Last night, in my usual grab for motorsports news, I found an article on Autosport about the DTM series introducing an exhibition race for next season that will take the form of a stadium-based knockout challenge like the Race of Champions or a super special stage in rallying. The basic idea is that the cars race for three laps, each complete a pit stop, and then race for another three, with the fastest driver advancing to the next round and the other driver being eliminated. After reading the article, I started wondering: could such a format work for Formula 1?
I think it could. And I think it could be very exciting. At the end of the season, the top sixteen drivers (it only works with sixteen or thirty-two … anything in between gets messy) and the top eight teams get invited to this special race. Friday is a practice day, with Saturday being the qualifying runs. Drivers would get five laps to set their best time, with the draw being decided so that you race the next-fastest driver in the first heat. This would be to give everyone a relatively equal chance of progression, whilst still guaranteeing that the fastest driver would always win.
Then, on the Sunday, the drivers would square off: ten lap races (it would be a short circuit), with both having to complete a pit stop at some point. The fastest advances and the loser is eliminated until there are only two drivers left. For the final, both drivers would have to complete fifteen laps, and the pit stop would be fixed, the idea being to apply maximum pressure. You would also be able to have a teams event for the top eight teams in the championship: both drivers from each team take to the circuit, and the first team across the line after ten laps wins. Both drivers must pit at some point during those ten laps.
The biggest problem that I can see with this is the circuit itself. It would have to be short enough to keep the drivers on top of one another at all times, but long enough to allow them to go quickly. If the concept was well-received, I could see it being a regular fixture on the calendar, maybe as the first race after the European season and before the final away leg. The championship pecking order is firmly established by then, so it would apply even more pressue if it were points-scoring.