Formula 1 drivers mostly opposed to idea of reverse-grid races

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Grid
The start of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza earlier this season

Most Formula 1 drivers are opposed to the idea of holding reverse-grid sprint races in place of qualifying next year.

Formula 1 has canvassed fans on the idea, which managing director Ross Brawn has been pushing for some time.

But the majority of drivers asked about the topic at the Russian Grand Prix on Thursday said they disliked it.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen said: “It’s artificial and trying to create a show, which is not what F1 stands for. The cars will end in the same position.”

The Dutchman added: “The fastest car should be in the front. That’s what everyone works for. F1 is about pure performance.”

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have consistently expressed their opposition to the idea, and at the last race Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said it was turning the sport into a wrestling-style show.

Mercedes vetoed the idea when Brawn tried to introduce it at some races this year but new rules for 2021 make it more likely to happen.

The idea was given fresh momentum by the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month, when a series of incidents led to a mixed-up grid for a restart and a shock victory for Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly.

F1 has asked fans to vote on trying the proposal out at four races next season.

The grid for the sprint race would be based on reverse championship order and the result would set the grid for the Grand Prix.

McLaren’s Lando Norris said: “I don’t think if you swap everyone it will necessarily lead to a better race.”

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez added: “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.”

And Williams driver George Russell said: “I still think the Mercedes would win. It would be interesting in the midfield because the pace of those cars are so close. The cars behind wouldn’t be able to overtake.

“We have to try things. It might exciting, it might a bit of a joke. Maybe we could try it once.”

Renault's Daniel Ricciardo said: "[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."

Drivers want to discuss Tuscany re-start crash

The F1 drivers have written to FIA race director Michael Masi asking how re-starts can be made safer after a multi-car pile-up at the Tuscan Grand Prix.

The drivers felt that the way the re-start was organised at Mugello made a crash more likely and Hamilton described the situation as “not particularly safe”.

The drivers have asked Masi to explain the FIA’s perspective and the matter will be discussed at the drivers’ briefing in Russia on Friday.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said: Vettel: “Something went wrong, so we have to look at it and do something better.

“We can’t be happy with some of the things that happened but I would like to keep the dialogue between Michael and ourselves.”

McLaren's Carlos Sainz, one of the drivers involved in the crash, said: “We need to take some lessons from it. We didn’t make our lives easy by some people second-guessing the start and we are definitely going to discuss that.

“We need to analyse together with the FIA what we can do better because the crash was huge and it could have been a lot worse if the cars I took with me or in the concertina effect were at different angles when you take them.

“It was a serious accident and we need to try to avoid a repeat of it. It needs to be discussed privately but we need to have a proper look and a brainstorm about how to avoid it next time.”