Russell argues case against reverse grids for F1 sprints

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George Russell has explained why in his view, and based on personal experience, introducing reverse grids into F1’s Sprint format won’t help the show on the track.

This year, there was growing dissatisfaction among teams, the media and fans about how this season’s six sprints have performed, and the way that Max Verstappen clinched the 2023 championship in a sprint rather than a full Grand Prix.

Discussions between F1 and the FIA are set to take place over the coming weeks as to what changes could be made to the sprint race format in 2024 to boost the show.

Reverse grids, cash prizes, parc ferme rule changes and alterations to the weekend timetable are all on the table.

“I think the concept is fine, but I think the execution, we can do a better job in making it more exciting for the viewer,” commented Red Bull team boss Christian Horner last weekend in Abu Dhabi.

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Along with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, Horner is a proponent of trialing reverse grids in the 30-minute race based on the results of the Grand Prix’s qualifying session and applying the reversal to either the first ten drivers like in F2 and F3 or to the entire field.

But Russell, who is no stranger to reverse grids, having experienced the scheme in both F3 and F2, explained why the concept would prove fruitless in F1.

“I won’t talk on behalf of the drivers, but my own personal view is I don’t think reverse grid races will work,” he said. “Purely because I learned this when I raced in Formula 3 and Formula 2.

“If you’ve got the 10 fastest cars, the most challenging car to overtake is the one who you’re fighting with.

“If you reverse that grid, you’re going to have the quickest car in 10th trying to overtake the second-quickest car in ninth, which is trying to overtake the third-quickest car which is in eighth.

“So each car is actually trying to overtake their most direct competitor.”


The Mercedes driver believes that a pecking order of slower and faster cars would turn into a processional DRS train.

“What you’ll probably actually find is it would just be a DRS train,” he said. “Because you might have – you know – a Williams leading from a Haas, who can’t quite get past, who’s leading from an Alpine, who’s then leading from a McLaren or whoever.

“So I think the concept won’t work.”

Russell reckons that tyres could be used as a differentiator to spice up the action in the Sprints.
“The best sprint races so far have been when there’s either been tyre degradation, like we saw in Qatar, and people on different strategies,” he said.

“Equally in Brazil, the tyres could only just make it to the 25 laps, whatever it was, and it was a good race.

“But most of the time in the sprint races, you put the medium tyre on and you’re just flat-out to the end and there’s no good racing.”

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