A Glint at the Sprint

A new era of Formula 1 has been ushered in for 2021, Sprint Qualifying “races” have been approved for three races, meaning that it will be first time in Formula 1 that the Grand Prix is not the only race during a Championship weekend.

Why the change?

The general idea of the sprint races is to give the fans some more excitement over the course of a championship weekend. It is also hoped that the Sprint “races” are going to give the Grand Prix a mixed-up grid.

The podium will be reserved only for the Grand Prix winner during sprint race weekends.

With only three races being used for the new format, its clear that this is a test. If it brings some excitement, then it could be expanded to further Grand Prix in 2022.

The New Format

The standard format for a Grand Prix is ran over three days, Friday: Free Practice 1 and 2, Saturday: Free Practice 3, Qualifying, Sunday: Grand Prix.

This has been the format for several years, with Qualifying being split into three sections (Qualifying 1, Qualifying 2, and Qualifying 3), however with the new format the weekend schedule will be altered somewhat.

Friday

Free Practice will take place on the Friday and will last 60 minutes, with two sets of tires for the teams to use.  Qualifying will be held in the afternoon, with the teams having five sets of soft tires to use.

Saturday

Saturday will have FP2 and the Qualifying Sprint Race, teams will have one set of tires to use in FP2, Qualifying Sprint Race will be 100km in length with teams having two sets of tires to use.

Sunday

The Grand Prix is held on a Sunday, the format will remain the same, with the only difference being that teams will have two remaining sets of tires to use.

Parc Ferme

The Parc Ferme rules have been tightened to stop the teams from building a qualifying car, from the start of Qualifying on Friday the cars are in Full Parc Ferme, meaning that no major changes can the car. Some limited changes are allowed, with FIA confirming this in due course.

Qualifying Race

The sprint race will be around 100km if length, with no pit stop requirement, the race would be around 25 to 30 minutes. Points are awarded to the top 3, (first-3, second-2, third 1). Their will be no podium celebrations, although the drivers will be awarded a trophy, like the Pole Position award.

The results of the Qualifying Race will be used to determine the grid for the Grand Prix.

Financial Package

The idea for Sprint races had been agreed in principle for some time, however the teams were not happy with the financial package on offer to help negate the cost of running the cars in new race.

Formula 1 offered the teams an extra £54,000 ($75,000) for each of the Qualifying races, however the teams argued that this did not cover the cost running the cars in an extra race, as well as the cost of rebuilding a car in the event of an accident, which could see the financial implications running into hundreds of thousands.

Formula 1 teams proposed an increase of an extra $1million per qualifying race added to the budget cap. A compromise was reached where each team would receive £324,000 ($450,000) totals, along with an insurance scheme for teams if expensive parts are damaged during the extra race.

Desired Outcome

Formula 1’s decision to try the new format is in part d to add some extra jeopardy to the race weekend, along with the desire to try and mix things up. Other motorsport series, including DTM has seen a marked increase in Viewership when sprint races were added.  it is also hoped to add some competitive to Friday running, now Friday is used as practice session and data gathering for the teams.

DTM has seen an increase in TV viewership after adding sprint races

Weekend Excitement v Purists

Personally, I am not sure about the sprint race idea, I have watched Formula 1 since the early 90’s, the Grand Prix is the special part of the weekend, it is what look forward too, granted some races have not lived up to the expectations, some have surpassed them, however for me the culmination of the weekend is the Grand Prix.

I do have to applaud Formula 1 for trying something different, they want and need to get more eyes on Formula 1. Maybe I need to give it a shot, however I am not convinced yet….