According to multiple media outlets today, there will be a vote taking place on Thursday to decide whether we’ll see three sprint races take place on Saturday afternoons in 2021: the proposed venues are Montreal, Monza and Interlagos. Qualifying would take place on a Friday if it ends up getting voted through.
It’s the latest plan in a line of controversial ones to be thought up in recent years.
Double points – Abu Dhabi 2014
F1 followed IndyCar in going with double points for the final race in the season seven years ago. Whilst the North American series continued with it until 2019, Formula One decided to ditch it immediately, thankfully.
Lewis Hamilton led Nico Rosberg by 17 points heading into the season finale. Instead of going in needing just P7 to secure the championship, he would have needed to finish P2 if Rosberg won the race.
However, it didn’t change the championship as Hamilton took the lead at the start and cruised to victory in the end. Rosberg failed to score after car problems robbed the German of 2nd place.
Are double points a good thing? The answer has to be no. Consistency should be king in any racing category. If Hamilton had led by 49 points going into the final race, failed to finish and Rosberg won, the German would have stolen the title by a single point. That would have been absolutely farcical.
As the legendary AJ Foyt once said: ‘’It’s a gimmick.’’
Elimination qualifying – Australia and Bahrain 2016
This was an unmitigated disaster and it lasted only two races, mercifully. It was quite simply a dreadful idea that should never have seen the light of day.
All three qualifying segments were completely ruined. Instead of drivers going maximum attack at the end of Q1, Q2 and Q3, the drivers were either in the garage already eliminated or they were heading back to the pits before the clock counted down to 0:00. It completely took the spark and thrill of watching qualifying away.
Common sense eventually prevailed and the standard Q1, Q2 and Q3 sessions got restored. It was a truly embarrassing episode for Formula 1. Let’s hope qualifying isn’t touched in this kind of way again.
Reverse grid qualifying races idea gets blocked – 2020
Ross Brawn wanted to implement qualifying races at select events during the 2020 campaign.
Had it gone through, the likes of Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen would have started at the back of the field on Saturday afternoon; it could have left them with a lot of overtaking to do to try and be near the front of the grid at the end of the qualifying race, which would have set the grid for Sunday.
However, Mercedes blocked it from happening and without the support of every team on the grid, it couldn’t be passed.
It was another gimmick that failed to get through. As much as Mercedes’ dominance isn’t the healthiest thing for the sport, punishing them for doing the best job would have been completely unacceptable.
We also got a good example of what it could be like at Monza last year and the racing was still underwhelming because the cars were struggling to follow each other closely.
Sprint races going to a vote – 2021
New Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali confirmed last week that while reverse grids events will not happen, sprint races are on a Saturday afternoon is very much an idea still on the table.
A vote is coming on Thursday where three sprint races could be officially added to the 2021 calendar. The suggestions are they’ll take place at Montreal, Monza and Interlagos.
The real question is if it passes is: will it add anything to the weekend entertainment? The answer is likely to be no. Of course we haven’t seen the 2021 cars in action yet, but it’ll likely be a similar story at the front this year.
Another three sessions of Mercedes/Hamilton domination is not going to particularly enthuse regular fans and entice potential new fans. It’ll be a shock if shakes things up a lot in normal circumstances.
The real problem
In reality, it feels like all these ideas are trying to paper over the obvious cracks in the sport at present.
Mercedes are going for an eighth consecutive championship in both the Drivers’ and Teams’. The Brackley-based team deserve huge praise for these historical achievements and have played a massive role in helping Lewis Hamilton become the most successful driver in the long history of the sport.
Only Ferrari and Red Bull have had the resources to really try and challenge Mercedes; both teams have failed to do so consistently for various reasons. Ferrari, in particular, have massively underperformed considering they can build their own engines, too.
2012 was the last time we witnessed a final round title battle between drivers from two different teams. In general, that season was incredible with eight different winners and many extraordinary races with a lot of unpredictability in them.
If passed on Thursday, sprint races won’t fix the lack of close racing at the front of Formula One. If anything, it’ll highlight the lack of competition and how incredibly predictable the sport is at the moment. The ideas of recent years have not and will not help in any shape or form.
The massive changes coming for 2022 need to work for the sake of sport. We need close and much better racing at the front, with the opportunity for four or five teams to go for wins and championships. Formula One needs to become exciting and interesting again.