Qualifying in Formula One? I say draw lots

John Inverdale
A VERY well argued email in response to last week's column in which I advocated summer rugby union accused me of being “a serial offender in the art of peddling idiotic and preposterous ideas” – a phrase worthy of Danny Baker, and as such I thought it deserved a wider audience.

So a decadent Sunday afternoon watching television yesterday prompted further flights of sporting fancy which will doubtless lead to similar correspondence.

Sebastian Vettel started the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the pit lane after being penalised in qualifying for one of those bizarre F1 rules that make little or no sense to anyone who doesn’t know their Red Bull from their Red Rum. The consequence of that decision was to engineer one of the most exciting races in years as the German, like a jinking outside half, weaved and danced his way through the field, ultimately finishing in third place to maintain his position as favourite for the world title.

So, why not just get rid of all that qualifying nonsense that is about as interesting as watching the knock-up before a tennis match, and draw lots each race for who starts where. Real drama as Hamilton’s name comes out of the hat to start on the eighth row of the grid, and then even greater drama as he spends the next two hours trying to get past everybody. Be honest: you’d watch it.

And then it was Liverpool against Newcastle, a game notable for one of the goals of the season from the brilliant Luis Suarez, and also for another very harsh Sunday sending-off. Last week Fernando Torres; this week Fabricio Coloccini for Newcastle – another occasion when the option of a 10-minute sin-bin would have been the perfect way of ensuring the punishment fitted the crime, and we didn’t have the inevitable tedious recriminations afterwards.

And then when the Liverpool crowd booed the fact that only four minutes of added time was being played at the end, they should have been directing their ire not at the officials on the day, but on the game’s Victorian authorities who still, in this digital age, refuse to stop the clock when players get injured or time-wasting tactics are employed, leaving all of us guessing how many arbitrary extra minutes are to be be sanctioned.

So altogether a productive Sunday on the preposterous ideas front. No qualifying in F1 races, and the introduction of countdown clocks and the sin-bin in football. Zero chance of any of it happening of course, but you have to keep on peddling...