Formula 1 tried to liven up grand prix weekends with proposals for reverse grids and sprint races several times last year. Those schemes never came to pass, but the race organizers will give it one more shot this week, putting a plan for three Saturday sprint races in 2021 to a vote this Thursday.
The plan would see qualifying held on Friday to set the grid for a sprint race on Saturday that’s one-third the distance of a regular GP. The result of the sprint race would in turn determine the order for the main event on Sunday. The top eight finishing drivers in the sprint race would also “earn approximately half the points awarded for the Grand Prix,” according to the BBC.
The current plan would only see this system tested in three races in 2021: the Canadian, Italian and Brazilian grands prix. It wouldn’t involve reverse grids in any way, as F1 president Stefano Domenicali essentially shot down that possibility last week.
“Reverse grid is over – that’s something I can tell you. I think that it’s important to think maybe of new ideas of being more attractive or interesting – [but] we don’t have to lose the traditional approach of racing.”
Teams will vote on the plan at the upcoming F1 Commission meeting on Thursday. The proposal requires at least 28 out of 30 votes to pass; the FIA and F1 each hold 10, while the 10 teams get one vote each.
Reverse grids were the main sticking point for some teams and their drivers when F1 floated mixing up Saturday action last year. Mercedes, Racing Point, McLaren and Renault all publicly opposed the idea — unsurprising, considering they’re four of the most successful outfits on the grid, save for Red Bull. Supposedly, the sprint race format is more amenable, with the BBC reporting that Mercedes is “said to be open minded” about the new plan.
I don’t know if a new approach to Saturdays will “save” F1 or slap a Band-Aid on the enormous performance gap among the teams until those new technical regulations come into play. But 2020 was the year for every sports league to get weird without judgment, and F1 totally balked at its chance. This proposal is worth a shot, if only in a limited, three-race capacity. And if everyone ends up hating it, at least it may put to bed the never-ending debate over messing with qualifying.