Why Fans Should Like Sprint Race Qualifying in Formula 1

·4 min read
Photo credit: Bryn Lennon - Getty Images
Photo credit: Bryn Lennon - Getty Images

From Autoweek

  • The FIA Formula 1 Commission announced several changes for F1 on Thursday, including an engine development freeze for 2022 and a race for Portugal in 2021.

  • 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.

Formula 1 unveiled a few ideas today ... and they're not all bad.

While the list of changes announced on Thursday by the FIA Formula 1 Commission still needs final approval from the FIA World Council for confirmation, items on the list are expected to be rubber stamped.

These will include the plan to hold a Grand Prix—currently listed as TBA on the schedule—in Portugal, although the final agreement is still subject to contract with the promoter. The sport's top officials are is still determined to go ahead with a 23-race schedule as planned.

Other major items include an engine freeze for 2022, and the move of the new regulations from 2026 to 2025. The teams have unanimously agreed to the proposals, and that means that everyone can get on with the business in hand.

What will be wanted from the new regulations is already largely agreed with the goals being to have environmental sustainability, with social and automotive relevance and, importantly, fully sustainable fuel and a significant cost reduction while remaining a powerful and emotive engine. The goal is to pull in more manufacturer.

There were also discussions about salary caps for drivers, but no decisions as yet.

There will be more testing allowed in 2021 so that teams can get a better understanding of the new 18-inch Pirelli tires. The number of testing days allowed for Pirelli to do this work has been increased from 25 to 30, and these will be distributed between the teams.

Sprint Races Coming to F1?

The most interesting point comes from the discussions about race weekend formats with draft plans for a Saturday Sprint Race replacing traditional qualifying sessions. Talk is that the new format making its debut in Canada. The same Sprint Race format would also be used for the Italian and Brazilian Grands Prix.

What is the Sprint Race exactly? Well, FP2 (second of the traditional three practice sessions) will be replaced with a qualifying session for the Sprint Race. The Sprint Race will replace the traditional qualifying with the outcome dictating the grid, although it is not clear exactly how that will work. It will not, however, result in some kind of reverse grid.

One idea making the rounds to spice up the Sprint Race is that the race will award points for the first eight finishers, but those points will be a reduced total compared to the main race.

Is the Sprint Race a good idea? Well, I suppose that depends on how you look at things.

Fans should love it.

The teams might not be overly keen in that if you damage your car or retire from the Sprint Race it will compromise your efforts in the main event. The could result in a net loss of points for the weekend. It means a bad weekend becomes a really bad weekend.

At least the horrible idea of reversing grids is gone.

We don’t yet know what this will mean in terms of tires or pit stops, but a Sprint Race by nature is not a long race and so it would likely be an event without any stops. The tire allocations need not change much, and a shorter race means that the tires can be softer because they have less distance to go.

The logic behind at Sprint Race is that it will help to engage more fans (and drive up the TV numbers) because these days free practice sessions are not really watched by anyone except the really passionate. The change to a Sprint Race format would make FP2 a qualifying session and the qualifying becomes a race in itself, giving fans one more thing to watch.

On the negative, no FP2 session would mean fewer opportunities for young drivers to try out cars in FP1 as the regular drivers will want to use the time. It is also not clear what will happen in FP3, which I am sure will still be wanted on Saturday morning, before the short race. This also means that the race promoters have more to sell to the fans and so can maintain their prices because they will be offering more.

Is it a good idea? Basically, yes, it works for the fans. There will be more action, but it will create a situation where those who have incidents in the Sprint Race will suffer for it—and so it will have some impact on the ability to score points on a regular basis.