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Formula 1

Russell’s anti-reverse-grid stance softens for F1’s actual plan

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

George Russell says he is more open to Formula 1 trialling a reverse-grid race in place of qualifying, having previously thought it would be for the grand prix itself.

F1 wanted for some events in 2020 to drop qualifying and have a sprint race in which drivers would start in reversed championship order grid, and the result of that race would then set the grid for the grand prix.

It failed to gain the necessary unanimity to be introduced but F1 will revive the push for 2021, and has indicated it wants four events to hold a 30-minute sprint instead of qualifying next year.

Russell said at the start of the season he would have been made to look like an “idiot” by reverse-grid races and has since reiterated he is against them – however, he has suggested that was based on the general principle and is more open to trying F1’s actual plan.

He admitted ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, which would be a contender for a qualifying sprint race, that he has “very mixed views” on the subject and that “I know they want to do it, I don’t know in what context, whether it would be a qualifying race or an actual race”.

George Russell Williams Belgian Grand Prix 2020 Spa

Russell said his view might be “slightly different” for a qualifying race “rather than if it were for points” and added: “I think that’s where I thought it was going initially.”

Pressed on his view of a reverse-grid qualifying race, Russell said his opinion changed to being more “50/50” and that he saw the benefits it could bring beyond his own Williams team struggling to stay ahead of other cars.

He said: “I still think that Mercedes would win! It’d be really interesting in the midfield because the pace between all of those cars is so close, separated by a tenth or two.

“You’d suddenly find the guys on the back end of that pace find themselves really in the points because the cars behind aren’t quick enough to overtake, even though they are quicker.

“I’m happy to try things, we’ve got to try things and you live, you learn, you try things.

“It could be exciting, it might be a bit of a joke. But maybe we can try it once.”

When explained by The Race how F1 has indicated it would like to use reverse-grid races next year, Russell reinforced his revised view that it would be worth trying.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Russian Grand Prix Preparation Day Sochi, Russia

His team-mate Nicholas Latifi agreed, although both said they would prefer to have qualifying sessions retained in the long-term.

“I would assume it would be the tracks that maybe with the normal format haven’t necessarily produced the most exciting races in the past years, just because of how difficult it could be the overtake at some tracks,” said Latifi.

“It could be one of those things, ‘don’t knock it till you try it’.

“It’ll definitely mix up the midfield. It’s an actual race start, at the end of the day I think it’s been clear that’s what’s been creating a lot of excitement in the past two rounds.

“So it’s something to look at. It’s just important we don’t go away from the DNA of how Formula 1 is, which is not taking away that qualifying session.

“That is really one of the most important parts of the weekend and one of the most enjoyable parts from a driving aspect of getting to do a qualifying session.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Russian Grand Prix Preparation Day Sochi, Russia

Russell agreed that the proposal “could be exciting” and “like Nicholas said, I guess you can’t knock it until you try it”.

But he supported Latifi’s view on qualifying, calling it “the most exciting part of the weekend”.

“The car’s absolutely on the limit, you drive around the best tracks in the world, in the fastest cars in the world,” said Russell.

“I don’t want to miss that, because it’s just pure enjoyment from the driver’s seat.

“But like I said, we can try it, we can see, and as we’ve seen from this year change can always be nice. The tracks we’ve been to and tracks we’re going that aren’t usually on the calendar, it’s exciting.

“I wouldn’t want to see it [reverse-grid races] every single weekend, but maybe on a couple of races, it could be could be good to see.”

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