As Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes continue to dominate Formula 1 so emphatically that even the British driver himself is almost getting bored, any plans to make the sport more exciting should be welcomed and taken seriously.
Last weekend”s dramatic Italian Grand Prix was a timely reminder of how thrilling F1 can be when the field is tight and the underdog (i.e. anyone not driving a Mercedes) comes out on top.
It is little surprise, then, that Pierre Gasly”s epic victory at Monza has breathed new life into plans for reverse-grid sprint race.
The concept gained initial momentum towards the end of the 2019 season, as solutions to make F1 more competitive were explored. Proposed as a replacement to qualifying, the sprint races would involve drivers racing over a fraction of the laps of a regular Grand Prix, starting in the reverse-order of the Championship standings.
However, the potential change failed to receive unanimous support from constructors, with Mercedes unsurprisingly leading the opposition.
Replacing the traditional Saturday time-trial would mark a huge overhaul for F1, and it is impossible to predict how successful it would be, such is its unprecedented nature.
So, what would a shortened reverse-grid race look like? Perhaps the world of Esports can give us some clues.
Back in June, F1 gamer AETERNO put the idea to his test on F1 2019, the sport”s official video game.
The main takeaway from the experiment… it is utter chaos.
Putting the fastest cars at the back of the grid ensures the field stays tightly packed, meaning there is plenty of overtaking opportunities and, as AETERNO describes, “absolute carnage.”
In the simulation, which used Japan’s Suzuka circuit over 25% of the usual Grand Prix distance, only Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel did not finish the race, but with 19 of the 20 cars controlled by AI, more crashes would surely occur when the human error of real-life F1 is factored in.
Most importantly, the virtual race was fun to watch. With all the cars so close together there was rarely a dull moment, with AETERNO calling it “a crazy race that I cannot keep up with.”
There were surprises too, with Kevin Magnussen of Haas, who started the race in third, taking the chequered flag. Though the field was crammed together, it was “very difficult to overtake.”
Nevertheless, the final positions, which saw Lewis Hamilton in an unusually low seventh place, indicate that the format would give us “some really bizarre grids.”
It”s not a perfect simulation, but reverse grids could make races more entertaining, unpredictable and competitive.
Surely, with so little variance at the top of the standings, F1 should trust its own video game and give the concept a try.