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Team bosses divided on reverse grids


Along with Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, most drivers have poo-pooed Ross Brawn's suggestion that F1 give fresh consideration to the trialling of reverse grids.

While F1 bosses have been proposing the idea almost since the day Liberty Media bought F1 at the beginning of 2017, it was the events at Monza earlier this month that caused Ross Brawn to call on the sport to give fresh consideration to the idea.

"Monza was a candidate for a reverse grid sprint race when we were considering testing the format this year," he told the official F1 website at the time. "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," he added. "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 1."

Along with many drivers, Toto Wolff was aghast at the idea.

"I don't think that we should mess with the format," said the Austrian. "We see racing series that have tried to change formats that have historically been understood by the fans, NASCAR and the Chase comes to my mind, and I don't think we should be messing around.

"This is not because I have a Mercedes bias," he insisted. "On the contrary, I like the variability and the unpredictability, and we will have races that will be very different such as the Monza race.

"But nobody wants a winner that has started from a reverse grid," he insisted. "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. This is a meritocracy, this is a sport where best man and best machine wins, this is not WWE where the outcome is completely random.

"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. 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."

At Renault - soon to be Alpine - Cyril Abiteboul agrees.

"I believe that the reverse grid is a great opportunity for mixing things up and offering a show," said the Frenchman over the Sochi weekend, "but I still believe it's an artefact and we should have the ambition of offering exciting races without that artefact.

"We've had fantastic races this year, we've had fantastic races also last year with lots of things happening without reverse grid. We just need the field to be more competitive. I think that should be the focal point.

"If you have 20 cars within half a second, or a second, that will offer you a great show in my opinion - providing you have the opportunity to overtake. We don't' want to turn Formula 1 into DTM. So, I think that we are near enough 2022 not to have to use that artefact at this point in time."

"We've only just started looking at again," added Williams' Simon Roberts. "We had a look just over a year ago. Didn't do much work on it from that. We're just starting to model it now.

"It introduces some jeopardy," he admitted, "but there are two side to that. As Cyril said, the pace of the cars currently, we're not really sure how much difference it really makes on the feature races.

"It's early days. Things have already shifted, as Cyril said. The pace of the cars is different. We don't have the normal three at the top. We kind of reserve judgement and still want to study it in detail before we make any decisions on that."

Ever the contrarian, Christian Horner doesn't agree.

"I suppose it's conflicting in many ways," said the Red Bull boss, "the racer in your and the purist says it's absolutely the wrong thing to do and then of course you see a race a little bit like in Monza and that brings the point to the fore again, of mixing things up and obviously the best way of mixing things up is something like a reverse grid.

"That is artificial but inevitably, when you have the fastest car starting at the front of the race, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out that in many cases they will stay in grid order.

"So I think that Formula 1 shouldn't be scared of perhaps trying something different. If there was an occasion or a type of venue or an invitation race or maybe even a non-championship race, that something like that could be tried, it would be very interesting to see what the outcome of it would be because if you don't try something you never know.

"I think it's very easy that we get stuck into a rut of saying 'that's ridiculous, it wouldn't work'," he continued. "The purist in me says the same but sometimes in life you've got to try things and see what the outcome is and if that could be done in a manner that didn't affect the championship, because I can't see how you can have a different rule for one race to the other events, but maybe a non-championship race, an invitation race... We've got all these great new circuits that are pushing for races this year, that we won't be able to accommodate in future years but if one event was selected to try a different format, to try something totally different, what would we have to lose?"


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1. Posted by West York, 02/10/2020 14:39

"@ZJAY - Reverse grids are for the qually session only, i.e. you have a race on the Saturday (be it 1, 1.5 or 2hrs in length) which starts with the grid in reverse championship order which then decides the grid order for the Sunday race. All drivers will go as fast as they can in order to get a better grid position for the main points event. Part of the idea for this is designing cars that can overtake.

What changes would I like to see?
Perhaps changes to the points system:
1. Do away with the arbitrary 'top ten' only getting points - why not give points to all finishers, which would then see all cars and drivers outside the top ten having something tangible to fight 'to the end' for, e.g. 30pts to the winner down to 1pt for 20th, (assuming 10 teams, no retirements).
2. Fastest lap point can also be awarded to any driver, but would also change the rule so that it could only be attained on the first 2 sets of tyres - which does away with a driver who has lucked into an opportune pit window towards race end, putting fresh rubber on with a few laps to go and being able to grab the bonus point.

If DRS is to remain, limiting it to around only 60% of laps (e.g. 50 lap race only 30 laps of DRS) but also getting rid of the 1 second rule and let the drivers decide when they deploy, push the designers into making cars that CAN overtake.
But if the 1 sec rule remains as is, then you don't get DRS for passing a lapped car - they're behind you afterall and the blue flags are waving - how much help do you need?

Lapped cars during Safety car period don't have to unlap themselves by speeding around a circuit (how is it deemed safe for lapped cars to do this [for upto 4.3 miles distance at Spa] during an imposed safety period), just have them pull to the side or drive through the pitane to let the train of other cars get passed and adjust accordingly on the timing screens.


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2. Posted by GreenFlag, 02/10/2020 1:09

"Formula One should always and only be based on merit, both for car and driver. You earn your position on the grid with the best lap time you can produce, and your race points with the best race you can deliver, with the equipment at your disposal. That’s it. No gimmicks, no tricks, no fakery."

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3. Posted by RP, 01/10/2020 23:50

"The comments are all pretty good. I was thinking about Hamilton's progress at Monza after his penalty put him in the back. The indisputable best driver/car combination on the track made it back to 7th place when he started with about half the race to go. A reverse grid might see the Mercedes and perhaps a Red Bull cut through a lot of the pack but, even though there is a bit more midfield action, passing lines of cars when everyone is so close and has DRS available, just doesn't pass the common sense test.
Tightening regulations to prevent innovation has been against the grain for years. As others have said, if you change the livery at random each week, you could not tell the difference between cars very easily.
F1 has always been about the team - innovation and cutting edge in design, team performance (Ferrari seldom fails to lower the bar) AND the driver.
Even teams with virtual unlimited funds come out with a bomb (say Ferrari) now and then. Renault, McLaren and Racing Point have all been edging up but the regulations make it even more difficult."

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4. Posted by C5, 01/10/2020 20:52

"@chickenFarmerf1 - Actually, I think qualifying as it is is working quite well. I do remember those empty track back when we had Friday+Saturday qualifying and I don't think artificially spicing that up with mandatory running is a better solution.

As for penalties... Actions that are dangerous or concern a (potential) competitive advantage - Lewis didn't do what he did in Soshi just for the fun of it - should be penalized with race result impact. And any such penalty should be executed to be immediately reflected on the track within a lap or so - no "we'll add the time at the end of the race".

Infringements that aren't the fault of the driver or doesn't directly impact the race results should be imposed as a percentage of the accumulated constructor's and/or driver's championship points as they stand at the end of the weekend. Combined with a fine if you want, but deducting points is what'll really get attention.

I completely support the notion of allowing the constructors a lot more freedom. But with some objective additional parameters as to how much the car can affect the air behind it, how much downforce it's allowed to lose when running in various positions "behing itself", and how much total downforce it allowed to be generated at various speeds, to keep it safe and keep cars able to overtake.

Banning all telemetry while the car is moving (OK when it's stationary in the pit with the wheels off the ground) is a great suggestion. Any issue the team and drivers can sort out via voice communication is fair game.

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5. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 01/10/2020 15:51

"Further to my previous comment, when it comes to race weekend rules, I say keep it fairly simple as well. The format of 3 free practice sessions (2 on Friday, 1 on Saturday) has been in place a long time, and is working well. Keep that.

Qualifying I'd like to see go back to a single 1 hour session with your best single lap determining your grid spot. Reverse grids, or even the idea I've seen of a sprint race starting in reverse championship order to replace current qualifying is an abomination. Between the meritocracy that has always been F1, that is a can of worms, and a definite safety issue. The main reason for the 3 session format we have now is that in previous single 1 hour sessions you'd have 30-40 minutes of nobody running at all, save maybe an occasional back-marker, then a massive flurry of activity. Unless was coming in which case you'd get a flurry of laps before the rain hit, then nothing for the rest of the hour. Simple solution there is to just require a minimum of 1 hot (timed) lap every 10 minutes or something (6 minutes??), regardless of weather (exception only if red-flagged). They can run 2 hot laps in a 15 minute session now, so 1 every 6-10 minutes isn't that big a deal. No maximum number of laps, and qualifying tire and fuel/energy allocations are separate from race allocations. If a team wants to run a race simulation, or treat it as a test session, during qualifying by running with extra fuel and stopping occasionally for new tires, so be it.

The race itself is whatever the current distance is (unless we want to perhaps increase it a bit, at least at high speed tracks like Monza). 305km roughly I think. Eliminate the requirement for different tire compounds during the race. In fact, eliminate the sole-source tire provision entirely. Bring back the tire wars please. But I do like the idea of not allowing special qualifying only compounds. So limit the tire supplier to a single compound per team per weekend. Note, if a tire company is supplying more than 1 team they can bring different compounds for each team if they wish. But teams can use literally any compound the want, and any diameter rim, and tire profile ratio they want, or can get a tire supplier to provide.

Stop it with a lot of the idiotic penalties. If there is a good safety reason for a rule (e.g. pit lane speed limit, blue flags for lapped cars, deliberately or recklessly causing a crash) keep those, but only impose penalties that impact the result of the race for fairly egregious offenses. The time penalties for Hamilton at Sochi being a prime example of the stupidity of the current penalty regime. Fine the driver and/or team or something for things that are relatively petty like that. "

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6. Posted by Oldgit, 01/10/2020 12:09

"@chickenFarmerf1 - I agree with you, but with the FIA being ever more descriptive on car specifications it might not be an option/

My alternative would be to add the following rule.

9) Following qualifying all car numbers are put in a hat and drivers draw a number from the hat to determine which car they drive."

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7. Posted by Superbird70, 01/10/2020 2:01

"@ChickenFarmerF1, mostly agree. Throw in rotary , and hydrogen power-plants. Get rid of any car to pit or mother-ship telemetry communications and lets see who comes up with the best vehicle."

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8. Posted by BrightonCorgi, 30/09/2020 19:02

"If you want reverse grids and make it "fair"; the solution is pretty easy. Give points out for Qualifying."

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9. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 30/09/2020 16:59

"If they want more variability in the racing, get rid of the rules that result in little opportunity for innovation, and result in the only way to tell one team's car from another at a distance being the paint scheme.

My ideal set of rules would be 1) equivalent to the energy content of 100L of gas (petrol) in the car at the start of the race, and no adding energy from external sources during the race; 2) car must fit inside a box of whatever arbitrary dimensions you want to define; 3) some minimum weight; 4) must meet some objective crash standards; 5) no AI; 6) driven/controlled in all respects by a human; 7) each team must design their own chassis (powertrain can be purchased); 8) no pink paint (sorry BWT - that color is painful to look at).

That should just about do it.

Want to run full electric? Turbine? Diesel? Hybrid? 2 cylinder? 24 cylinders?
Warp Drive? Go for it. As long as you can complete the race with an initial energy content equivalent to 100L of gasoline you're good to go.

Want to run with 3 wheels? 8 wheels? Whatevs. So long as you make the car fit in the box, meet minimum weight, and meet crash safety requirements, go for it.

Want to test 300 days a year? If you can get the sponsorship to pay for it, go for it. Want to hire an army of CFD analysts and have an HPC with 400,000 cores and petabytes of RAM? As long as you can pay for it.

Want to redesign your car 6 times a year? Sure, if you can afford the costs.

Will that explode the costs of F1? Yeah. Racing was better in many respects when F1 was unconstrained in spending (except by the ability to get the money from sponsors).

I also look back to Honda's return to F1 with McLaren. The engine/PU was not up snuff, and Honda was totally hobbled by the rules keeping them from developing the engine to catch up. Even today, Red Bull and Ferrari aren't allowed to develop their chassis to catch up to Mercedes. I like Lewis, but the only way he doesn't win if something happens to push him down the order, like the 10 second penalty at Sochi, or the penalty at Mugello. How much more exciting would it be to see Verstappen and LeClerc hounding him with cars that have been developed and improved enough to do so!"

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10. Posted by Tardis40, 30/09/2020 14:35

"Anything would be an improvement over what has been going on for eight consecutive years."

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11. Posted by ZJAY, 30/09/2020 13:32

"Reverse grid is not compatible with qualifying as you are penalizing the pole sitter the most. In current terms Hamilton and Botas will be fighting to be slower than the other. An alternative is to award points for qualifying and computer randomize the grid such as no driver gets the same grid position twice over a 20 race period. "

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