Start, Monza, 2020

F1’s reverse-grid plan suffers a blow as McLaren confirm their opposition

2020 Russian Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s hopes of introducing reverse-grid qualifying races next year have suffered a blow as McLaren have said they will not support the plan.

The sport’s managing director of Formula 1 Ross Brawn is keen to replace qualifying sessions with reverse-grid sprint races at some rounds in 2021. The short races would decide the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

In order for the scheme to be introduced next year it must be approved by a ‘super majority’ of the F1 Commission. This requires at least 28 out of 30 votes.

The votes are shared between the 10 teams, who have one vote each, plus 10 votes for F1 and 10 for the FIA. Therefore if at least three teams oppose the plan, it will not be introduced.

Mercedes and Racing Point have previously opposed the reverse grid qualifying race plan. Now McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl has indicated his team will also vote against it, potentially blocking its introduction.

“From the McLaren position it’s pretty clear for us,” said Seidl. “For us Formula 1 should be a championship, and always has been, where everyone is working within the same regulations and the best team with the best car with the best driver is in the end at the at the front in qualifying. And, if everything goes well on Sunday, also at the front and wins the race.

“This is why we are absolutely not supportive of the idea of introducing reverse grids.”

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With little change expected in the competitive order next year, F1 is keen to introduce the proposal in order to create more variety in the races. However Seidl believes the new technical regulations coming in 2022 offer a better opportunity to improve the standard of racing without introducing “artificial” devices.

“We simply have to accept and also respect what Mercedes has done over the last two years in order to build up this dominance,” he said. “They deserve to be there because they do the best job by far, better than everyone else, and it’s simply down to everyone else trying to catch up.

“Next year, I’m aware that it is kind of an interim year, probably not seeing a big change of place at the front of the grid in terms of pecking order. But as I’ve said some weeks ago I think with everything that comes into the game and from 2022 onwards with the budget cap, the new technical regulations I think will help to close the grid again to have more competition and I think that’s positive. That’s why we think it would be wrong to introduce any artificial randomness now.”

Asked whether McLaren’s opposition means F1 will be unable to obtain the necessary votes to approve the rules change, Seidl said: “The process of changing the sporting regulation is pretty straightforward and defined and obviously, this is a discussion we will have behind closed doors.

“Again, from our side, I don’t see that we support this direction at all.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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37 comments on “F1’s reverse-grid plan suffers a blow as McLaren confirm their opposition”

  1. No two ways about it; it’s a gimmick and a bad one at that. It’s embarrassing for the cars starting at the front who will inevitably get swallowed up. In fact it’d be embarrassing for everyone involved. This is not a soap, it is a sport. The team and driver who deserves to win, should win; not be put to the back simply for the entertainment of people who can’t appreciate the sport for what it is.

    I agree that it’d be interesting to see what happens one time, because I love the drama; but it goes against the very nature of elite sport.

    Liverpool and Manchester City haven’t started 10 points down this season in the Premier League to see if they can win anyway…

    1. I agree that reverse order start would be a fiasco but something needs to be tweaked in F1! It’s getting stale watching the same 2 Mercedes win every race. Too predictable. Seems the only competitive team is Red Bull(Max).

    2. Totally agree, this is sport, the best man/team wins end of story.

    3. Liverpool and Manchester City haven’t started 10 points down this season in the Premier League to see if they can win

      I don’t recall them being awarded the kick-off only becasue they were better in a pre-game shoot-out.
      @ben-n

      1. just to clarify my recent ‘devil’s advocate’ posts:
        I’m merely calling out the inherent shortcoming of starting any race with some having a head start.
        But other than a 20-wide grid I cannot come up with a fairer solution either.

        I think it’s totally wrong to ‘succes ballast’ a winner by having him start at the tail.
        But at the same time I’d love to see the following and overtaking skills of Hamilton and Verstappen (Bottas already shared his skills with us). I believe that testing reverse grid qualifying sessions can give us that without upsetting the real race grid more than an unfortuante flag event or weather change could do.

      2. @coldfly That example makes no sense since there is no “ahead” in the premier league. All teams play each other twice.

        In a tournament however, the teams that performed best in pre games, and/or are ranked higher, also indeed get the better groups with easier opponents.

        1. All teams play each other twice.

          Suggest you build your own argument and model in which all teams start at pole in one race. Having 20 races (when leaving out Monaco), it could well work out.
          @f1osaurus

          That example makes no sense (to me)

          That’s because you didn’t understand the comparison.
          In a football match they allow one team to kick-off (similar to starting from pole in a GP race). In football they determine their ‘pole’ based on the toss of a coin.
          If they were to do it as in F1 then they need a qualifying round; the best comparison I can make to a single lap qualifying session is a penalty shoot-out.
          But in football they try to mitigate the pole advantage by having the other team chose their initial playing side, and reversing this during the 2nd half. This can also be unfair as wind and weather can change during the hour in between.

          Taking all this into account I’m not sure if football (toss of a coin) is a better solution that a qualifying hot-lap or a qualifying race in F1.

          1. @coldfly Yeah lets have 5 races every weekend with only two teams per race. That will go swimmingly

            I did understand the comparison. It’s just dumb.

          2. I did understand the comparison. It’s just dumb.

            What’s really dumb is when you say you understand something your counterargument totally missing the point.

    4. The worst part about the cars starting from the front in reverse grid race is that in most cases it even makes no sense to fight if someone behind is going to overtake. Put someone like williams at the front and in 90% of the cases it is better and faster to let the cars go by. Otherwise the williams just wears down its tires and will get overtaken couple of corners later anyways. If drs procession passes are already bad imagine if the car ahead slows down a tiny bit just to avoid going into a turn 2 wide. So they don’t lose 2 seconds but just half a second.

  2. They could break that 30 minutes into karting style heat races.
    3x 10 minute races. Everybody starts one near the front, one near the middle and one near the back. Everybody has equal opportunity. Points awarded and set the grid for the final race.

    1. or they could draw names out of a hat.

      1. @ferrox-glideh Even that would be a better way to determine a grid order compared to this reverse-grid thing.

  3. So the three teams publicly announcing they will vote against reverse grid races are Mercedes, Racing Point, and now McLaren. Hmm…I wonder what those three teams have in common? While I don’t necessarily agree that reverse grid races are something F1 should be looking at long-term, it is fairly ridiculous that one manufacturer can have so much control over the sporting regulations. Especially when, as we can see, most if not all teams will always vote in their own interests, and not necessarily in the interests of the sport.

    1. The Toto monopoly at work

    2. @keithedin the thing is, how many teams have come out positively in favour of the idea? As far as I am aware, there seem to be a few teams at least who have largely avoided answering the question on whether they support the idea or not – Renault and Alfa Romeo are two such teams.

      Equally, doesn’t the same criticism then apply to other manufacturers as well, given that Ferrari are known to have pressured Sauber in the past to back them in votes on regulation changes? It’s not exactly as if it’s only Mercedes that have a singular power over the sport – you don’t think that Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Haas forms a similar block? As for Red Bull, they’ve actively said in the past that one of the main attractions of buying Toro Rosso was the additional voting rights that it would give them.

      1. You’re right I don’t know what the official stances of the other teams are on reverse grids, although I’m sure there have been some quotes here and there from team principles indicating that they’re in favour. And to be clear, I’m not singling Mercedes out here, although they are the beneficiaries in this example. I’m more questioning whether the teams, and indirectly the manufacturers, should have such control over the sporting regulations when they clearly can have a conflict of interest of their own interests against the wellbeing of the sport as a whole.

        In this case it is not really a problem, since this particular proposal seems deeply unpopular (although I’d be careful about drawing conclusions from the very small sample sizes we have of fans on this site and other polls so far). But I’m also thinking about a hypothetical situation where a proposal could have overwhelming support from fans, drivers, the FIA, Liberty Media, and virtually everyone who has a stake in F1 – but is voted down because a manufacturer deems it is against their own interests, and therefore votes against it along with its subservient customer teams.

      2. They all voted to trial it bar Mercedes. The key is it was a TRIAL. Too many people crying it would destroy the fabric of the sport. Like DRS didn’t already do that. In the end its just cars going round in circles. Its seriously unimportant but the conservatives, small c, win again by voting not to change anything. They don’t like change. Old people don’t, its a fact.

        1. We are trialing Canada 2010 tires for almost a decade now. When does that end? The DRS trial went on long enough.

        2. tony mansell, so you would prefer a rushed in and ill thought out alternative because you want to be seen to be doing something? That change must go through simply because, to you, the act of change itself is in itself the laudable action, irrespective of the merits of the change?

          It is that attitude that is the more damaging one in the sport – the idea that something must change for the sake of superficially being seen to change something, without thought or heed of the consequences for those who don’t care about what damage they do.

          You want changes, but don’t seem to know what you want, where you want to go or even seem to care about the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing, other than screaming that something must be done because you demand it to be done – even though you have no idea what you would actually do if somebody agreed to said change.

        3. Tony just to remind you there is massive change coming that would have been for next year but for the pandemic. So I’m not sure who the ’they’ is you’re taking about, but ‘they’ have all signed up to a new Concorde Agreement and a wholly new and unprecedented direction of cars and budgeting in F1. If ‘they’ don’t want a reverse grid quali experiment, that doesn’t change the reality that ‘they’ indeed want the massive changes that are just around the corner.

  4. Thank you this is worse then bernies sprinkler idea

  5. @ben-n Could be fun to see reverse formation with the like of Messi and Ronaldo as goalies and Neuer and Courtois up in front… but anyone will agree that’s gala match and not what people wants to see as part of the regular season.

    F1 is a meritocracy and should stay that way. Yes Mercedes has been dominating, but they have been the best on and off the track lately. Great design and good execution during the weekend is what wins you races.

  6. In other news, Lewis Hamilton officially crowned 2021 World Drivers Champion.
    Series and team sponsors lament the decreasing value of their advertising investments as viewer numbers continue to decline….

  7. Yeh lets park it. I was in favour of it as a one off experiment in this unusual season but the naysayers look to have won and its just become a rather dull distraction.

  8. For us Formula 1 should be a championship, and always has been, where everyone is working within the same regulations and the best team with the best car with the best driver is in the end at the at the front in qualifying.

    I agree. Maybe the current Qualifying format isn’t exactly right, but it is mostly right. Merit, even barely perceptible merit, is the reason why drivers end up where they are on the starting grid (unless penalties are applied). For example, under the current system a car just needs to be 1 millisecond faster than another to guarantee Qualifying ahead of the other.
    The problem with a Reversed Grid Qualifying system is it starts with the premise of negatively rewarding success, the reward being the cumulative outcome of successive races, and then requires a huge performance differential to justify a promotion up the starting grid. Nearly always the results used to base the Reversed Starting Grid on were obtained from race tracks other than the one under consideration, e.g. a Reversed Starting Grid this weekend would be based upon the rewards of 9 races, none of which were carried out in Russia. So how you could perform at the current Grand prix has no basis on where you might start the Reversed Grid Qualifying Session. Being successful at those other races punishes you, while being “unsuccessful” is rewarded and gives you an opportunity to look better than you deserve, while a better performing driver is made to look worse than they deserve.
    That example of a 1 millisecond difference in lap times mentioned above might be because of the driver or some aerodynamic setting between one car and another, or maybe even no one is quite sure where it came from. It is a tiny but perceptible difference in performance. However, assuming the faster car has one point more in the WDC that the slower car, so it would start the Reversed Grid Qualifying Race behind the slower car, that speed difference of 1 millisecond isn’t enough for the faster car to guarantee overtaking the slower, so you can’t assume the faster will end up in front of the slower. The small difference in driving or the small “better” aerodynamics isn’t enough to overtake the car in front. So, between these two cars at least, it is more likely position on the track is more important than performance, so the slower car ends up in front of the faster. So unmerit is rewarded.

  9. Why don’t we do reverce car instead? Come on, Hamilton in a Williams, Grosjean in a Redbull, who doesn’t want to see that?

  10. Fans don’t want it.
    Drivers don’t want it.
    Teams [for most part it seems] don’t want it.

    If you want to faff about with race formats, have a non-championship race like in years gone by.

    They shouldn’t even have it in F2 in my opinion.

  11. F1 is about the pinnacle of motorsport. anyone wanting to start reverse grids to improve the show can leave start an F1 wharky races series..and leave us alone.
    Truth is best car best driver and best team strategy wins races.

  12. I’m pleased that this now appears to be ruled out for next season. I have fairly strong opinions that the qualifying format doesn’t need changing, but the thing that has bothered me the most about the proposal is the fact that the 2022 rules are meant to ‘fix’ the racing anyway, yet Liberty have still been very vocal about the need to spice things up on a Sunday.

    I started wondering whether this was about Sundays at all, or whether it was being pushed as a way to boost Saturday viewership given the potential benefit that it would have when it comes to negotiating sponsorship deals. If that was the case and there is an underlying agenda, I doubt we’d get objective trials of the new format anyway, especially if the way they conduct their ‘fan surveys’ is anything to go by.

  13. Of course the elephant in the room is that the best car does get a head start of almost the pit straight before they even start the race. This can lead to dull races especially without the ability to follow. We goto watch racing for the race not qually but dullards prevail and Toto gets his way. I’m staggered people wouldn’t even consider it as a one off but with some of the comments on here revolving round Lewis i’m totally unsurprised by the reaction. Middle aged white men doing what they do best. Protecting their own interests.

    1. As I allude to in a response to you above, these same ‘middle aged white men’ have signed on to massive unprecedented change for 2022 (should have been next year) so just because they aren’t for reverse grid quali races doesn’t mean they aren’t for change. Perhaps they just like to sign on to the right kinds of change.

  14. Please stick a fork in this idea. If they really want to do something different maybe they should try Indy style qualifying. Use a random draw each weekend to determine qualifying order for the teams. Each car gets a warmup lap and then two timed laps with the aggregate time determining your grid position. Some teams will get lucky and get a later qualifying position and therefore benefit more from track evolution. Over two laps teams will have to think a bit more about their tire selection and drivers will need to think about how hard to push in order to maximize performance for more than a single lap. It’ll provide some variability but without punishing anyone for being successful.

  15. I am so sick of this farcial idea of reverse grid. This idea must be buried. F1 has so many other ways to improve without becoming a farcial circus (reverse grid).

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