OllieF1
Reverse Grids: Viable Or Not?

Reverse Grids: Viable Or Not?

2006 British Grand Prix - SilverstonePatrick Head of the Williams team has suggested today that reverse grids might be a good way to spice up the races, putting the fastest driver in qualifying at the back and the slowest at the front. This would mean the duration of the race is made up of the fastest driver trying to negotiate his way to the front, creating more opportunities for the illusive overtaking maneuvers and generally adding to the excitement of a grand prix. However, I don’t think Patrick Head has fully thought this through yet.

If you allow the guys to do all this practice and testing and then you line them up with the fastest at the front and the slowest at the back, why should there be any overtaking? Patrick Head.

On the face of it, the idea does seem interesting, almost appealing. But after further thought, I came to the conclusion that it simply wouldn’t work.

If the grid was decided on the reverse-qualifying pace (which I hasten to add isn’t exactly what Head has said), then qualifying would become even more of a farce than it currently is. If I were Kimi Raikkonen, I would be driving as slow as possible to ensure I started the race at the front. Of course, this is an obvious reason against Head’s idea, so I’m sure there would be rules in place to prevent such an occurrence (using the percentage rule for example). But it would still make qualifying a farce; the fastest driver deserves to start from the front, hence why qualifying exists and why it is the only part of the race weekend where we really get to see the cars at their quickest.

What Head is actually suggesting though is that the cars line up in reverse championship order. As an example, had Formula One used this technique of deciding the grid, the 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix would have seen Christijan Albers on pole followed by Scott Speed and Robert Kubica. At the back would be Kimi Raikkonen in 22nd, Fernando Alonso in 21st and Lewis Hamilton in 20th. This grid would have made for an interesting race, but I can’t help but feel that the fastest driver deserves to be at the top, the slowest at the bottom.

Patrick suggests that this idea may encourage more overtaking, having slower cars ahead of faster cars. Head does admit that perhaps this would make overtaking easier, but a pass is still a pass at the end of the day. I though do not fully understand the whole overtaking issue. For sure, some circuits are prone to a processional race. Monaco is one particular track that, while glamorous and historical, tends to aid a game of follow my leader rather than motor racing. But on the whole, I don’t see too much of a problem with overtaking in the sport. It is difficult, definitely, but that just means when a pass is made it is usually quite special. The 2005 Japanese Grand Prix stands out in my memory with Raikkonen and Alonso all making superb moves on equally fast cars.

If overtaking is the reasoning behind Patrick’s idea, then reversing the grids won’t work. Overtaking will become common and boring. The Ferraris and McLarens will simply power past the Force Indias and Rossos, such is the difference in grip and handling between the machines. The spectacle of seeing Raikkonen at the back of the grid would only last until mid-distance and the final half would then become the dreaded procession. If overtaking is the issue, then the solution is less focus on aerodynamics.

And finally, reverse grids work well in other series. But I need to add that these other series run more than one race over the course of a weekend. The first grid is usually decided by a regular qualifying session, be it over several laps or a one lap shoot-out, or even a short sprint race. The first race starts with this grid and the second either reverses the first qualifying order or reverses the result from the first race. That is how it is done. Formula One however has only the one race in a weekend.

I don’t see reverse grids being that great of an idea, but if you have a different opinion, please share in the comments below.

Oliver White

12 comments

  • I agree – qualifing would have to go out the window altogether and we want to see the cars on track more, not less!

    The only way to improve overtaking is by allowing the cars to run closer together, and not muck about with the actual GP weekend any further than the constant qualifying tinkering already has.

    I know you aren’t a football fan Ollie, but imagine if there was a season where hardly any goals were scored – can you imagine the FA relegating Manchester United and Chelsea just so they could play weaker teams and score lots of goals against them?

    Never going to happen, and neither is this reverse grid idea – unless it happened in a separate race, such as happens in Touring Cars I believe – one “proper” race and then another in reverse order of the first race results.

  • I know you aren’t a football fan

    You’re not wrong there! 😀

    can you imagine the FA relegating Manchester United and Chelsea just so they could play weaker teams

    I can’t and that is a good comparison between the potential issues the sports could face.

  • I think everyone has managed to some up my objections to any form of reverse grids. I don’t think there’s anything that could make me stop watching quicker than something like reversed grids.

    Worth noting that the Sunday morning GP2 results are not taken that seriously. While a win on Sat will get a driver noticed, Sunday, not so much.

    While the 2005 Japanese GP is remembered for some great overtaking, it’s only the overtaking on similar cars that’s remembered – nobody cares about the backmarkers Alonso and Raikkonen flew past.

  • I used to run this scenario on various customisable Formula One video games. There were lots of incidents.

    Surely teams will entail a stragetic element to their qualification programming – simply running slower to a predesignated extent in order to achieve a desired grid position. But then If suspicions rise that this is in evidence, rule-abiding teams may complain that competitive outfits may be purposefully slowing. The teams in question would then deny this, possibly excusing themsleves from any wrong doing with reliability issues being a result of their reduction in pace… the list of potential debates and enraging scenarios is endless. In my mind it isn’t feasable or useful for the sport.

    Maybe in the virtual world, but not in reality.

  • It’s fine for lower formulae where it makes it easier to see which drivers have good racecraft. But F1 should stick with qualifying to determine the grid and then then race – these are fundamental ingredients of a Grand Prix weekend and should not be tampered with.

  • I can’t see this happening either. Undoubtedly it would make the start of races a little more exciting and there would be a fair few surprises along the way but surely it goes against the whole concept of competitive sport to ‘reward’ the slower teams? The top teams would be against it obviously and I think it’s a non-starter this.

  • Until the technical regulations are sorted out overtaking is going to be way too difficult to even consider reverse grids. I am against them in principle because F1 should reward excellence not incompetence.

    The other problem you have to consider is at Monaco or somewhere where overtaking is really difficult you are going to end up with someone who has never come close to winning a race trying to hold off KImi or Lewis. You just know that at some point someone in this position is going to make a really stupid move and cause a big accident.

    I don’t think too much overtaking can ever become boring. People still rave about the Monza slipstreamers of the 60s and early 70s where almost every position changed every lap. There used to be a site which listed every lead change for every GP. It only listed the positions at the finishing line so anything that happened anywhere else on the track was not considered. There were GPs at Monza with 30 or 40 changes of leader at the finishing line and I have never heard any of those races described as boring. Some of the processional garbage we have been fed over the last twenty years is soporifically boring but not races where you don’t know who is going to lead at the next corner. It is for this very reason that so many of us have become Moto GP fans. In the 5 years when Michael Schumacher won consecutive championships the word boring was thrown round like confetti. Valentino Rossi won the Moto GP championship or its equivalent for the same 5 seasons and I never heard the word boring used once.

  • I can see there being a lot more first-corner crashes – fine when I’m playing Grand Prix 3, less fine when you’re minding your own business on the grid when some quick driver piles into your gearbox…

  • The one problem that springs to mind for me is the tracks with little option for overtaking. If tracks like Monaco were earlier in the calendar (in the first few races), there wouldn’t be many overtaking opportunities for the faster guys who are further down the grid, as it’s usually a case of the cars at the front of the grid ending up on the podium (reliability permitting).

    As Alianora said, having the slower cars in front of the faster cars is probably asking for first lap trouble given the differences in speed! I can’t see it happening either, although you never really know what wacky idea Bernie and co. will come up with next!

  • Indeed, the whacky ideas seem to come thick and fast from Max and Bernie (and Patrick). And we’ve all seen what happens when you put an overly fast car behind an overly slow car.

  • There are obviously issues with putting slower cars on the top of the starting grid, but surely the likes of the faster drivers know what they’re doing upon approaching a slower car. The BriSCA stock car series i watch run reverse grids and it makes for great watching, there is no such thing as too much overtaking and watching faster drivers racing each other and overtaking slower cars left and right shows real skill.

    Max and Bernie will do what they like… as usual, but i would like to see it tried if only for a season, we need something to spice up the sport… Other than that you would have to go in the NASCAR direction of making all the cars run the same?

  • Stock Car Fan is very right. He has an open mind and can see that this is a really good opportunity to spice up F1. I understand opposition, really. It is kind of difficult to get the idea that the system is fare and good for ALL teams.

    I have ran a long debate on this idea at

    http://forum.planet-f1.com/index.php?t=msg&th=58309&start=360&

    here is my proposal to solve ALL problems:

    (making corrections to the aero regulations is OK for me)

    1) Use of the WDC points standings to form the starting grid but reversed.

    2) Reward saturdays with WDC points

    3) use the Q1, Q2 and Q3 elimination system on saturdays and fridays in order to reward success with more track time.

    4) (optional but likely) reward every finishing position on sunday and saturday with an exponential WDC points scale.

    5) (if and only if drivers want) protect them for the event of an accident in any way you can think. Make racing safe by protection and not by keeping cars away from each other.

    Consequences:

    1) fare competition (read the thread please)

    2) spectacular and interesting racing

    3) more fans, more money

    4) tech regs can give more design freedom

    5) top teams get more recognition for their achievements

    6) mid field teams get more chances to get a good result (but they have to be consistent)

    7) bottom teams get at least more TV exposure and more financial success

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