Four-time Formula 1 world champion Alain Prost has spoken in opposition to the sport’s reverse-grid format idea, arguing Lewis Hamilton ‘s exploits last year should not be taken for granted in the long term.
Mercedes star Hamilton impressed at the 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix, where he finished fifth in sprint qualifying despite starting the session down in 20th.
He was handed another five-place penalty before the Sunday race but recovered from 10th to win a sensational event in Brazil.
That display led to many fans, pundits and even manufacturers championing the change as a more permanent feature moving forward.
Under reverse-grid rules, the order of start positions for sprint qualifying are flipped based on the pre-race championship positions, meaning the driver in first would begin last on the grid, and so forth.
Pool via REUTERS)
But Prost defended the more traditional system and argued those who lead the championship stakes should still be rewarded for those achievements.
“I am completely against the reverse grid [idea], for sure,” Prost said during a recent appearance on the In The Fast Lane podcast.
“Formula 1 should not accept that, even for the sprint.
“It’s not because Lewis [Hamilton] has done a fantastic race starting from last [in the Sprint Qualifying at the Brazilian Grand Prix] that we should think that it’s going to be the same every time and with every driver.
“That does not happen like this. So I am much more for the tradition, and Formula 1 has to stay the way it did.
“I must recognise that we have more and more young fans, with the Netflix series [Drive to Survive], and we have attracted some young people, [the] young generation, which is fantastic.
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“And they obviously like this kind of race that we have seen, the sprint race and Lewis’ race in Brazil, but Formula 1 has to stay more traditional.”
It would appear there is at least some support for the change among Formula 1’s lawmakers given there are expected to be six races that feature sprint qualifying in 2022.
That’s double the amount that featured the sprint format this past year, with the British, Italian and Brazilian Grands Prix having been used to trial the tweak in 2021.
The upcoming F1 season will also be the busiest of its kind to date, featuring a record-breaking 23 events before the campaign comes to a close with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 20.
Prost believes this is also too significant a step away from the sport’s traditions, insisting the extra fatigue on teams could lead to an inevitable drop in quality.
“Twenty-three races is a lot,” the 66-year-old added.
“Very difficult for the teams, very difficult for the people travelling, some of the mechanics, engineers, team principals that [are] running all the races, some not always in a good condition, if you can imagine that, and it’s got to be very, very difficult.
“And [F1] has to stay also exceptional. Twenty-three races is a lot. I remember, maybe not this year, but the first time we had three races in a row. And even for me, I was losing a little bit of interest in a way, because it’s too close.
“It’s a compromise between the number of races, number of fans and obviously the money that you can generate.”
Pool via REUTERS)
The Frenchman went on to suggest the cash injection from more lucrative sponsorship agreements could allow for fewer races in the season, although that doesn’t appear to be the direction in which F1 is heading.
The 2022 campaign is scheduled to get underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20, although drivers will return for pre-season testing almost a full month before that on February 23.
Red Bull ‘s Max Verstappen is the defending champion following his controversial win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, marking the first time since 2014 that a season will begin without Mercedes in the top spot.