It is safe to say, nobody likes half-baked gimmicks to try and ‘improve’ the spectacle in Formula One. Recently, the sport proposed a sprint race qualifying format, which received unanimous criticism from the drivers. Even former F1 drivers like Jacques Villeneuve has slammed this ridiculous suggestion.
Similarly, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen compared the reverse-grid Saturday race idea to “American wrestling”.
Speaking to Championat, Villeneuve admitted, “It’s fun, but it’s not Formula 1, it’s not a race. This will turn a professional sport into a game. If they want it, ok, but there will be almost no sport in it.”
“I do not think changes should be made to make the show more fun on TV. Racing should remain a sport. There are some unshakeable foundations that should not be changed.”
In fact, Villeneuve was perplexed at Liberty Media’s need to make such a drastic change. Villeneuve confessed that the racing in Formula One has rarely been good. He cited the example of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and the Senna and Prost era.
While most believed that racing in those days, was fun, but Senna and Prost lapped everybody. He claimed that even in that era, there was little to no overtaking.
On a parting note, he said, “Or is it that in our era we need something new every five seconds? What I do know is that if we move Formula 1 in this direction, we will destroy it.”
The last time the FIA tried to introduce such a gimmick, was in 2016, with the knockout qualifying. The qualifying procedure was heavily revised two weeks before the season began. While the three-period format, introduced in 2006 remained the same, there was a progressive “knock-out” style of elimination.
Unfortunately, it flopped dramatically and left the door wide open for criticism of the format at the opening rounds. As a result, the format was scrapped after two races, and the normal system was reintroduced from the next race onwards.