Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monza, 2021

Brawn surprised drivers found overtaking difficult in sprint qualifying

2021 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 motorsport director Ross Brawn admitted he thought drivers would be able to overtake each other more easily in today’s sprint qualifying race at Monza.

Few changes of position occured after the first lap of the race. This is unlikely to have surprised drivers like Sergio Perez, who predicted the “DRS trains” would make it hard to pass.

Brawn said the Monza circuit was chosen as one of three venues for F1’s new sprint qualifying format because they expected overtaking would be easy around the high-speed venue. He expects passing will become easier in 2022, when new technical regulations are introduced.

“We’re optimistic that next year’s car is going to help a lot,” said Brawn. “But I must say, I was surprised how difficult it was to overtake even with DRS.

“This was one of the races we selected because we thought there would be more opportunity. But as the race panned out that didn’t seem to be the case. Next year’s car will definitely be a step forward.”

Nonetheless Brawn said today’s sprint qualifying event has added “a different complexion on the race tomorrow than we thought we had after qualifying on Friday.”

“So I think it’s great in that respect,” he continued. “A little bit quiet at the front of the grid but then you get that at races anyway. Plenty of action in the middle, plenty of action at the start, a very exciting start. So I think it’s added to the whole weekend.”

Brawn said Fernando Alonso stood out as the driver who had impressed him most over the two sprint qualifying events so far. “Fernando grabs this by the… he’s going for it and he’s great.

“And that’s why I say, actually, if you watch the action in the middle of the field, it was very good. I think they if they were all racing like Fernando I’d be very happy.”

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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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46 comments on “Brawn surprised drivers found overtaking difficult in sprint qualifying”

  1. Oh no, someone “admitted” to something, again.

    Guys, this being your work you probably should be able to come up with a second and maybe third verb to use every once in a while.

    1. The first half of the race, before the mandatory pit stop, was terrible.

      Maybe the second half tomorrow will be better? Doubt it with the overtake difficulties

  2. Surprising indeed, given Monza is an overtaking-friendly circuit on paper. Perhaps a different story tomorrow.

    1. Not so sure. T1 is obviously the easiest place. But Drs trains and car hitting their rev limiters when the fuel loads burn off have meant in the past it is very hard. Remember Hamilton Leclerc a couple of years ago? Ham just couldn’t get close despite a big lap time advantage.

      1. Actually, from memory, Hamilton got very close on a number of occasions that day.

        1. Indeed, incredible defense and at the limit of the rules by leclerc.

        2. @mashiat

          Ham could get close but then would experience too much dirty air creating bad understeer and less grip which prevented him from being able to get the job done, the leading car has too much advantage to the trailing car because of this and the track is also narrow so it limits other options.

    2. I think Verstappen mentioned that he expected this to be the case on Thursday already @jerejj, so I would think that most teams knew this would be the case – exactly why McLaren chose to take this opportunity to get ahead of a car or 2 by going for the soft tyres.

      If Liberty did not figure that one out, that points to their simulation tools not being up to par yet. And it also shows that despite of the optimistic words from Brawn about “action in the midfield” this whole sprint race thing actually just doesn’t work at all to make the weekend more exciting or better at all.

    3. @jerejj it is less surprising when you think about consequences in a sprint race and having Parc fermé. Dirty air and narrow track making pass attempts risky with big consequence. I’m sure the drivers are playing the sprint much more conservatively than normal to avoid any damage and ruining any hopes for the big Sunday race, or even by pushing it and losing grid spots for Sunday. This already has been seen in both Sprint races.

      I would rather see Friday with a FP1 and quali that would set both race grids, sprint race on Saturday with some more points, no Parc fermé afterwards and a FP3 later in the day to fix any damage and give teams to further dial in the cars better for Sunday which would make the FP more intersting. That would free up drivers to go for it & race hard on Saturday and Sunday’s racing wont be as effected by what happened on Saturday. We have two solid days of racing. Plenty of other good classes racing later on Saturday to help fill in the day for fans at the track.

      1. @redpill My favored alternatives are as follows:
        QLF and FP2 swap days, axing the latter FP, or Parc Ferme starting from Sprint, no earlier. Your suggestion is also good.

        1. @jerejj I thought about that but then how do you set the grid for the Friday sprint race?

          And in regards when to have Parc Ferme, the sprint race can be used by teams as sort of a data gathering session and drivers get to understand the car better under racing conditions on that track and make any changes needed and test them out in practice afterwards? This will dial in the cars much better, both driver and car optimized for Sunday’s race making it higher quality racing. Then the sprint race will have more meaning for the weekend, to the team and Sunday’s racing.
          I guess you would have Parc ferme after FP1 for quali and then no Parc ferme after sprint race till end of FP3, then lock them up back up till Sunday’s race.

  3. Brawn missed last years race then…. Did he?

    1. Coventry Climax
      12th September 2021, 1:16

      When they come to my door next time, to collect for dementia research, I’ll donate hugely. It’s a terrible disease.

  4. Nonetheless Brawn said today’s sprint qualifying event has added “a different complexion on the race tomorrow than we thought we had after qualifying on Friday.”

    “So I think it’s great in that respect,” he continued. “A little bit quiet at the front of the grid but then you get that at races anyway. Plenty of action in the middle, plenty of action at the start, a very exciting start. So I think it’s added to the whole weekend.”

    So to sum up, he said it was great, because it was quiet at the front (like in a typical race), has some action in the middle (like in a typical race) and a exciting start (unlike in a typical race where drivers drive at 30 kph carefully i suppose…). And for all those reasons, the sprint is better than a race…

    If he had just breathed audibly into a microphone for one minute, the same amount of information could have been conveyed…

  5. Didn’t he watch last year’s race after the restart? You had an massively out-of-place Hamilton going forwards and a massively out-of-place Raikkonen going backwards, but everyone else was just sat in a procession. A small pace advantage wasn’t enough to facilitate passing without strategic elements like tyre age in play.

    https://www.racefans.net/2020/09/06/2020-italian-grand-prix-interactive-data-lap-charts-times-and-tyres/

    Short run with everyone on nice tyres, lined up in roughly pace order – what happened is exactly what I was expecting. And what anyone who saw last year’s race should have been expecting too…

    1. There’s also a different ratio of risk versus reward in play. You can’t win Sunday’s race on Saturday, but you CAN lose it. So tactically, it makes more sense to drive cautiously and make sure you’re still in the mix the next day than divebombing somebody on Lap 2 of the sprint race and spending your Sunday scrabbling around at the back of the pack.

      It reminds me of when FIFA introduced the Golden Goal rule into football thinking that teams would attack more because they could win the game with just one good attack. Yes, but they could also lose it with one mistake and that’s why it had the opposite effect and was quickly removed from the game.

      1. Good point about that golden goal rule Nomad.

  6. Why’s he surprised? It’s not easy to pass at Monza and requires someone to take a risk to make a move stick. Unless you can just fly past with DRS, you won’t see much overtaking in a sprint race when the reward is only one position on the grid… It’s high risk, low reward.

  7. Monza has been a difficult to overtake circuit since the mid 00’s…. It got even worse in the latter stages of the hybrid years with all that dirty air produced, so i am really surprised with Brawn’s comment.

    I get the impression that, key figures of F1 are trying to label this sprint race idea as success, despite the fact that fans, drivers and teams have mixed views. I feel that Liberty wants to keep this format for 2022 as it produces more revenue.

    1. @miltosgreekfan This is true, dirty air produced was noticeable, example in sprint race was especially noticeable when Ham was trying to get near Lando, his front would lift and produce understeer and less grip. Then add that the cars are now much wider, heavier & longer than 10 years ago making it harder to pass in corners, its not comparable racing of what it was like in the past.

      More and more Brawn sounds like he’s living in some kind of bubble patting himself on the shoulder often, while there seems to be a different opinion that many in the paddock and the ones watching F1 on the tele have.

      1. @redpill I get the same impressions, Brawn seems to be willing to consider this format as a major success, despite the obvious disagreements from teams.

        It’s a good thing that they experienced with a new format but i think this idea needs to go to the bin, next to Bernie’s new qualifying format early on in 2016..

        1. @miltosgreekfan Agree about it getting binned. I also think the proposed inverted starts will be more like F1.5 racing.
          I prefer pure racing, highest quality racing possible compared to creating a manufactured race.

  8. Tomorrow we will have Bottas and Gasly climbing up the grid, thereby posting a healthy number of overtakes, in the process either of them taking the driver of the day award and all will be well.

    1. Ahah, that’s true!

    2. Stop joking, we all know Bottas can’t overtake.

  9. Ah, I didn’t realise Ross Brawn had never seen any race at Monza ever.

  10. Fans are completely opposite, Brawn.

  11. The sprint race gave me more bad sensations than good ones. This time I felt like it ruined Gasly qualy effort (last time it was Perez one). It is more in the sense of ruining chances rather than a good feeling.

    1. Do you feel better about it when it happens during the GP?

  12. I’m surprised he finds it surprising. Usually the field is very close due to the nature of the tracke. Than we have the limited effect of DRS because they run minimum wings already. Recent history also proved how difficult overtaking is at Monza.
    But obviously Mercedes got it wrong too and didn’t remember how badly Bottas struggled to pass slower traffick last year.
    They should be going for a 1-2 when they have the chance…

  13. I would rather prefer a sprint race in 2022 here and there, same points for just the first places (only gor constructions championship), no affecting the grid order for Sunday and participating just rookies.

  14. Is this the same Ross Brawn that worked in F1 for 30 years?

    Don’t fool us, Ross…

    It’s sad to see people change because of who they work for… He’s changed beyond recognition…

    1. To be fair this is a man whose idea of excitement is sitting on a river bank all day with a worm on the end of a bit of string.

  15. Mazepin cant spin as hard as F1 is trying to do with this sprinty thing.
    And the contortions F1 mgmt do to pretend it is a good thing make them sound like they do know motor racing or even the current cars.
    As some pointed, last year’s race also show how hard is to overtake there.
    Today, sprint qualifiying accomplished its full potential – qualifying by first corner.
    The bad thing is that the last sprint race is supposed to happen in Brazil, where most of the time there is good racing and some qill think that it will be indicative of the fans’ appreciation for it.

  16. I don’t know why he was surprised as what we saw in the sprint today is essentially what the racing has been like at Monza for a while now.

    1. This, good luck following another car through parabolica.

      You need considerable delta. Considering all had decent tires, all were sorted relative to their pace… Not much was gonna change.

  17. it’s not as if Ross Brawn never partecipated to an F1 season or a race in Monza…

  18. How arrogant really. Either blind or playing smart and in both cases he is disrespecting F1 fans. Majority of drivers and F1 fans think that the sprint races are just a bad idea and a waste of time but here you go again, they keep on insisting that it’s entertaining. I started to wonder if the target from these sprint races was again to give another chance for a team to beat Mercedes on power circuits. It happened in UK and now in Italy.

  19. Brown is such a disappointment , He need to take off the Liberty glasses and start to do his job! Every body including drivers say it does not bring any thing good and he is still finding some artificial things to be “great in that respect”
    I didn’t expect that of him when he took the position. I was one big supporter. I was fooled. Very disappointed. I expect the sprinklers to show up any day now.

    1. Absolutely, just so you know I support the sprinklers idea, I love wet races and was disappointed spa didn’t go ahead, but agree with ross brawn changing, liked him a lot before, now he seems unrecognizable.

  20. “Fernando Alonso stood out as the driver who had impressed him most over the two sprint qualifying events so far. “Fernando grabs this by the… he’s going for it and he’s great

    .”

    Indirectly blaming other drivers on why Sprint Qualifying is failing.
    Car and race dynamics are nebulous at best when facing relatively variable conditions like, race position, circuit and and its condition, error of type of the “driver ahead” of the driver ahead. ETC

  21. You know what would have led to overtaking? A longer race with strategy…

  22. It’s a bit worrisome that F1 leadership fail to understand modern F1 machinery to such an extent as demonstrated today. The drivers and teams all knew it would be difficult. Why did F1 leadership not? Did their AWS simulations tell them otherwise? Are they just relying on their experience with previous generations of cars?

  23. What happened is what would happen at every race if there were no tyre changes and no effective DRS: impossible to overtake. We’re becoming train spotters… 2022 will not come soon enough.

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