F1 sprint races explained

Published: 17 July 2021

► New sprint format
► Hamilton fastest on Friday
► Will it work?

It’s finally happening. After months of debate, F1 is trialing an all-new qualifying format at this weekend’s British Grand Prix. Called F1 Sprint, it’s the biggest change the traditional three-day race weekend format – and the brainchild of F1’s managing director Ross Brawn. 

What is it?

The Formula One weekend has traditionally had two practice sessions on Friday, practice and qualifying on Saturday and a final, longer race on Sunday. This new F1 Sprint changes all that: first the one-hour qualifying session we’re used to is now Friday. That qualifying session then sets the order for a half an hour sprint race on Saturday – and that sprint race in turn sets the order for the full race on Sunday. 

The sprint race

The race will be just half an hour long, and the cars used will be identical to those seen in qualifying the day before. Teams will better understand them thanks to a practice session earlier on the Saturday, but minimal changes are allowed. There are no mandatory pit stops.

There are points though; in order to make drivers more bothered about the sprint race, the top three will be awarded points: three for a win, two for second and one for third. The result of the sprint race will then determine the order of Sunday’s race proper; DNFs will be put to the back while those who have a good Saturday will be able to capitalize on Sunday.  

Why?

Formula One has always had an issue with qualifying, and it’s tried several formats over the years – which we’ll get to later. This time, the focus seems to be on making the three-day-weekend stronger than before and making each session more meaningful. F1 bods believe qualifying now makes it worth watching on Friday, and a quick 30-min race – ideal for with short attention spans – should make Saturday more interesting too. Sunday remains sacred, for now.

Whether or not it’ll work remains to be seen. Now moved to Friday, the impact of qualifying seems lessened, while the sprint race has potential to be a conservative procession. After all, is worth frightening for three points on Saturday, when it means you start last on Sunday when the proper points are awarded?

We’ll find out just how good it is on Sunday evening.

What do you think of the new format so far? Let us know in the comments. 

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's Digital Editor, F1 and sim-racing enthusiast. Partial to clever tech and sports bikes.

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