Formula One’s motorsport director Ross Brawn believes Sunday’s dramatic Italian Grand Prix offered a glimpse of how exciting reverse-grid qualifying races could be.
Before the season got underway, F1 wanted to shake up the qualifying format at certain grands prix this year by deciding the grid with a sprint race rather than a timed qualifying session.
The idea was for the cars to line up in reverse championship order for a short qualifying race on Saturday and use the finishing order of that race to determine the grid for Sunday’s full-length grand prix. No points would be awarded for the qualifying race, but the hope was that it would create unpredictable results, more excitement and a break from the existing race weekend format.
The idea needed support from all 10 teams to be introduced this year, but reigning champions Mercedes made clear it would block the proposal. F1 accepted Mercedes’ objections and did not put the idea to a vote, but said it would continue to analyse the idea for future seasons.
Writing in a column on the official F1 website, Brawn said Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, which was stopped midway through and saw Pierre Gasly emerge as an unlikely winner after Lewis Hamilton was hit with a stop-go penalty, is proof that reverse-grid racing could be exciting.
“Monza was a candidate for a reverse-grid sprint race when we were considering testing the format this year,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, we could not move forward with it, but the concept is still something we and the FIA want to work through in the coming months and discuss with the teams for next year.
“We believe that yesterday’s race showed the excitement a mixed-up pack can deliver and with next year’s cars remaining the same as this year — our fans could be treated to the similar drama we saw this weekend at Monza.
“Of course, with a reverse-grid sprint race, teams will set their cars up differently. Right now, Mercedes set their cars up to achieve the fastest lap and then to control the race from the front. If they know they have to overtake, they will have to change that approach. We will continue to evaluate new formats with the aim of improving the show but always maintaining the DNA of Formula One.”
But Brawn believes the difficulties some cars faced in trying to overtake will not be solved until F1’s new rules package is introduced in 2022.
“What was fascinating was watching how the Mercedes — with such superior aerodynamics over its rivals — had such difficulties overtaking,” he added. “You could see Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas’ performance was compromised by being out of position in the pack.
“It was astonishing how such a dominant car struggled in traffic. It’s why we believe the new generation of revolutionary cars, set to arrive in Formula One in 2022, will be so much better for close racing.”