Formula 1 set to revive reverse-grid sprint race plans

Formula 1 will revive plans to introduce reverse-grid sprint races in place of qualifying. Mercedes blocked plans to trial the idea this season – but Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix has given F1 fresh impetus.

Two safety cars, a penalty for Lewis Hamilton and a race stoppage at Monza mixed up the field and led to a shock win for Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly.

F1 managing director Ross Brawn said: “The race showed the excitement a mixed-up pack can deliver.”

Mercedes believe the idea is a gimmick and would not work as F1 hopes.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes F1 boss, has said he opposes the plan on three points – arguing that the sport is a meritocracy, that the employment of reverse grids in other categories leads to the events being ‘gamed’, and that the idea excessively penalises the team with the fastest car versus the ones with the second and third-fastest cars. Wolff has also emphasised that in surveys of F1 fans, only 15% expressed an interest in reverse-grid races.

But BBC Sport has learned that Brawn and other F1 bosses are determined to persist with the idea, and hope to try it out later this season, before potentially using it more often in 2021.

Under current rules, unanimity is required for any rule change during a championship year, so F1 would need to persuade Mercedes to back the plan to introduce it at a race towards the end of the season.

Their hope is that the team might acquiesce once they clinch the drivers’ and constructors’ titles, which is likely to be a number of races before the end of the season.

However, new contracts the teams signed last month for the period 2021-25 remove the need for unanimity for rule changes made for introduction in the short term and replace it with a ‘super-majority’ of votes.

Brawn floated the idea of reverse-grid races in his post-race column on the F1 website on Monday.

“Monza was a candidate for a reverse-grid sprint race when we were considering testing the format this year,” he said.

“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.

“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 1.”

If it was agreed, the sprint race grid would be set in reverse championship order, and the results of it would determine the grid for the main grand prix on the Sunday.

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