F1: Mercedes explain opposition to reverse-grid qualifying race 'lottery'
"Formula 1 doesn't need a show format like wrestling"; Watch full Toto Wolff interview with Martin Brundle on latest Sky F1 Vodcast
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 24/06/20 3:01pm
Toto Wolff has explained why Mercedes are opposed to reverse-grid races in 2020, telling Sky Sports F1 that the world champions are not prepared to "make any gifts" for their rivals by creating a "lottery".
Formula 1 and its 10 teams have been discussing the prospect of replacing the Saturday qualifying format with a sprint race - where the championship order is reversed on the starting grid - to spice up the second event at tracks (Spielberg, Silverstone) which are hosting two Grands Prix this year.
The finishing positions of that race would then set the grid for Sunday's GP.
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But while the proposal has garnered the support of most teams, Mercedes - who have dominated F1 since 2014 - are against it, and their team principal Wolff spoke to Sky F1's Martin Brundle to clarify their stance, and respond to Red Bull boss Christian Horner's comments earlier this week.
"First of all, we seem to be digging out old ideas that have been diligently analysed and have been rejected for some good reasons," explained Wolff in an interview which aired at the start of Wednesday's Sky F1 Vodcast.
"One of those reasons is that we know it from touring car racing that strategy games are the name of the game, and if you know that you're not in a great position on the weekend before, you may decide to DNF a car and start the next weekend on pole. Maybe [there are] teams that will be using that for an advantage.
"Then, midfield cars will fight heavy for position, as they should, so for the top teams coming from behind it will mean more risks in overtaking and that could mean making this championship a bit of a lottery.
"The number two reason is that we simply love the meritocracy if Formula 1. Best man, and best machine wins. I think a lot of fans have expressed that same view. We are real racers, we think Formula 1 doesn't need a show format like wrestling and the DNA is important.
"The third reason, and this is the more inward-looking reason, is simply that we have a championship to play for. We believe we have a good car, and of course for the second and third place team it's an advantage to start in front.
"Formula 1 is a tough business and you're not here to make any gifts."
In a later interview with written journalists, Wolff again insisted it was not the time to experiment with reverse-grid races.
"We don't need a gimmick to turn the field around to create more exciting racing," he said.
Brundle and Davidson on reverse-grid races
Martin Brundle: "I understand what Toto is saying. Why would Mercedes agree to mix up the pack and take more risks? But I would like to see something, I think it's the ideal time. I don't want to downplay anything and say let's just have a play around - it's still a world championship. But I think there is an opportunity to do something with the back-to-back races, I don't want to see any cut and paste action where the second race looks just like the first.
"You'd have to have a cut-off point in the first race to stop drivers fading away for a better grid slot. But it gives the smaller teams a chance out front in a while in the spotlight. The same cars would still win the race.
"I would love to see Lewis (Hamilton) come through a qualifying race and take a well-earned victory, not by a lap but by a few seconds. I completely get Merc's point, but I still think the best team and best driver would win the championship. I'd love to see Lewis making his way through the field - it would be must-watch for the second weekend."
Anthony Davidson: "The thing that makes me sad is that the only reason we relish the opportunity to see cars coming through from the back of the grid is because the result is too obvious. All of these things that come about in Formula 1, say DRS for example, it's a band-aid for the situation.
"The root cause of the problem is that there are three teams that are dominating, and often just one. Nobody wants to see that and therefore a quick fix is to throw those cars at the back of the grid and have fun watching them go through. The root of the problem isn't getting solved. Hopefully in the next few years it is with the new rules.
"I see where Toto is coming from. I'm a purist, I want to see the best cars and the best drivers win the race, and qualify first. Being a part of Mercedes, you see how hard they work to get those two cars to be the fastest. To have that taken away from you, to have jeopardy from starting at the back of the grid - I totally understand why they wouldn't be for that."