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F1 Qualifying race idea scrapped

October 18, 2019

Formula 1 has scrapped its idea for reverse grid qualifying races, due to be trialled in three races next year (France, Russia and inexplicably Belgium), as it failed to secure unanimous support from its ten teams in a vote on Wednesday.

The official thinking behind the change was that qualifying races would see cars lined up in reverse championship order, and would therefore encourage winners outside the top three teams – something that hasn’t happened since the opening race of 2013 when Kimi Raikkonen took the flag for ‘Lotus’ Renault – who would line up at the very back.

In theory, given that the fastest cars wouldn’t then necessarily begin Sunday’s Grand Prix from the front, it would also spice up the actual races too, with either a lot more overtaking to allow the usual suspects to the front, or alternatively a bigger pool of potential winners.

My theory is also that a qualifying race would also be used as leverage to compensate race promoters for reduced running on a Friday as part of the deal with teams to squeeze more Grand Prix onto the calendar.

‘Yes, Mr Silverstone, you may sell fewer tickets for Friday’ I can hear them saying, ‘but there’s going to be so much more interest in Saturday’s qualifying race that it will more than make up for it’.

Whatever the motives, the proposal needed the unanimous support of teams in a meeting between stakeholders in Paris on Wednesday, which it failed to get by some margin.

It is understood that among the dissenters was Racing Point’s Otmar Szafnauer who objected on the grounds that an extra race would lead to increased crash damage and therefore greater costs.

My take on it is that it was a bit gimmicky for what is meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport. If there’s a problem with overtaking then it needs to be addressed at its root and not by coming up with ‘quick-fixes’.

In any case, we’ve been promised that 2021 is going to be F1’s bright new dawn, with budget caps and fairer distribution of wealth leading to increased competition (from teams like Williams), and new-fangled regulations devised by F1’s team of rockstar rulemakers headed by Ross Brawn making overtaking a breeze, so why would we need stunts like this?

Had reversed grids/qualifying races been approved, we were on a slippery slope towards my most hated motor racing device, namely ‘fan boost’, and I for one am happy the idea was quashed almost as soon as it was mooted.

Williams F1


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