The F1 Sprint format has divided opinion ever since it was
introduced in 2021. Every year thereafter, the format has changed
with the current schedule seeing a second qualifying session take
place on Saturday morning that sets the grid for the Sprint itself.
Previously, the result of the sprint race set the final grid for
the Grand Prix but through all of the alterations, the shorter race
has more often than not given away secrets for the main event that
would have otherwise created tension and excitement. There are
currently talks underway to make changes once again next year in
order to further streamline the format and make it less confusing
for fans – but ironically, the constant changes to the format are
likely conjuring much of that puzzlement. It’s imperative that F1
now picks a route and sticks with it and despite many teams and
drivers wanting the sport to be rid of the sprint, it’s clear that
F1 has no intention to bin them. Last weekend in Brazil, Sergio
Perez suggested what would be the most radical change to the sprint
format yet. “I would propose a reverse grid or something like that,
to make it more interesting for the fans because I don’t think it’s
working, what we want to achieve,” he explained to media including
RacingNews365. “I think it will mix up things. It would create more
opportunities, a lot more overtaking. If we want to keep this
format, give it a go on something quite different.” How would a
reverse grid work? The suggestion of introducing reverse grid races
is not new for F1 but it is rare to see a driver advocating for
what would be one of the biggest rule changes in the history of the
championship. Formula 2, seen as the final stepping stone a driver
takes before F1, utilises the regulation by swapping the top ten
around in qualifying for their Sprint Race. Formula 3 does it as
well but accommodates for the larger grid by swapping the top 12. A
key aspect of the Sprint format was that there would be three days
of excitement, with competitive sessions present on each day of the
weekend. But we’ve already seen this year that the sole practice
session before qualifying creates problems as teams have little
time to optimise their set-up, which ultimately led to the
disqualification of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc in the
United States for excessive plank wear. There is also the matter of
parc ferme as the cars are locked in after those 60 minutes of
practice, just one-third of the usual allocation during a
traditional format. Here’s a suggestion – reinstate two practice
sessions on Friday and implement parc ferme conditions before the
cars hit the track for qualifying, which would be the first session
on Saturday. This would then set the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix,
but take the top 10 from the session and flip them around to form
the grid for the sprint race. Problems would arise if F1 swapped
the entire grid, as it would likely create the scenario of teams
going as slow as possible if they accept a top 10 result is out of
the question. F1 would also have to further adapt the traditional
qualifying format as with just 10 cars remaining in the Q3 segment,
an outlier like a Williams or an AlphaTauri could position itself
to ensure it’s the slowest car of the session. This could mean a
similar session to Formula 2 with drivers having just one session
of 30 minutes to get their times on the board. But with Pirelli
experimenting over bringing fewer tyres to race weekends, this
could result in cars being sat in the garage until late on in the
session before attacking the track. Below is how the revised grid
for the Sprint race would look, based on this author’s idea.
Revised Austrian GP Sprint starting grid Would it create more
racing? The simple answer is yes – it would create more racing as
it constructs the situation of faster cars starting further behind
slower ones. But that doesn’t necessarily mean better racing.
Simple flybys on a DRS straight simply don’t cut it for excitement
levels but each track has its own characteristics on how it
produces battles – Brazil was a great example of how having two
separate DRS detection points for straights close together can do
wonders for keeping a recently overtaken car in play. This could
help some of the slower teams stay in contention and following on
from that, reverse grids would likely play a huge role in deciding
the Constructors’ Championship at the lower end of the grid. For a
team like Williams, starting at the front of the field and having
the chance to score 10 points would be huge. With a Haas also in
the mix, it too would have a chance to seal points that would
otherwise be a huge task to secure in a Grand Prix setting. Not
only would there be an exciting fight for pole position but there
would be a heightened battle for the midfield teams to get into
that top 10 and give themselves a greater chance for the remainder
of the weekend. For the purists, a win wouldn’t count as a Grand
Prix and would be absent in history books. For the newcomers who
seek entertainment, it may well provide that. There’s no telling
how strong the quality of racing would be, as it largely depends on
the closeness of the pecking order. Reverse grid races are
currently just a concept and it would certainly be the biggest
racing change that F1 has introduced in decades – but in pursuit of
the ultimate entertainment product, F1 may well conjure them into

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