Formula 1 ‘putting a lot of ideas on the table’, including reverse grids

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Valtteri Bottas in the Italian Grand Prix pack. Monza September 2022. Credit: PA Images
Valtteri Bottas in the Italian Grand Prix pack. Monza September 2022. Credit: PA Images

Formula 1 president Stefano Domenicali says reverse grids remain on the agenda as he sets out to make every session championship-relevant.

As the series continues its efforts to reach out to new audiences and expand existing ones, there has been some tinkering with the race weekend format via the introduction of sprint qualifying.

The first trials took place in 2021, when three sprint qualifying events were held, with three also set for 2022. Two have already taken place at the Emilia Romagna and Austrian Grands Prix, with Interlagos set to host the third and final one of the season.

Sprint races had been proposed before then, although the sticking point proved to be the desire to contest them with a reversed grid.

 

 

But now, with Domenicali keen to ensure something is on the line in every session of a race weekend, reverse grids remain under consideration.

Asked by Corriere della Sera why there has been a recent feeling that the race weekend format must change, Domenicali replied: “Because you have to try – there are always many excuses not to do. It’s a principle of life.

“The purists always turn up their noses, but F1 has changed the way of qualifying dozens of times over the years. It is a requirement that cannot be postponed, to have even more spectacle.

“I would like there to always be a fight for something that counts for the title. We will address this issue in the next F1 Commission – the fans, the organisers, everyone wants that. The sprint was just the first example, which can be improved.

“In a normal weekend, consisting of free practice 1 and 2 on Friday, each session should put up for grabs either points or single qualifying laps or qualifying for a Saturday race, different and shorter, instead of the third free practice, maybe with the reverse grid mechanism.”

Domenicali is aware using reverse grids would still carry some opposition, although he feels recent rounds have shown the value it could have.

After a raft of grid penalties were issued at the Belgian and Italian GPs, the grid for both races represented something comparable to what a race would look like with an intentionally inverted starting order.

“We are putting a lot of things on the table,” Domenicali stated. “A lot of people say no, but we have seen on some occasions [like Spa and Monza] the beauty of having reshuffles in the race, more overtaking. We have an obligation to try.”

Grid for the Formula 1 Austrian GP sprint. Red Bull Ring July 2022. Credit: PA Images
Grid for the Formula 1 Austrian GP sprint. Red Bull Ring July 2022. Credit: PA Images

Spa and Monza suggested reverse grids would add very little

While the idea of the fastest cars starting at the back should in theory mean more excitement, as we saw at Spa and Monza, that was not necessarily the case.

Formula 1 remains in the situation where it has a clear leading segment, featuring Red Bull, Ferrari and occasionally Mercedes, and then the midfield pack behind.

Max Verstappen is running away with the 2022 season and such is his advantage, at Spa he still won the race by 18 seconds despite starting P14 on the grid. He also won the Italian Grand Prix from P7 and was set to do so comfortably even if the race had not ended behind the Safety Car.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz also charged through the pack at Monza, starting P18 and finishing P4, so at this point it does not seem like reverse grids would do much to add to the entertainment factor of a race weekend.

If anything, it perhaps just takes away the chance of watching gripping race-long battles at the front between the contenders for victory.

 

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