F1 adopting sprint format at British Grand Prix
Formula 1 is making a break with history at this weekend’s British Grand Prix, with the introduction of a new weekend format that includes a second race in addition to the main event.
It will be the first time in history that the grand prix is not the only F1 race on a world championship weekend.
So-called ‘sprint qualifying’ is a shorter race on Saturday afternoon that will decide the grid for the main race on Sunday.
The starting order for the shorter race – which will be just over 100km in length, or about one third of the distance of a grand prix – will be set in a normal qualifying session shifted to Friday afternoon.
The hope is that it will spice up the action, add extra interest and provide more competitive jeopardy through the weekend.
F1 managing director Ross Brawn says: “I am very optimistic. I think it will be a very good event, a great race.
“And I think the drivers will go for it, because do we think Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are going to have a different mindset going into that first corner, because it’s a sprint? I don’t think so. But that’s to be established, and that’s what we need to find out.”
Championship points will be awarded to the top three finishers – three for first, two for second and one for third.
In general, drivers have given the idea a cautious welcome.
Many have said that it is a good idea to try new ideas, and that they will reserve judgement on the merits of this particular system until after they have tried it.
Williams driver George Russell said: “It’s an interesting concept and we’ve got to give it a chance. If it brings action and excitement then that is for the best interests of everyone.”
And four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who drives for Aston Martin, said: “It makes the weekend a bit more intense. You have to come up with your set-up fairly quickly after just hitting the track. We’ll see if people like it.”
The hope is that introducing a second, shorter race will increase both audience interest in and the variability of a grand prix weekend.
The idea for the latest version of sprint-race qualifying has developed after the original plans for a reverse-grid sprint qualifying race – with the field starting in reverse championship order – were blocked last year by Mercedes.
The hope is that the new structure of the race weekend could be a positive change for F1 itself and race organisers, by increasing spectator interest and potentially income for both.
The ‘sprint qualifying’ will be over 17 laps. Tyre choice for the start is free, and there is no obligation to make a pit stop for a different compound, as there is on Sunday.
The grid for the sprint qualifying will be set by a traditional-style qualifying session, which has been moved to Friday from Saturday. (BBC)