F1 has clarified its future race weekend plans after Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel criticised the proposed ‘reverse-grid’ format, with Ross Brawn stressing that any changes in 2020 will be experimental.
Liberty Media, the sport’s owners, the FIA and F1 teams have been in talks about making adjustments to race weekends in a bid to make Grands Prix more exciting and less predictable – and one of the ideas they are considering trialing at a small number of events next season is replacing the traditional qualifying format with a sprint race.
That would see the championship order reversed for a shorter race on the Saturday – the leader would be last on the grid and the 20th-ranked driver first – and the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix would then be determined by the result.
But when asked about that idea in Singapore, Hamilton said that “people who propose that don’t really know what they’re talking about”, while Vettel slammed it as “bull****” and “completely the wrong approach”.
F1’s managing director of motorsports Brawn, a highly-respected former team boss, has responded to those comments – insisting that they are only trying to test things out to “establish the directions” for F1’s future.
“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,” said Brawn.
“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.
“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.”
Brawn added that “2020 it is the perfect time for such evaluations” as it is the last season before F1’s big rules change, when the sport will be overhauled with new cars and regulations.
‘If you stand still you risk slipping backwards’
The current qualifying format is split into three segments – Q1, Q2 and Q3 – with five drivers eliminated after Q1 and Q2 before 10 drivers fight for pole in the final shootout.
It has been in place since 2006, although an ‘elimination qualifying’ was used for two races at the start of 2016.
Expanding on the potential changes in 2020, Brawn explained: “No decision has been taken yet because we are finalising all the details, but feedbacks received so far are, in the majority, positive.
“I understand that the purists might be concerned, but we should not be afraid to conduct an experiment otherwise we cannot progress.
“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.”
What the drivers said…
Hamilton, Vettel, as well as Charles Leclerc, were asked about the ‘reverse-grid’ proposal following qualifying for the Singapore GP:
Leclerc: “I would not be happy. I don’t think it’s the solution for Formula 1. 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.
Hamilton: “I don’t really know what to say to it. People that propose that don’t really know what they’re talking about.”
Vettel: “I think it’s complete bull**** to be honest. I think we know… 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.”