Formula 1 has launched a fan survey to gauge interest in implementing a 30-minute reverse-grid qualifying race at four races next season.
The championship had lobbied for a Saturday qualifying race at the second weekend at venues hosting two races this season, in which the grid would be set by reversing the championship order and the result of this race would set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.
Mercedes was against the proposal when it was tabled for the current season and successfully blocked the trial, but F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn has pledged to raise the matter again in the coming weeks.
F1 believes the recent Italian Grand Prix, which was won by AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly and featured the first podium without a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull driver since the V6 turbo-hybrid era began, is justification for the format because the jumbled-up order was so well-received by fans.
A new survey, for members for F1’s ‘Fan Voice’ community, has now been launched in which F1 has outlined its proposal for next season to feature a 30-minute qualifying race on Saturday instead of the normal qualifying session at four events.
Based on previous remarks, these could be the French, Belgian, Italian and Russian GPs.
The qualifying race grid would be set based on reversing the current world championship standings and the finishing positions of that race would determine the grid positions for the grand prix.
If the format was in place this year, then next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix would begin with a qualifying race in which Haas driver Romain Grosjean started from pole ahead of Williams’s George Russell, with Mercedes’ world championship leader Lewis Hamilton in 20th.
2020 Russian GP qualifying race grid under new proposal
|5||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo|
|6||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo|
|10||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren|
|12||Sergio Perez||Racing Point|
|15||Lance Stroll||Racing Point|
|16||Alexander Albon||Red Bull|
|18||Max Verstappen||Red Bull|
F1 says these changes are being considered in the context of stable rules and the carry-over of major car components for 2021 “and with the ambition to mix up the grid on a Sunday to increase the excitement and unpredictability of a small selection of races”.
In a separate one-off poll on the site, more than 2,000 responses have been received to the question ‘Do you agree/disagree’ that reverse-grid qualifying races are something F1 should consider?’.
More than 40% said they either definitely or somewhat agree, with a similar number definitely or somewhat against it. The rest neither agree nor disagree.
F1’s bid for reverse-grid qualifying races appear set to be approved for 2021 if it maintains the same level of support from the FIA and the teams as it did this year.
That’s because a change in F1’s governance rules means Mercedes’ opposition alone will not be enough to derail it if other teams and F1’s rulemakers retain the support they showed last time.
Mercedes’ objection was on the grounds that F1 should be a meritocracy, that teams would potentially ‘game’ the system, and that the second- or third-fastest team would gain a lasting advantage.
Last weekend at Mugello, after his team locked out the front row in qualifying for the seventh race in a row, Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff reiterated his opposition and compared the proposal to NASCAR’s shift from a full championship to a run of play-off races at the end of the season to decide the title.
“I don’t think we should be designing freak results where it is almost impossible to overtake just because we believe that the pecking order should be a different one,” said Wolff.
“If you want to do random, let’s make it a show, but I think the core DNA of the sport is being a sport, and then an entertainment platform.
“But it’s not a show. It’s not a reality show, it’s not Big Brother, and I don’t think we should be going there.”
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who would start a Sochi qualifying race eighth, is also against reverse-grid races in general.
He said it would be proof that F1’s attempts to improve the quality of racing through changes like new aerodynamic rules in 2019 had failed.
“As a competitor, as much as I don’t like other people to win, I have to accept if other people win or do a better job,” he said. “It would be wrong in the name of sport to try and mix things up that way.”