be able to point at the previous question answers and say “well they said no in this one but all their other answers support reverse grid racing, so we can apply an offset to their objections “

        As for fans not watching…. I’d say that for the first one people just won’t be able to help themselves and will watch out of curiosity. That alone will give the powers that be the opportunity to say “look we got more viewers” – not because it was a good thing, but because it was a curiosity. I’d go further to say that a sample of 3 or 4 will only server to prop up their argument that it “makes things more exciting” regardless of whether or not it is fair or a true reflection of the skill of the teams and drivers.

        I certainly won’t watch any reverse grid race qualifying, but convincing everyone to not watch, or to abandon our beloved F1 for (say) a season …. I think the F1 people are smart enough to know that it’s almost impossible to lose hard core fans regardless of how you ruin something.

        I’m hoping you’re right and that it’s not a done deal, but the fact that Ross (whom I still believe should know better) persists in pushing this leads me to believe that it will happen next year regardless of feedback from drivers, fans etc.

    2. Did they actually watch the (Monza) race – what was interesting or exciting about it?

      The problem isn’t Ross but the fans voting on Almost 3/4 gave that race a 9 or 10.
      And these are no inexperienced fans either. It seems they have followed F1 for ages; at least they are old enough to have a minor onset of dementia as most of them are now very much against reproducing such a spectacle.
      At least Ross proposes to test it in a less consequential ‘qualifying session’ rather than in the race proper.

      1. @coldfly Good points, and there’s the rub. Liking a race for it’s uniqueness and surprise, perhaps tinted with an underdog winning that added to the popularity from a sentimental standpoint, wouldn’t be duplicated with an artificial reversing of the grid and a concerted effort to try to see an underdog win, or at least stand a better chance.

        @dbradock ‘s point is well made that Ross is the problem if he thinks Monza shows why reverse grid sprint qualifiers would be good. Monza should not be held as an example of proof of anything other than that sometimes in F1 stuff happens. Spontaneously.

        But you also make a good point that Brawn has only proposed this for Saturdays, knowing full well suggesting it for Sundays would be an entirely different conversation, and one that even he doesn’t want to have, nor has ever brought up.

    3. @dbradock Agree totally. It’s like people who should know more about F1 than anyone else were utterly clueless to what happened at Monza. It was mostly formation racing that got shuffled a couple of times. And Hamilton doing some actual overtaking stuff. Very well but in a faster car. Relocated artificially at the back midway.

      1. Agreed – look at the lap charts here. There was one long period of no overtakes before the red flag, than after that the only real changes were Raikkonen going backwards from an artificially high position and Hamilton fighting his way from the back. There was very little organic overtaking.

        It was good to see a different podium, and it happened because of a series of random events, not some artificial attempt to spice things up.

    4. @dbradock What was interesting and exciting was the surprise. Created by things not foreseen in advance.

      Telegraphing bad qualifying positions in advance would seem to do the opposite.

  15. A sport that has to resort to gimmicks to keep the punters happy is not in a healthy state.

  16. Good points in the article.

    This idea could backfire badly if the field tightens. Imagine if RB are more competitive in 2021. Max is clinging to a 5 point lead going into the first Random Roster Race (RRR)

    In the RRR Bottas is passed by Hamilton and then becomes a rolling roadblock until he and Max collide.

    The next day Hamilton starts from P6 and easily wins. Verstappen starts P16 and puts in an epic drive to P5. Hamilton takes a 10+ points lead to the next race.

    Fans are not happy.

  17. Stop bringing this up. Wasn’t last weekends tease and the response overwhelmingly one sided. Only a non fan would suggest that this moronic idea be plausible. So let’s say it one more time.
    F1 has but one choice here. Commit to reverse grids or drop DRS. I suggest both but what would be better for Formula One? Fake Passing or Fake race starts.
    How about everybody raising their game and just try to beat Mercedes on the track. Cut the “blank blank“ and DROP both ideas. They are poor excuses for progress. F1 should expect better.

  18. Completely agree with Kvyat. If you want to have better races, then more parity between cars is the way to go. Instituting a reasonable spending cap and floor and having stable regulations will produce closer racing in the long run than any gimmicks like reverse grids.

    1. True, and ridding themselves of dependence on clean air for optimum car performance, and instead being able to trail a car closely without significant car performance drop, is huge.

  19. Formula 1 ideally just needs 3 top teams, a feisty midfield snapping at the front when they make mistakes or in wet weather, and as little rear grid as possible. But it has to recognize that you can’t make that to order. It needs a combination of unequalness and constant churning so we don’t get the same team(s) dominating. So every 2 or 3 years, change some aspect of the design regulations drastically – maximum weight, length, tyre size or durability, engine specs, whatever, just to force adaptation and increase the chance of one team finding a creative solution that beats the other teams, but doesn’t allow dominance for years on end (because of the 2-3 year lifespan). Stop trying to justify these changes: just make them more often and see what happens.

    Overall, I don’t get the obsession with overtaking. DRS shows that easy overtakes don’t really add to the spectacle when they don’t seem to involve much skill or smartness from the driver. I prefer fast, flowing circuits, the kind I like driving (on a PC!) like Spa, Silverstone, Suzuka, or Mugello, and ‘get’ why the drivers like them, and enjoy watching these races for that reason, with or without much ‘track action.’ Formula 1 (its owners and managers) need to recognize the ‘product’ they’ve got and emphasize it rather than turn the sport into something else entirely. A race of chaos is great as an unexpected variant, not as a constant.

    1. The constant change only causes one dominant team at a time. Stable regulations cause convergence.
      The hybrid era has been constant regulation changes, hasnt worked at all.

      What you really need is as little change as possible from a technical formula that diminishes dirty air as much as possible.

      Only when dirty air is diminished will drivers be able to race at the difficult tracks, where mistakes are made easy and punished swiftly.

      1. The constant change only causes one dominant team at a time.

        Not in 2009.

        Stable regulations cause convergence.

        Convergence but not really with any eventual meeting, at least at the front. The other teams have had plenty of time to catch up Mercedes, but only Ferrari really did so through their dodgy engine. And the changes have not really been that radical, or enough to upset Mercedes and cancel out their engine advantage.

        I agree about the dirty air, but it’s a separate issue. You could have cleaner air and still have one dominant team.

        1. @david-br @SadF1fan So we know that rules stability theoretically causes convergence through teams being able to catch up to some degree to those in front, one season(s) to the next. I suggest that even the rules changes in 2017 didn’t change the main problem with this gen. That problem, unique to previous generations, is that come 2014 you, as a team, basically HAD to be a works factory team in order to make the highly complex power units work hand in hand with the braking and the chassis, in a marriage of engine to car more crucial than any generation before, by far. Previous to 2014 F1 was always plug and play. You could, as a non-factory team, even as an independent team (see Williams) take someone’s good engine, slap it in your good chassis, and you had a good chance of success.

          This generation changed the goal posts bigtime. Only one factory team has been able to succeed sustainably since 2014, and the only other works factory team Ferrari only came close and even at that had to resort to questionable behaviour. RBR didn’t start out in 2014 as a works team, and now with Honda they are closer to that (technically not works though) but it has been early days for that marriage. Teams who are customers of the best pu made by Mercedes struggle in spite of the pu because they are not a factory works team.

          No wonder Brawn has talked about the next generation of pu being less complicated and more plug and play like F1 was pre-2014.

          So it seems quite obvious by now that this has been the wrong generation to expect convergence to have tightened up the field to any significant degree. Renault and RBR/Honda didn’t start out this generation as factory works teams, and that leaves Ferrari as the only team theoretically in with a shout at sustained competitiveness.

          So…have the teams had plenty of time to catch up? It would seem that since plenty of time has gone by, the problem is not with the teams but with the complexity of the power units and the vital need to have the pu and chassis work together hand in hand like no generation before. And that requires with absoluteness, that one be a factory works team, and even then that is no guarantee.

          I think that the combination of less complicated power units, and chassis’ less dependent on the pu marriage, along with cars much less dependent on clean air, is the way of the future. As it is, the one team that has nailed the complex gen, has the advantage of controlling the pace out front by keeping cars in their dirty air. So I think that once the cars are no longer so badly affected in dirty air, at least the lesser teams can have their better sessions and race stints and races and make some waves. But the other significant change has to be to get away from the necessity that one be a works factory team.

        2. I’d say winning the first 6 races of the season was pretty effin’ dominant, and if Brawn GP had had money to continue to do development, it would have been more than just those 6 races.

        3. @david-br The rules have only been stable for one year (2015-2016) since the dominance started. There have been significant rule changes in every other off-season. It won’t even be tested in 2021 because of the floor regulation changes (done after a commitment to use the 2020 cars as-is, to boot).

          So the theory still hasn’t been tested. As long as the FIA remain as they are, I expect it never will be.

    2. Formula 1 ideally just needs 3 top teams…

      No! Ideally F1 needs ten top teams! If F1 had 10 top teams then the current Qualifying format would be exciting. Pole position wouldn’t be shared between just a few drivers, but something most of the drivers could have a realistic shot at getting.
      The fact just a few drivers consistently get Pole Position and make regular appearances on the Podium isn’t the fault of the front running teams, that’s the fault of everyone else. Everyone else needs to improve their game.
      The current Qualifying system is merit based: those drivers, their cars, and teams that perform better on that track get through to the next session, and then to Q3, those that are below average have the ignominy of not proceeding to the next round of Qualifying. Pole Position goes to the best combination of driver, car, and team.
      A Reversed Grid Qualifying system starts with the premise that rewards not improving one’s game. For example, if we consider the Tuscan Qualifying results, does anyone here really believe Valtteri, Alex, and Charles could get from near the back of the grid to finish second, fourth, and fifth respectively in just 25 laps? No, of course they don’t! That’s just ridiculous! So being below average is better. Being the best doesn’t stand out! Pole Position goes to a pretender!

  20. This idea just says to me that Brawn is not convinced the 2022 changes are going to work. Why make such a drastic change to the way races are held if you are convinced the 2022 changes will “fix” what’s wrong with the sport?

    1. @velocityboy The thing is, that I am aware of Brawn hasn’t literally spoken of this for 2022. He has only spoken of it as an experiment for four races next season.

      Oh for sure I have been against reverse grid quali races in principal, but was willing to see an experiment with these cars. But with the next cars? For sure you are right that this concept shouldn’t be needed. Based on that I no longer even want the experiment in 2021. As I say, for now I am hopeful and going by the assumption that this is not meant for 2022, but just to spice up the show (debatable in itself) for next year with the nearly unchanged cars that don’t like to race closely.

    2. @velocityboy To maintain headlines.

  21. The main problem I see isn’t with the front runners. I don’t mind them having to fight their way through the pack, and I’m pretty sure by the end of 1.5 races they will still end up in their usual positions more often than not.

    The problem is those midfield runners where the performance differences are very small. I see a few drivers who have performed very well relative to their competition, and teammates in particular – like Ricciardo and Leclerc for example. In the current example they would have to start 5 places behind their teammates, and very likely end up following them home in both the qualifying/sprint race, and the main event. So in the case of the very tight midfield we have now it seems unfair to penalise the teams/drivers who may have overperformed earlier in the season.

  22. When all things are equal, such as all tyres are the same compound and new, can the next faster car overtake its closest competitor?
    i.e. can Alpha Romeo overtake a Haas or Red Bull overtake Racing Point or McLaren (fitted with Merc PU next year)

  23. Grids set by reverse qualifying at best will provide a few lucky winners, drivers who could only win due to a gimmicky qualifying system. They’d always have an asterisk next to those wins.

  24. The drivers are opposed to it, because it’s a rubbish idea. It’s also designed to handicap the successful drivers, something I am adamantly opposed to. It will be expensive in terms of carbon fibre, it will eliminate REAL qualifying, which is one of the most entertaining aspects of the race weekend, and it does absolutely nothing to address the ever-increasing gap between the front teams and the midfield caused by ever more restrictive rules that require more and more money to circumvent.

    This is a Crock of @#%* and it stinketh.

  25. It’s ok to punish measly engineers for their success, by hobbling & outlawing technical innovations just to keep the field competitive, but how dare you even consider disadvantaging star drivers in faster cars.
    The hypocritical logic of F1.

    Hopefully FE can make this 20th century sham truly irrelevant come the next decade. Liberty should just milk whatever they can from traditional F1 and then leave it to collapse.

  26. If this is to be implemented, please just make it a non- championship event… the asterisks in the qualifying stats would be unbearable! The great races are the ones that stand out from the rest. Canada 2010 was brilliant to watch live because it was so unexpected. The novelty wears off pretty quickly when you try to replicate it. It’s akin to Bernie’s sprinkler idea. I suspect all Mercedes would do is shave off a bunch of downforce to make passing easier and sacrifice half a second of ultimate lap time (which would still have them lapping the best part of second faster than most of the midfield). When these scenarios are known beforehand, you can strategise. The best races are the ones where you can’t and the team that makes the right calls on the run prevails.

    1. The thing is, isn’t the current format already breaking away from tradition? Isn’t only the top 10 relevant to the pole time?

  27. Since we will have abandoned all sense by going reverse-grid racing, maybe they then should also include overtake points, to add to whatever the driver scores?
    Like, for every position that a driver makes up permanently – excluding retirements – they receive one point? So if Lewis starts at the back and then makes up 19 places to win, he gets the 25 winner’s points PLUS 19 overtaking points?
    I’d pay to see that.

    1. That’s actually not a bad idea, it would give those at the back something to fight for. As oppose to the present system where only those in the top ten gain any benefits. That said I can see this being exploited as the top teams take penalties to start at the rear and then proceed to lap the field. :)

      1. And then there’s the possibility of the cars outside of the top ten, deliberately qualifying lower than they could, just to over take those ‘slower’ cars who qualified ahead of them.

        1. Which means you would maybe have to introduce points for qualifying positions too. :-)

    2. Remember how difficult Elimination Qualifying was to follow….? This would be x10 worse.

  28. In ideal world cars would have 2000 hp, limited downforce, and drivers would not be flat anywhere.

    But as we have half power and double downforce, the lead car can go flat most of the time while the following car struggles with understeer and overall loss of grip.

    Car design needs a new step forward, meanwhile experiment to see what the best format is.

    Personally old style shootout, 1 hour, who can set fastest lap, can win pole is best.

    F2 has quite good format, quali, reverse race, regular race.

    Replace P3 with quali, and add an experimental format race on Satturday.

  29. The sprint race is a good idea but maybe not to fully set the grid. How about a normal qualifying, then a reverse championship order race where the best finishers can improve their grid position. Top 4 get bumped up grid positions for the real points paying race (like a reverse penalty). Winner gains 5 places, 2nd gains 3, 3rd gains 2 and 4th gains 1. And as a bonus whoever makes up the most places in the sprint race gains 2 grid positions. That way this system could still work at Monaco without sticking Latifi on pole because no one can ever pass.

    1. For me, part of the issue to tackle is complication. The above sounds very complicated to explain to a current fan, let alone a new fan.

      I feel like the current qualifying is actually more complicated than the suggested reverse championship order Qualifying Race, which is a plus.

  30. I guess backmarkers at the front wouldn’t even fight. You can just hear the radio calls: “Let Lewis through. Don’t fight Lewis. Save tyres. This isn’t your fight.”

  31. The solution to F1 would be to do what Formula E did. Make the 2022 teams all run a standard aero body kit, wings, engine cover even floor, everything! Let them have their own engines though.

    Then slowly over a number of seasons relax the rules slightly to allow for experimentation but always on the basis of keeping healthy racing.

    You could even let new teams enter the sport buying customer cars and slowly establishing themselves.

  32. Instead of reverse grid starts they could try reverse grid finishes. All drivers who finish in the top 10 will have their result flipped (so 10th becomes 1st, 2nd becomes 8th, 5th remains 5th.) That way it would guarantee an “exciting” battle with all the cars in the midfield!

    1. Until the teams find out and game the system accordingly.

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