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Formula 1

F1 drivers suggested reverse grid for standalone sprint race

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Formula 1 could make future sprint races a standalone part of the weekend that does not impact the grid for the grand prix, and drivers have suggested it could even utilise a reversed grid.

The second of three trials of the new F1 Sprint format took place on Saturday at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix but it was a flat affair that – like the inaugural sprint race at Silverstone – featured little overtaking beyond the opening lap.

In the experimental format, normal qualifying takes place on Friday evening and sets the grid for a 100km sprint race on Saturday, while the finishing order of that race determines the starting positions for Sunday’s grand prix.

It was born from the ashes of an idea F1 championed to implement reverse-grid races to improve the entertainment on a grand prix weekend.

The reverse-grid concept became a formal proposal last year, with the idea being Saturday’s race would have a grid determined by reversing the pre-event championship positions.

It did not receive unanimous support and the idea was replaced by the current sprint format.

As part of its pledge to evolve the sprint race concept, F1 is considering making the sprint race a standalone feature so it would have no bearing on Sunday’s race, but would award more points than it currently does.

F1 sprint Silverstone 2021

The drivers felt at Silverstone that there was not enough jeopardy or reward in the F1 Sprint format, hence the proposal to implement a reverse-grid element, but it appears more likely that F1 will pursue using a Friday qualifying session to set the grid for both the Saturday sprint race and Sunday’s grand prix.

“We had a session with the drivers after Silverstone,” Brawn told media including The Race at the Italian GP. “And I must say they’re very positive.

“But it’s true, some of them felt there should be more reward for the sprint. And there should be more jeopardy in the sprint.

“If we’re doing that then maybe a standalone event is consideration. I think qualifying on a Friday, race on a Sunday, with a standalone event with some decent reward [in between] – but maybe a little bit of jeopardy in the grid of how you start it.

“But we’ve always got to be conscious, we don’t want gimmicks, we don’t want an artificial [show], we don’t want to cannibalise [the grand prix], we don’t want to affect the integrity.

“It’s a difficult balance. But there’s definitely potential there.”

Brawn did not explicitly state that a reverse-grid race was under consideration but the emphasis on the standalone event having “a little bit of jeopardy in the grid” and a separate comment to Sky that some drivers had asked him for “some mix up of the qualifying order” hints at a desire to shuffle the starting order for the sprint if it does live independently of the grand prix.

He also said that a standalone Saturday sprint race would “have to” count for the world championship.

Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Monza 2021

The three sprint races being trialled this are rewarding the top three finishers with three points for first, two points for second, and one point for third.

“For the drivers to fight hard, I think you’d have to have some decent reward,” said Brawn.

“What you want is some battle between the guys who are at the front of the grid.

“If you move the guys in the front of the grid back a bit, they are fighting each other.

“We’re not talking about a raffle or a random order. We’re talking about something that could enhance the event.”

Brawn is adamant the sprint format continues to show positives and the challenge now is for F1 to evolve it so it works more effectively.

“In a way, we’ve given ourselves quite a big challenge, because you can all see the potential in this event,” he insisted.

“How do we marry that with a classic grand prix weekend and make sure that we don’t cannibalise the weekend?

“But we’re getting much more engagement with fans on a Friday. The numbers I’ve seen that we’re able to measure so far are stronger today than they were at Silverstone.

“So, everything’s positive. We don’t want to lose that. But we don’t want to go too far and turn people off.”

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