Mercedes rejected F1's qualifying changes – Wolff explains why

Toto Wolff says Mercedes blocked plans to introduce a reverse-grid qualifying race in some events next year to “preserve the DNA” of Formula 1.

Plans led by F1 motorsport director Ross Brawn would have seen three races operate with the new qualifying system next year, with a sprint race’s starting order determined by reversing the world drivers’ championship standings.

However, given the proximity to next season, the proposal needed unanimous approval from the teams to be passed and Brawn revealed over the Mexico GP weekend that two had reneged.

Wolff confirmed that Mercedes were one of those two teams, but rejected suggestions that he had done so in order to protect the Silver Arrows’ dominance of F1.

“I did it because we have a responsibility in F1 to preserve the DNA,” said Wolff.

“It felt wrong, not in order to preserve an advantage because maybe it would have been good for us as Ferrari would have been behind us when you look at the current qualifying pace.

“But I voted against it because when you’re looking at the 100m final in the Olympics, you’re not making Usain Bolt start five metres behind just to make it an exciting finish.”

The proposal could yet become ratified for the 2021 season, with a simple majority required, and Brawn expressed his frustration at the delay.

He said: “I thought it was a fascinating contest and the drivers were a little bit nervous, which I can understand, but we were just asking for the opportunity for three races to try the format.

“If it doesn’t work, we put our hands up; if it does work, great. If it’s something in between, we can work with [that] just to help us develop the format of racing, and it’s frustrating that we’ve not been able to do that but I think that’s – unfortunately – the classic problem with Formula 1.”