Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff believes Formula One runs the risk of comparisons with WWE if it introduces reverse-grid qualifying races, saying the sport should not be « designing freak results ».
The world champions blocked F1’s plans to introduce a system this year whereby timed qualifying would be replaced by a reverse-grid sprint race at select venues this season. However, F1 has not completely dropped the idea and could introduce it in 2021 regardless of Mercedes’ objection.
Following Pierre Gasly’s freak victory at the Italian Grand Prix last weekend, F1’s motorsport director Ross Brawn said reverse grids were being considered again for 2021.
Asked if he had changed his mind on the issue, Wolff said: « I don’t think we should be designing freak results where it is almost impossible to overtake, just because we believe the pecking order should be a different one.
« This is a meritocracy where best man and best machine wins and this is not World Wide Wrestling where the outcome is completely random. If you want to do random, let’s make it a show, but I think the core DNA of F1 is that it is a sport and then an entertainment platform.
« It is not a show, it is not a reality show and it is not Big Brother, and I don’t think we should be going there. »
The idea is for the cars to line up in reverse championship order for a short qualifying race on Saturday and use the finishing order of that race to determine the grid for Sunday’s full-length grand prix.
No points would be awarded for the qualifying race, but the hope was that it would create unpredictable results, more excitement and a break from the existing race weekend format.
Wolff drew comparisons with NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship, which sees drivers battle for the majority of the season to end up in a play-off style scenario with a knock-out system at the final four races.
« I think I have a better idea: to do a reverse grid in alphabetical order of team names and then we would change our name to AMG, » Wolff joked. « I don’t think that we should mess with any of the formats.
« We have seen racing series that have tried to change a format that has historically been understood by the fans — NASCAR and the Chase comes to my mind. I don’t think we should be messing around.
« This is not because I have a Mercedes bias, on the contrary, I like the variability and unpredictability and we will have races that will be very different such as the Monza race. But nobody wants a winner that has started from a reverse grid. »