‘Max-Lewis battle would end reverse grid talk’

Date published: March 8 2021 - Jamie Woodhouse

Max Verstappen Lewis Hamilton

FIA president Jean Todt says that if other teams did a better job, there would be no need to artificially stop Mercedes.

Formula 1 is currently in an unprecedented era of dominance with Mercedes on a run of seven Drivers’ and Constructors’ title doubles in a row.

So, understandably, Formula 1 has brought in several changes to try and shake up the order. From 2022, the new generation of Formula 1 cars will arrive, while in 2020 the FIA banned engine qualifying modes which at the time was seen as an attempt to rein in the Mercedes power unit.

In addition, there is now a $145million-per-season budget cap brought into play by the FIA, starting as of 2021.

And another more controversial subject was reverse grids, something which Todt was completely against.

“Why I’m against reverse grids is because it is artificial,” he said in an interview with the Cambridge Union.

“In a race weekend you spend two days to be as competitive as possible, to have a good starting position. So why if you are the quickest should you start at the back of the grid?

“It would be completely against the interest of the sport, against the nature of the sport. So if we can find, and we are trying to, an innovative way of creating more excitement, a better show, we will do it, but not at the cost of damaging the sport.”

Sir Lewis Hamilton has won the Drivers’ Championship in six of the last seven seasons, although what many fans are still waiting to see is a real title fight between the Mercedes driver and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman is seen as the future star of Formula 1, but Todt said that if Red Bull were able to put Verstappen into the title picture, or if other teams like Ferrari did a better job and stepped up to Mercedes, there would be no need to artificially play with the order.

“We can only hope things can be more open in the future and not only for Ferrari – it is also good to see Red Bull challenge Mercedes,” he explained.

“To see Max Verstappen being able to challenge Lewis Hamilton, because that would avoid having to think about reverse grids.

“Why do we think about reverse grids? Because we try to find an artificial way of stopping dominance, and we can have a fair way of stopping dominance if other teams did a better job.”

Ferrari Mercedes Red Bull

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One concept currently on the table is sprint races to replace qualifying on selected race weekends, and Todt confirmed this.

“There is the intention to have a kind of ‘super qualifying’ at two or three grands prix already starting this year,” he said.

“So we are happy to do something, but we don’t want to denature the sport.”

Arguably, though, the biggest step the FIA has taken towards levelling the playing field is the introduction of a budget cap, but Todt warned achieving this goal is not so easy.

“I would say the first big step was to decide to implement the cost cap, which is a kind of game-changer,” said the FIA chief.

“We did that in three steps – this year it is $145million, next year will be $140million and the year after will be $135million, without including the engine development and some other parameters which are well defined and listed.

“So clearly the cost cap is affecting mainly three teams – Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. The other seven teams are not hurt today by the cost cap, so whether it means it will create less discrepancy between the small, medium and big teams, you don’t achieve that very easily.

“It means you need to get rid of quite a lot of people to follow the cost cap regulation, so it takes a certain time. But I will say the first step to decide and implement it has been done, and it is a great success.”

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