Marko: Qualifying experiment plans are absurd

Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko has slammed Liberty Media’s plans to experiment with short qualifying sprint races during the 2020 Formula 1 season, in the ongoing quest to “spice up the show” and with it tinker with the sport’s long-standing traditions.

It is now clear that at two or three grands prix next year, the order of the grid for Sunday’s main race will be determined on the basis of a short sprint race held on Saturday. The grid for that race will be in reverse order of the world championship.

“These plans are absurd,” Red Bull’s Marko told Servus TV. “If you did that on circuits like Monaco, Singapore or Barcelona it would be pointless because overtaking is difficult or even impossible. You wouldn’t have to watch because nothing would change anyway.”

Marko also said he is opposed to such ideas on principle, “Our sport is supposed to be like football or tennis, where the basic conditions have not changed fundamentally over the past 30, 40, 50 years.

“The spectators must understand the rules of a grand prix. And in the end, the best man should win. There should be no artificial interventions.”

Marko said Liberty Media should instead try to make F1 more exciting through smart technical regulations, “What we should do is come up with regulations to equalise opportunities. Above all, the importance of aerodynamics must be reduced. Today, certain races are boring because of how difficult it is to overtake.”

The Austrian former F1 winner is not alone with his sentiments, as four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel, a traditionalist, who called the ideas “bullshit” which echoes many of his peers.

The idea of fiddling with qualifying received a tepid welcome from the F1 world, which prompted the sport’s motorsport director Ross Brawn to shed light on the thinking behind the experiments.

Brawn said last week, “To try to clarify the situation and avoid misunderstandings, there are discussions about experimenting in 2020 with changes to the qualifying format with the aim of making a Grand Prix weekend a little less predictable.

“I want to emphasise the word ‘experiment’ because this is what it is about – a small sample to establish the directions for the future. We are all too aware that the current qualifying format is exciting and spectacular but what is also important is to make sure that the race, the highlight of the weekend, is the best it can be.

And since, no matter how many simulations you run, there’s no measure more accurate than the track, Formula 1, the teams and the FIA are studying the possibility of a revised format for a small number of events for next season.

“With stable sporting and technical regulations in place for 2020, it is the perfect time for such evaluations. No decision has been taken yet because we are finalising all the details, but feedbacks received so far are, in the majority, positive.

“I understand that the purists might be concerned, but we should not be afraid to conduct an experiment otherwise we cannot progress. We don’t want change for the sake of change; we want to improve our sport, because, rather like the development of the cars, if you stand still you risk slipping backwards,” added Brawn.

Last Month, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto was quoted saying that “all the teams” had already agreed that from 2020, reverse-grid qualifying sprint races will instead take place on Saturdays.

But it then emerged that Binotto had jumped the gun, because the teams, Liberty Media and the FIA are still discussing whether and how to change qualifying.

“The qualifying format has raised a lot of questions, but in my opinion, everything works fine,” Red Bull boss Horner told reporters in Singapore.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the qualifying format won’t change at all, as there is speculation that that F1 will conduct a trial of the qualifying race idea next year at three grands prix which, apparently, all the teams have agreed to do.

Big Question: Should F1 experiment with the Grand Prix weekend format to improve the show?