Wolff: F1 needs to try “interesting” sprint race experiment in 2021

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says F1 needs to trial its “interesting” sprint race experiment in 2021 despite the controversy it will create. 
Wolff: F1 needs to try “interesting” sprint race experiment in 2021

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Formula 1 needs to trial its “interesting” sprint race experiment in 2021 despite the controversy it will create.

F1 is currently working to establish a new format to introduce at three rounds during the 2021 season in a bid to spice up the show and create added entertainment as part of an evaluation process of possible future changes.

Under the proposal, qualifying would move back to a Friday slot and replace FP2, before a short sprint race takes place on Saturday to determine the grid for Sunday’s main grand prix.

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The plan was discussed during the most recent meeting of the F1 Commission and teams are largely understood to be in favour of trialing the idea at select events this year.

Wolff was firmly against F1’s previous reverse grid proposal which ultimately failed to get off the ground after three unsuccessful attempts because he believed it would create fake results.

“Reverse grids have no place in any sport that is based on measuring and competing in the true sense of sport,” Wolff said during Mercedes’ launch of its W12 challenger on Tuesday.

“We are entertainment but the moment it slides to show and Hollywood you will lose a lot of credibility as a sport overall. So not every decision that aims to increase the entertainment factor is right for Formula 1.

“It always needs to be balanced between the DNA of true sports – best man and best machine wins – and what the fans like to see.”

But Wolff backs F1’s latest idea and reckons the sport could benefit from introducing extra races to the weekend schedule, citing the DTM’s success at attracting larger TV audiences.

“The sprint races are an interesting format in my opinion and an experiment that I believe we need to do,” he added.

“I have seen in other racing series in DTM that the audiences almost doubled with having a Saturday and Sunday race and that can be monetised.

“I think if we were to do this without some interference to create a fake show, then there is merit to try it.”

Wolff accepted that the revised format will “create controversy”, but feels now is a good time to experiment ahead of F1’s new era of sweeping regulations in 2022.

“I’m not sure we will like the outcome, because qualifying as we have it today is a real qualifying and a sprint race always bears the risk of damage which can be costly and a huge impact on Sunday’s grid and the ability to perform,” he explained.

“For sure it is going to create controversy too, but giving it a try for three races in 2021 in the right framework, we will be up for it.”

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