Former F1 Boss Bernie Ecclestone Offers His Own Twist on Sprint Race Qualifying

Global Motorsports Media
·3 min read
Photo credit: Bryn Lennon - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bryn Lennon - Getty Images

From Autoweek

  • Discussions continue about a sprint race that would replace qualifying to determine the starting grid at three race weekends in 2021.

  • The changes await final, and expected, ratification by the FIA World Council.

  • The spring race format is currently slated to be tried at Canada, Imola and Brazil.

Former Formula 1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone says that the idea of having a sprint race on Saturday of race weekend to determine the grid for Sunday's race is fine, but he has a plan to take that idea to another level.

The novel format, where a short race instead of traditional Saturday qualifying, is slated to determine the starting order at three race in 2021, including races at Canada, Imola and Brazil.

Photo credit: STEFAN ADELSBERGER - Getty Images
Photo credit: STEFAN ADELSBERGER - Getty Images

So far, F1 teams are backing the proposed change, one that is awaiting final FIA approval.

"If you never try anything, you'll never know what will work," says Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. "DNA is important, but we have to admit that some of the races are boring. Abu Dhabi was great for us, but probably pretty monotonous for the crowd. At the end of the day, Formula 1 is entertainment and sports fans have plenty of others to choose from.

"If this doesn't bring the desired results, we can always back away from the experiment."

Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner, however, is worried that the plan includes awarding actual championship points to the top eight finishers of the sprint race.

"The top teams will just get more and more points and the world champion will be decided by the summer," Steiner said.

Meanwhile, Ecclestone has an even deeper concern. He also proposes a solution.

"This is an old idea that was discussed in my day," Ecclestone, 90, told Auto Motor und Sport when asked about sprint races. "The key is to get it right. People will only watch the main race if something else will happen compared to the sprint. But why should Sunday be any different to Saturday if the result of the sprint race is the grid for the main race?

"I think you need to give points for the sprint and then turn the grid around for the main race. So if the winner of the sprint gets 15 points, he has to go back 15 starting places on Sunday. That is the only way to keep the tension high. My system makes both races exciting.

"(Teams) will have to say on Saturday, 'Should I win the sprint but lose grid positions or is it better to be sixth in the sprint and then start fourth in the main race?' That could be the way to get the most points, so there would be a lot of tactics like that."

Ecclestone thinks his idea would also have commercial considerations for the teams.

"You would get people on the front row on Sunday who would otherwise never be there," he said. "That gets a lot more attention for their sponsors.

"It would be better entertainment that everyone benefits from."