Mercedes explains why it rejected reverse grid plan

Jonathan Noble

F1 team principals discussed the idea last week of running reverse grid qualifying sprints at the second of double header events this year as a way of making the repeat events more exciting.

But despite a majority of teams being in favour of the move, Mercedes stood out and was not willing to accept the plan.

With F1 needing unanimous support to get the rules change, momentum behind the plan has fallen away and the standard format will be used for the entire season.

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Speaking to selected media on Wednesday during a video teleconference call, Wolff made clear that there were three clear reasons why Mercedes was not willing to accept the reverse grid experiment.

"It seems to be a common pattern in Formula 1 that we're digging out old ideas that have been analysed previously and rejected," he said.

"Then somebody thinks it's great and it's back on the back on the agenda. So you need to look at the reasons why we were against it, and there's three fundamental reasons.

"First, I believe that F1 is a meritocracy. Best man in best machine wins. We don't need a gimmick to turn the field around to create more exciting racing.

"Number two, I know it from touring car racing that strategies become a very useful tool when one race result is basically making the grid for the next one.

"Just imagine one of the drivers not running well on the Sunday race of the first Spielberg weekend, and you decide to DNF the car. That will be the car that starts from pole for the qualy race.

"And if that car starting on pole on the qualy race is within midfielders, he will certainly be on pole for Sunday and win the race. There will be cars in the middle that will defend and block as much as they can.

"And therefore, for the quick cars coming from behind, it will mean more risk for a DNF and that could influence the championship.

"And then [third], from a pure performance standpoint, whoever the fastest car may be, and it's not necessarily us, will be penalised [compared to the] second and third quickest teams, because they will simply start in front.

"As we know the margins are often not very large, so therefore it's a bit of an opportunistic move to give some teams an advantage."

While Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said it would be disappointing if F1 did not use the opportunity of the shaken-up calendar to trial format experiments, Wolff is clear that even fans did not seem to want reverse grids.

"We said this is not the time to experiment with things that interestingly, didn't even have the support of Formula 1's fan community," he said. "In a survey only 15% expressed an interest in reverse grids."