Formula 1 team bosses don’t believe there are any major hurdles left facing the Sprint Qualifying concept that will be tried out this season.
Three venues are set to trial a sprint race — known as Sprint Qualifying — on a Saturday, with the starting order defined by a Friday qualifying session. The finishing order of Sprint Qualifying will then set the grid for the grand prix itself, with Silverstone lined up to host one of the trials alongside what are expected to be two from Montreal, Monza and Interlagos.
After a meeting of the team bosses with Stefano Domenicali and Ross Brawn during the Bahrain test, Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto says the plans look close to being finalized.
“A positive meeting — we are obviously happy to support the concept,” Binotto said. “There are still a few details that need to be addressed that we are discussing and working on, but I don’t think they will be stoppers. So it’s only a matter of analyzing the proposal in all the aspects but we are working on those things and hopefully in the next few days it can be announced.”
In order to address items like the impact on power unit quotas and cost cap restrictions, teams have been heavily involved in the process, something Christian Horner says shows the idea has been thoroughly thought out.
“The principle of it, from a promoter’s point of view I understand why they’re trying to do it,” said Red Bull Racing’s team principal. “There’s always a million reasons not to do something. But I think the concept is interesting. I think the way they’re looking at introducing it is reasonably responsible over three events. So why don’t we try it? Let’s give it a go.
“There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes with the team managers and the sporting directors to make sure the right regulations are in place for it. Hopefully it will be an interesting spectacle. But if it’s something the promoters want to do, then we’re happy to support.”
Mercedes was firmly against reverse grid races but team boss Toto Wolff — who called reverse grids a “gimmick” because they penalize those who are doing the best job — says Sprint Qualifying is a different matter.
“Speaking for our team and hearing the opinion, we are probably more on the purist side,” Wolff said. “We appreciate the 70-year old history, grand prix on a Sunday. But I would agree that one thing is for sure, by having a little race on Saturday, we will have a large increase in audiences. I’ve seen it in DTM, in touring cars that we were almost able to double the TV audiences with a second race.
“I think if done in a responsible way, tracks that you can overtake without putting too much gimmicks to it — reverse grid is absolutely something we wouldn’t support — I think we should give it a go and be really honest with ourselves. What was the financial impact and impact on the eyeballs that we were able to generate more, what’s the show factor?
“As Christian said, there’s many pros and cons. I think if we all stick our heads together, we can find a solution of mutual benefit. F1 is what we do together, and we need to entertain the people.”
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl says the most important thing was ensuring the proposals still reward the best team and driver performances.
“We are very supportive to give it a go, as long as it doesn’t artificially change the pecking order in F1 — which it doesn’t do, the current proposal,” Seidl said. “I think there have been some good meetings together with F1, the FIA in the last weeks to define the details, because the devil is always in the details. But I think we have a good proposal on the table now. Then it’s down to F1 to broadcast how we look like.”