F1 Should Do Gimmicks Properly Or Not Bother At All – WTF1

F1 Should Do Gimmicks Properly Or Not Bother At All

In a new weekly opinion column on WTF1.com, the team and special guests share their honest thoughts on certain aspects of motorsport. The first of these columns is from WTF1 Founder Tom Bellingham about F1’s suggestion of introducing Sprint Races.

Change; the one thing F1 fans fear most. Whether it’s introducing a new safety feature, a change to hybrid engines or even a new qualifying system, if F1 discusses change, you’ll be sure as hell every F1 fan on social media is going to have a strong opinion about it. 

You can’t really blame us. Deep down, it’s just our love for the sport, and we want what’s best for it.

When something changes in F1 it usually starts with a lot of social media outrage, the idea is then pegged back a bit and then it’s eventually introduced to a fair bit of complaining until we just get used to it and it becomes normal.

The words always thrown around are ‘tradition’ and ‘DNA’ but what is traditional F1? Is it how F1 was in the 1950s or just how you remember it in your childhood? Unlike other sports, F1 changes like no other, it’s always evolving. If it hadn’t, we’d still be racing around hay bales on airfields in aluminium tubs.

I may not have been alive to watch F1 in the 50s (I’m not that old despite the jokes) but 2021 will be my 25th season watching this sport, and in those years it’s changed A LOT. 

The sport is now full of these supposed ‘gimmicks.’ 

We have different tyre compounds to make the racing better, DRS to help cars overtake, the cars are always being changed and adapted to make the racing better. So, where do we draw the line on what makes it lose its DNA?

In the 25 years I’ve been watching F1, qualifying has changed a lot too. It used to be an hour session where you could set your lap times, then came one-lap qualifying and in 2006 they introduced the three-part knockout system we have today.

I’m sure many people reading this will probably think the current qualifying system we have is pretty good, right? But you just know that if social media was around when it was introduced, there’d be an online outrage about how ‘F1 are messing with qualifying’ and that ‘knockout qualifying sounds like something NASCAR would do as a gimmick to make things more exciting’. 

For me, the current knockout qualifying format is what F1 does a lot with their ‘gimmicks’, and that’s playing it too safe and not just embracing the fact that they want to make it more entertaining and unpredictable. Sure, it does mix up the order for one race every few seasons, but the fastest car still ends up on pole for the most part. 

No doubt some of you are now thinking ‘Well the fastest car should end up on pole’ and that’s fair enough, but if F1 are going to mess with things so much and essentially get the same result, why bother?

This is precisely what seems to have happened with the rumoured format for trying a Sprint Race at a few rounds this year. It’s a gimmick in the sense that you’re changing the “traditional” format of a Grand Prix weekend, but essentially there’s no real reason it’s going to be any more entertaining with it.

If you haven’t read yet, F1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali has said ‘reverse grid’ talk is over, but they still want to introduce this Saturday Sprint Race. 

So, let’s get this straight. You have a shorter race with no reverse grid element – which will likely see Mercedes qualify on pole – and then win a shorter distance race on Saturday, only to do exactly the same the day after but in a longer race? What’s the point!?

Let’s make one thing clear; I actually like the idea of a Sprint Race. The more we get to see F1 cars racing and not just lapping each other is for the better in my opinion, but the lack of reverse grid or variety to this race just makes the whole thing pointless for me.

All this idea seems to do is make the main event less special. It doesn’t offer any kind of mixed-up order or unpredictability and gives the fans reason to complain about its gimmicky nature. 

Oh, and not to mention that it just gives the top teams even more of an advantage as they’ll score even more points during a race weekend!

I for one am disappointed the reverse grid proposal has now seemingly been scrapped. We could get to see a thrilling short race where the top teams have to fight to the front, with a traditional full-length Grand Prix the following day to enjoy. We know reverse grids work, we saw it in Monza last year! 

Both this reverse grid proposal and the Saturday Sprint Race idea received mixed reviews from fans. Both will get their fair share of criticism for being a gimmick, so why not introduce the one that actually sounds entertaining? 

Fans get used to change eventually, whether it’s the Halo, a new logo, the hybrid engines or a new qualifying format. So F1, if you’re going to keep adding these gimmicks, stop bottling it and just go for it. 

Do you agree with Tommy? Let us know in the comments below.

5 thoughts on “F1 Should Do Gimmicks Properly Or Not Bother At All

  • Richie Kippers says:

    I thought I’d comment here for once rather than the bloodbath that is social media sometimes!

    I wholeheartedly agree with Tommy here. Either do it, or don’t. No point introducing a half baked attempt. I see it all the time at work where people change stuff for the sake of change.

  • Correct, there is zero point to the sprint race idea. Not to mention, much like how Mercedes said they would vote against reverse grid races because it would disadvantage them, I’m sure Williams/Haas would vote against sprint races. They won’t be scoring points anyway (we assume) and this format would limit potentially crucial practice time for them. It’s never getting voted in, and rightly so, F1 needs closer racing, not more races with the same result… But slightly shorter

  • Why not make the Sprint race a random draw where the lowest rank drive gets the 1st pick… That way he has a 1 in 20 chance to be on pole.. 2nd last gets the next pick and so on..


  • I think it’s important to make sure that the “gimmicks” align with the wider direction of the sport, and actually addresses an underlying problem within the sport.

    From what I gather the qualifying changes down the years were attempting to get cars on track for the entire qualifying hour, rather than to shake things up “for the lulz”. The single open session basically had nothing happen for the first 45 minutes, one-shot qualifying was unfair on those going first as the track hadn’t rubbered in, and the order was set by finishing position last race or championship position, so the slow & unreliable cars would always be slow and only really existed to clean the track for the faster cars. The current qualifying model persists because it gets the cars on track all session, it’s more exciting to watch as a spectacle, and it doesn’t inherently disadvantage any given team.

    In my opinion, a reverse grid race does not fix the underlying issue of fast teams are too fast & reliable and slower teams can’t catch up or benefit from retirements. It is also counter to several of the key fundamental values of the sport, including safety.

    The sport wants to be a sport, and the pinnacle of motorsport in particular. It also wants to be the safest it can be, relevant in the modern era with technology, sustainability etc. as well as cost-effective to encourage more teams in the sport. As far as the sport being a “spectacle” and “entertaining”, that can be contradictory to the aim to be a sport if done incorrectly. The spectacle can come from exciting races and uncertainty around who will win the race/championship, but if it feels too “artificial” then the fans won’t believe the results.

    Compare DRS, which is essentially an artificial overtaking aid to help reduce the “performance differential” required for an overtake, to the Formula E “fan boost” where the fans/bots provisioned by the teams can give drivers a temporarily faster car. If something as arbitrary as that cost Lewis the title because essentially the world was sick of him winning, could that honestly be argued as being legitimate?

    Take all of the big title defining moments in recent years, Lewis crashing in China in ’07, Glock in ’08, Alonso & Webber at Abu Dhabi in ’10, Lewis’ engine in ’16, Vettel binning it in Germany in ’18, imagine if they weren’t seen as “emergent” and were somehow artificially induced for the entertainment. Going back even further, there’s still people that believe the FIA unfairly handed out titles to Prost & Schumacher in 89 & 94. I guess what I’m asking is “if F1 is as artificial as wrestling or Mario-kart, would the fans take it seriously enough as a sport to care?”

    On the safety side, I look at the reverse grid suggestion as a literal car crash waiting to happen, in 2021 you’d probably have Nikita Mazepin on pole in a tractor. The slower cars at the front are likely to be very aggressive in their defence, with faster cars being very aggressive in trying to get past.

    Can the idea of a reverse grid be implemented in such a way that it aligns with the “safety” aim (no frantic smashes etc.), the “cost effective” aim (repair costs from the aforementioned crashes, increased mileage of components etc.) and the overall integrity of the sport. On the last point, when would grid penalties be applied? Can I take a 300 grid place penalty in qualifying to get a fresh engine every race, I’d be in the same position doing that as I would be qualifying on pole. Or what’s to stop me setting the slowest qualifying time possible to start the reverse grid race on pole and hoping I can hang on for pole on the Sunday?

    What I’d suggest is with proposals like this, is do it in the F1 eSports championship first, work out the kinks in there where there’s no safety risks, and the reputation of the sport won’t be compromised as the prevailing perception is “it’s just a video game” already, then make a go/no-go decision on whether it’s fit for IRL racing.

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