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Formula 1

F1 push for reverse-grid qualifying races defeated

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Formula 1’s bid to introduce reverse-grid qualifying races in 2021 has been voted down, The Race understands.

F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn was pushing to trial a new format at four events next season, with the stated aim of mixing up some weekends given there is a carry-over of major car components from this season to save costs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal was for these four events to feature a 30-minute qualifying race instead of the usual qualifying session. Drivers would start the qualifying race in reverse championship order, then the finishing position of this race would set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

F1 had been confident of using the revised governance system of a super majority – 28 votes out of 30 – to implement the format next year after failing to get unanimous support to trial it this season.

McLaren, Mercedes, F1

However, the Mercedes-powered teams – including 2021 customer McLaren – were expected to oppose the plan and are understood to have voted against it in Monday’s F1 Commission meeting.

F1 would only need a “simple majority” of 25, achievable even with the Mercedes teams objecting, to implement the proposal for 2022 but it is understood that vote didn’t take place.

Parties that may support the idea for 2021 may not support its implementation thereafter given major new technical rules will come into force in 2022 and have been backed to mix up the competitive order, along with a budget cap of $145m being implemented next year then lowered by $5m across each of the next two seasons.

However, persevering with the proposal for 2022 has not been ruled out.

Several other major topics were on the agenda of the meeting, including Red Bull’s demand for an engine freeze being brought forward to 2022.

Red Bull, Mercedes, F1

This would be so Red Bull can take over Honda’s engine project without having to invest in developing the engine, reducing some of the financial and technological burden, and therefore avoid returning to being an engine customer.

Mercedes supports Red Bull’s proposal with Renault understood to be uncertain and Ferrari against it, and unsurprisingly nothing was agreed on an engine front on Monday.

Red Bull has indicated it wants to make a decision on its post-Honda choice before the end of this year.

Monday’s meeting did include exploring an engine spending cap as reducing spend is universally agreed to be a priority for the next-generation engine, along with relevant sustainable technology for manufacturers.

However, there is doubt over whether a cost cap for engine development is achievable. F1 teams already had already voiced fears that policing their budget cap would be difficult and the concern is it will be impossible to do so with the engine manufacturers. If it is realistic, an engine spending limit would be targeted for the new engine rules.

Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul’s idea of a think-tank of experts to discuss the direction F1 takes for its next engine appears to have been taken on as a potential objective, while consideration will be given to bringing the new engine rules forward from 2026.

Cyril Abiteboul, Daniel Ricciardo, F1

One item that is understood to have had unanimous support is a salary cap for drivers and the top three executives, which will be exempt from the initial budget cap introduced next season. Salaries above the agreed limit will need to come from the main budget cap from 2023.

Among the cost-saving initiatives is a proposal to ban windtunnels in the long-term but this does not have unanimous support. A windtunnel is a high-value asset for teams and McLaren is currently investing major resources in building a new one, which will not be functional until 2022.

Teams were also presented with a draft version of the 2021 calendar that is believed to feature 23 races, as reported by The Race. Two triple-headers are said to be part of the new schedule although the dates for the second half of the year are not confirmed.

F1 hopes to return to a normal calendar next season, starting in Australia, after this year’s was dramatically affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

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