F1 ignores driver hostility to push for 2020 reverse-grid races


Ross Brawn confirms that reverse-grid races are still on the cards for 2020 after Sebastian Vettel slammed the concept as ” bullshit”

Williams lead the field at the start of the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix

Reverse-grid races could see Williams back at the front  Photo: Motorsport Images

Formula 1 is pressing ahead with proposals for reverse-grid qualification races next year, despite the idea being ridiculed by leading drivers.

Ross Brawn, F1 managing director of motorsports, said that the governing body was looking to test the races in 2020, in an effort to make Grand Prix races less predictable.

If approved, Saturday qualifying race could be trialled at up to three grands prix next year, with the grid lining up in reverse championship order.

But the plans were torpedoed during a driver press conference at the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend. “Bullshit”, said Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton said: “People who propose that don’t really know what they’re talking about.”

“What happens if you crash in the qualifying race… who’s going to pay for it?”

Now Brawn has responded to the criticism, describing the format as “experimental”.

“To try to clarify the situation and avoid misunderstandings, there are discussions about experimenting in 2020 with changes to the qualifying format with the aim of making a Grand Prix weekend a little less predictable,” he said.

“I want to emphasise the word ‘experiment’ because this is what it is about – a small sample to establish the directions for the future. We are all too aware that the current qualifying format is exciting and spectacular but what is also important is to make sure that the race, the highlight of the weekend, is the best it can be.”

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Brawn said that the details of the races were being finalised. Unanimous approval from teams is needed to change the qualifying format for next year. They have been talking to F1 officials, and analysing simulations before making up their minds.

“There’s more work that’s going to be done, seeing if we can have a qualifying race at three races,” said Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point team principal, at the Singapore Grand Prix.

“We have to answer a lot of questions… what happens if you crash in the qualifying race, we then have to carry more spares, who’s going to pay for it, engine mileage might be a little different, tyre usage.

“It could happen. But we do need unanimity for that to happen in 2020.”

Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel: the top three qualifiers at the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix

Top 3 qualifiers at Singapore blasted the reverse-grid plans Photo: Motorsport Images

The response from drivers was much less diplomatic, when they were asked about the concept in the post-qualifying press conference.

“I think it’s complete bullshit to be honest,” said Vettel. If you want to improve things I think it’s very clear we need to string the field more together, we need to have better racing. So, it’s just a plaster. I don’t know which genius came up with this but it’s not the solution. It’s completely the wrong approach.

Hamilton criticised the proposal, as did Charles Leclerc. “I would not be happy,” said Leclerc. “I think the best shall win and start in the best place and not reversing that order. I don’t think it’s the solution.”

Despite the high-profile dissenters, Brawn claimed that the majority of feedback was so far positive.

“I understand that the purists might be concerned, but we should not be afraid to conduct an experiment otherwise we cannot progress,” he said.

“No matter how many simulations you run, there’s no measure more accurate than the track. Formula 1, the teams and the FIA are studying the possibility of a revised format for a small number of events for next season. With stable sporting and technical regulations in place for 2020 it is the perfect time for such evaluations.

“We don’t want change for the sake of change; we want to improve our sport, because, rather like the development of the cars, if you stand still you risk slipping backwards.”

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