Mercedes helped defeat F1’s proposed radical sprint qualifying proposal
Unanimous vote was needed to make sprint qualifying a reality for 2020
Mercedes Formula 1 team principal Toto Wolff represented one of two teams to vote against Liberty Media’s proposal to test a radical new qualifying format in 2020.
Ross Brawn, the F1 sporting director, said the plan was to trial a new format next year over three Grand Prix weekends. The idea was to base qualifying on a reverse-grid sprint race. A unanimous vote was needed to make the change for 2020.
“We were just asking for the opportunity for three races to try the format,” Brawn said. “The teams initially said they would agree with it, and then two teams put their hand up at the last meeting and said they wouldn’t agree with it.”
Indeed, Mercedes was one of those teams. While F1 didn’t make the vote public, it is widely thought that another top team—Ferrari, perhaps—also objected.
“I did it because we have to respect the DNA of Formula 1. It is our responsibility,” Wolff told France’s L’Equipe. “It wasn’t to keep a supposed advantage, because we probably would have found ourselves in front of Ferrari, based on their current pace in qualifying. But when you watch the 100-meter final at the Olympic Games, Usain Bolt doesn’t start 5 meters behind the others to improve the show.”
Liberty Media could revive the sprint race idea for 2021, when it has more control over the sporting regulations.
Brawn admitted that it is the “current governance system” in F1 that thwarted Liberty’s 2020 plans. It is rumored that from 2021 onward, a simple majority vote could result in rule changes.
“It’s frustrating that we’ve not been able to do that, but I think that’s, unfortunately, the classic problem with Formula 1,” Brawn said of the 2020 proposal.