Formula One has proposed using a reversed grid qualifying session as part of a new format for racing’s resumption this season. The F1 group, the governing body, the FIA, and the teams have already discussed the proposal and it is understood it has broad support but that the world champions, Mercedes, oppose the concept. A formal vote and decision will be made early this week.
F1’s proposal is specifically targeted at events where one circuit would host two races. The sport is expected to announce the European leg of its rescheduled calendar on Monday. It will open with two back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria and is also set to include two races at Silverstone, subject to coronavirus restrictions.
The intent is to enliven interest in the second race taking place within seven days at the same venue, with broadcasters understood to be concerned at a potential drop in interest in identical races. The format would feature a standard race weekend for the first meeting. On the following Saturday a 30-minute race with a grid ordered in reverse championship standings would be held to decide qualifying positions for the second race.
F1 believes the concept would distinguish the second race from the first and is likely to present a far more varied grid. A detailed proposal has been sent to team principals. For it to be adopted all 10 teams would have to agree and they will vote this week. A majority including Ferrari are believed to support it.
However Mercedes and one other team opposed a similar plan last year when F1 put forward a reverse grid format for trial in 2020. Mercedes’ position is understood to be unchanged. They opposed it on the basis that it was an artificial imposition that went against the spirit of F1. “When you’re looking at the 100m final in the Olympics, you’re not making Usain Bolt start five metres behind just to make it an exciting finish,” said their team principal, Toto Wolff, last October.
The six-times world champion and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton also dismissed the idea last year. “People who propose that don’t really know what they’re talking about.” he said. “The fact that now they are trying the reverse grid and all that feels like an excuse for not doing a good enough job.” If Mercedes remain opposed the format will not be adopted.