My Thoughts on Sprint Races

F1 news has been dominated this week with the announcement that the new ‘Sprint Qualifying’ format has been agreed by all parties in Formula 1- FOM, the FIA and all the teams. That’s right, all the teams actually agreed on something!! It’s a minor miracle this happened; but what actually is this new qualifying format?

Well FP1 on Friday will remain exactly the same, with a one-hour session in the morning. However, FP2 has now been replaced in the afternoon with the normal qualifying session that happens on a Saturday afternoon. This sets the grid for Saturday’s ‘sprint race’.  Saturday morning has the normal one-hour free practice session, followed by the sprint race in the afternoon. This is a 100 km race (a third of the distance of Sunday’s race) and sets the grid order for Sunday’s main race. Points will be awarded for the top three- 3pts for 1st, 2pts for 2nd and 1pt for 3rd. Sunday’s race remains unchanged, being the usual 300km in length.

 

It has now been confirmed that this will be trailed at Silverstone and at two other races- one more European race and one non-European race. It had been rumoured that the other two races would be Monza and Interlagos, but with Brazil’s Covid situation worsening, I unfortunately can’t see how the race is going to go ahead there. 

 

https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/articles/single-seaters/f1/2020-british-grand-prix-race-report-hamilton-holds-on-after-final-lap-blowout
 

Now, I think it’s great that Formula 1 are trying to implement changes too increase viewership. The casual viewer may tune in to the race on Saturday, enjoy what they see and become a bigger fan of the sport, maybe even watching qualifying the weekend after. For the hardcore fan, qualifying (which can be the best part of a race weekend) is still going ahead on the Friday and there is more racing action to enjoy.

 

Many hardcore fans are commenting saying that the regular race weekend format doesn’t need changing and this I do agree with. Qualifying on a Saturday is normally great and then sitting down and watching Sunday’s race is always a nice novelty, because it’s the only race of the weekend. We’d get bored very quickly if every race weekend consisted of two dull races (thank god this isn’t being trialed in France or Russia). But this format is never going to be the regular format, and I think the fact it’s only being trialed at 3 races this season shows that.

 

Hopefully, as F1 have seemingly picked tracks where overtaking is easy, both races on the weekend will be exciting and there will be lots of action and overtaking. With sprint races happening occasionally across the season, it will provide a bit of variety and excitement to the season and it will be a nice novelty to watch. As a fan who’s (hopefully) going to Silverstone this summer, I’m very much looking forward to the prospect of watching two F1 races.

 

As mentioned earlier, it is great that F1 are trying new things and are trying to implement things that will bring in new fans to this sport; just look at Drive to Survive and how that increased viewing figures for the 2020 season. However, I think this sprint qualifying needs tweaking and actually doesn’t go far enough in creating something different.

 

F1 needs to take a leaf out of F2’s book. In the F2 sprint races, the top 8 receives points. I’m really not sure why teams like McLaren and Ferrari agreed to F1’s format of only the top 3 drivers receiving points; like surely there is no point of them completing this race. Okay, it sets the order for Sunday’s race, but grid position isn’t as important at these tracks because overtaking is easier to do. Lando isn’t going to go for a risky move for P4, if it means he could damage his car and risk not completing in Sunday’s race because the team can’t complete the repairs in time. 

 

https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.formula-2-aitken-animates-home-crowd-with-sprint-race-victory-at.1jPChlsaIjqnliniwly1ew.html
 

I think to make it more attractive for the midfield teams, the top 8 drivers should all receive points- like the top 8 points system that was in F1 until 2010. The winner would get 10pts, second place 8pts, third place 6pts and so on, until the person in 8th receives 1pt. This isn’t a huge number of points for the top drivers and there isn’t a wide disparity between 1st and 2nd place. This means that the midfield teams have something to fight for, instead of the current situation which will realistically only affect Red Bull and Mercedes.

 

Furthermore, much like F2, F1 should introduce reverse grids to spice up the racing. Now this isn’t a complete reversal: I’m not saying that the person who wins the race should start in last, because that is just stupid. Instead, the top 8 is reversed meaning that if you win the race and get 10pts, then you start Sunday’s race in P8. Vice versa, if you get 1pt from finishing 8th, then you’ll start on pole on Sunday. This would add increased novelty to the sprint race weekends, as Sunday’s race will have a mixed grid and will be an interesting battle, as the faster cars will have to fight their way through the field to the front of the grid.

 

Hardcore fans may say “Oh, but you’re making it unfair for the team who’s the quickest, as they’ll be starting in 8th when they win,” but that’s not the case. Their competitors will also be starting further back and the cars will be able to overtake easily, as F1 have chosen tracks where overtaking is easy and occurs frequently. Furthermore, this will only happen at a select few race weekends, so won’t affect the traditional F1 race format.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/nov/14/lance-stroll-turkish-f1-gp-pole-in-wet-lewis-hamilton-sixth

This proposal would be more attractive for the midfield teams, will add more exciting action in the races and will lead to two different races, as the order for Sunday’s race will be completely different to that of Saturdays. This is the risk of F1’s sprint qualifying proposal; we could have a boring race on Saturday that sets up the grid for exactly the same boring race on Sunday. Hopefully, this isn’t the case as the tracks selected provides lots of overtaking, but it’s a risk nonetheless.

 

 

It’s great that F1 are coming up with new ideas and trying to add more excitement to the F1 season; they just need to go that little bit further to really make the sprint weekends an exciting novelty, that provides lots of action and overtaking.

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