F1 drivers generally opposed to reverse-grid Quali proposals
With exceptions, F1 drivers opposed the proposals for reverse-grid qualifying races. The field also discussed the restart madness at Mugello.
Much like baseball in America, the public perception of F1 is not what it once was. A sport currently dominated by Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, the championship has been criticized for its monotonous racing product in recent years, and though steps have already been taken to ensure that 2022 have more on-track drama, some have called for further action on the part of F1 to liven up the racing.
One means of achieving this that has been repeatedly proposed is that of reversed-grid qualifying races, wherein reverse championship order would set a grid for a short sprint race. In such a race, the drivers would start Sunday's Grand Prix in the positions in which they finished the Saturday sprint race
To say this proposal is a controversial one is a gross understatement.
While some support the idea, welcoming new methods in a bid to improve the quality of racing, others have spoken out against the proposed system. And, among F1 drivers, this trend of division is not absent.
Numerous drivers cautioned against something of the sort, saying it could detract from the value of an F1 win. Others, meanwhile, suggested that the idea is unlikely to work in any capacity, though there was a minority that was not wholly averse to the idea, when speaking to media including Racefans.net, Motorsport Network, Crash, Motorsport Week, BBC and more.
Here's what was said on the matter:
Max Verstappen (Red Bull): "I don’t like it. It’s just artificial and trying to create a show which I think it’s not what Formula 1 stands for. The fastest car should be in the front. That's what everyone works for so why would you try and manipulate the show? And at the end of the day cars will probably end up in the same position anyway. It’s not what Formula 1 is all about it. It needs to be about pure performance, that’s what you work for. You want to be the most dominant and competitive team out there and you want to start on the first row."
Carlos Sainz (McLaren): "I'm in two minds actually, I'm undecided," he said. "I am a bit curious to know what would happen in F1 with reverse grid races. I think I have that curiosity to potentially try it one day and see how it goes, and see how it spices up things and what happens with F1 in general once you introduce that format.
"In Monza I was catching Pierre and he got many followers from that battle. Everyone loved it. It makes me think that the solution is to make very team come closer. The current format with closer racing and closer car performance would be ok in 2022 and you would have lots of Monza races with Lewis, and other stars….at the same time. Why not trying a reversed grid? But I don’t have a clear answer."
Lando Norris (McLaren): "It is tricky. I love the format we have. I don’t think that creating reverse grid is the key to making a much better show. I don’t think it is going much better and not how F1 should be. I don’t think you should be punished because you are doing a better job than other teams. It is a difficult decision. Now you are where you are because you are the best or lucky or unlucky but try to make up for something lacking is not going to be the solution."
Sergio Perez (Racing Point): "I saw Toto Wolff said F1 is not WWE and I agree. The problem F1 has is the difference across teams. They are working hard to fix that for 2022 [with new technical rules]. I don’t think it is a good idea for the sport. Saturdays are very special in F1 as well as Sundays. You would be taking quite a bit away from the Saturday."
George Russell (Williams): "I have very mixed views. I’m happy to try things. We have to try things, you live, you learn if you try things and it could be exciting. It might be a bit of a joke. You can’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It could be exciting and people, and live sports have to evolve. But qualifying for me is the most exciting part of the weekend.
"The car is absolutely on the limit and you’re driving around the best tracks in the world and the fastest cars in the world, and I do not want to miss that because it is just pure enjoyment from the driver seat. I would not want to see it every single weekend, but maybe a couple of races it could be good to see."
Daniel Ricciardo (Renault): "Monza was exciting but it was organic. I'm just worried if we kind of add it in an artificial way and mix-up the field and every driver is getting an F1 win, does the value of an F1 win hold what it does today? That is the fine line and balance... There would be a lot more of car set-up strategy. Imagine spa or looking at overtaking staying close to the corners. You try to set up the cars purely on lap time.
"There may be a bit more games. My fear with going in this direction…it is when you see races with red flags and incidents in the race. I am worried if we mix up the field. The value of an F1 win…is the fine line. That is my reservation with the thought of it. We want more exciting races. But it should hold a certain number of value."
Daniil Kvyat (Alpha Tauri): "Of course, reverse-grids could create potentially a bit more spectacle on the short term. But it's more of a band aid for a more global problem, that at the moment there is a couple of teams dominating, you know, and even if I think Mercedes will start from P8 or P10 – like if we adopt Formula 2 system – they will be P1 and P2 within 10 laps again. So, it will not really change a lot in that regard. It might create more confusion. I think it would be more exciting if we just bring performance of all teams closer, even within one second region would be the perfect, you know, like we see often in MotoGP. It's very unpredictable who might win, who might not win and so on.”
Pierre Gasly (Alpha Tauri): "I am not a big fan of the reverse grids. You must try to find the best performance window. Then you can see better racing. McLaren versus Alfa etc…we can't keep up against the Mercedes or the Red bull who are the podium contenders."
Romain Grosjean (Haas): "I still don’t like it. Even though we’d start on pole, I don’t like it. I think the midfield battle – sorry to say, but once you remove the Mercedes and Max Verstappen – the battle is going on absolutely flat out and it’s mega. So I guess the solution for me is somewhere else. We just need to find a solution that the cars are more together in terms of performance.
"Mercedes has been doing an incredible job for many years now and if everything stays the same for next year I still see them being world champions and probably Lewis being eight-times world champion, which will be very incredible. But I think to me it’s more that we need to bring the field together rather than trying reverse grid and things like that. It just doesn’t fit quite what I’ve been growing up with and what I’d like to see in Formula 1.”
Lance Stroll (Racing Point): "The problem is that it is the same drivers every week end. If we can fix that is good. Reversed grid races will not fix the problem."
Esteban Ocon (Renault): "To win a grand prix is very special. In other categories, they had the reversed grids and it mixes the back, but not the front in the end. I think it worked better with the years and the midfield is closer. Someone with a good week end can be in the middle. But I don’t like artificial starts."
Alexander Albon (Red Bull): "Races like Monza don’t happen very often But if a car what is not supposed to be there takes the lead, it is not natural, in my opinion. I think at the end of the day…it is not a good idea."
Nicholas Latifi (Williams): "Qualifying is the best like it is now. It is pure enjoyment from the drivers seat but changes can only be nice maybe. It could be exciting but not every weekend, only sometimes."
Kevin Magnussen (Haas): "Whoever gets the best result should be in front. Putting the guy behind in front is not the solution. The best should be in front."
The discussion over such an alteration to the rules began prior to the start of the 2020 F1 season, but after a hectic Italian GP that saw a drastically different running order, the discussion was rekindled. Also a talking point of that Grand Prix, the matter of restarts - be them rolling or standing - has stuck around in the discourse surrounding F1, this discussion being reinvigorated after the re-start chaos at Mugello.
The incident was considered a highly dangerous one, and though all drivers were able to walk away from the pile-up unscathed, the Grand Prix Drivers' association is calling on F1 to think up some more refined regulations on the matter, so as to ensure safety in the restart environment. Individual drivers also spoke on the incident.
Grosjean: "We have had a few discussions with Seb, Alex Wurz and Anastasia Fowle [GPDA lawyer] in our GPDA WhatsApp group. We wrote a letter to Michael Masi trying to find out what we ca do better. I don't think there was anything standing out in Mugello in terms of restarts, it was a lot of small things that led to a big crash at the end."
Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo): "I was pushing and one moment Latifi was turning to the left and someone stopped in front. Mugello the line is far away and I was focusing on the guy in front of me We need to see again what can be done on tracks where the finish line is far away."
Latifi: "How do you avoid a recurrence. Watching back, it is quite clear the leader was going to wait as long as possible. But all the cars are far away the further back you are. You cant really see from the back what the leader is doing. There were some gaps that caught some people off guard. Not much to do to avoid the crash. There was nothing wrong with the way the restart are done. Previous years the safety car was always much further. Baku the line is too far. You must minimize the distance. I don’t think you need to have specific zones where the leader has to go at specific points."
Sainz: "The people in the front did not make life easier for the drivers in the back. The crash was huge and we were lucky that nothing happened. It was a serious accident. We have to avoid the repeat of it. We need to discuss privately about our thoughts how to avoid it next time. I want to wait for the drivers briefing to hear what they have to say.
"I don’t know the reason why they did what they did. I want to hear everyone's opinion. We need to learn from the situation to know how to make things better. I don’t think it is good to clarify Russia was the biggest accident in my career. Mugello was my second. Find a car stopped in front of you at 200+ kilometers an hour is pretty big."
Albon: "We actually emailed them back about it because there was obviously nothing that I did that was strange or erratic. It was obviously a concertina effect. I think it’s very much a track layout thing. You see it in Baku, you see it in Mugello, when the straight’s long enough you’re going to leave it to the last minute because the slipstream effect is so big. And that’s the consequence. I don’t know if there’s a way we can make it safer to be honest I’m not sure how you would do it.
"The Safety Car giving us such little time to react to the situation doesn’t help that. I think Valtteri had to stay within 10 car lengths up until the last corner so he didn’t have enough to to create a space. So I don’t blame any driver, I think it’s just how it is. The thing is, when you get these gaps forming, everyone is basically trying to guess where Valtteri is going to go. That’s when you get everyone trying to accelerate to the line because they know that’s where Valtteri’s going to do. It’s one of those things. It’s not anyone’s fault driver-wise. It just needs some way of changing the format."
Norris: "It is something to discuss with drivers and 95 per cent of the track is fine but we need to do some changes here and there. It will be discussed this F1 weekend."
Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari): "I think it's very simple: there were some things going on that maybe we can't be happy with. "But I would like to keep the dialogue between Michael and ourselves."
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida, and edited by Darshan Chokhani]