Videos by OutKick
They weren’t necessarily broken, but Formula 1 is fixing sprint weekends anyway.
The series announced changes to the sprint weekend format days before this season’s first sprint race on the Baku City Circuit ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
For the past two seasons, sprint weekend schedules looked like this:
- Friday: Free Practice Session and Qualifying
- Saturday: Free Practice Session and Sprint Race
- Sunday: Grand Prix
Although, that post-qualifying practice session was always a little weird. Maybe that was the reason for the changes which look like this with the addition of something called a “Sprint Shootout”
The sprint weekend schedule will now include only one free practice session. In place of FP2 is the Sprint Shootout. It amounts to a second qualifying session that will set the grid for the sprint race and has no bearing on the Grand Prix.
The Sprint Shootout is a three-round qualifying session with slightly abbreviated Q1, Q2, and Q3. 5 cars will be eliminated in Q1, with 5 more being eliminated in Q2. There are also mandatory tires in each round with Q1 and Q2 requiring mediums and Q3 requiring softs.
Previously, Friday’s qualifying set the grid for the sprint race and the results of the sprint race set the grid for the Grand Prix.
Are you confused? So am I?
Formula 1 Just Removed The Most Interesting Thing About Sprint Races
I’ll wait to pass total judgment on this format until we experience it. That said, I do have one big gripe already: the sprint race has no bearing on the Grand Prix grid.
The thing that made sprint races interesting was the effect that they had on the grid for the Grand Prix. Teams could be rewarded by getting aggressive while others could plummet down the grid with a mistake. It was a high-risk, high-reward situation, and that made things interesting.
Now the Sprint race is a way for the top 8 finishers to steal a couple of extra points… and that’s about it. Yeah, it’s an extra session of racing, but it’s just that with no additional substance to it.
Considering the sprints are just 100km there’s not much time to move through the field. So, for teams starting well outside the top 8, why try? There’s not enough time to grab a point or two, and getting into a racing incident could jeopardize your position on Sunday if parts need to be replaced. Plus, those repairs will go against the cost cap.
Sprint races were usually raced pretty hard for this reason, especially in the midfield and below. Now, I think we might get a bit of a parade, especially around a circuit like Baku. While I think it’s an amazing track, it’s not the greatest for overtaking, which could make a sprint dull especially if teams are playing it safe.
I get they wanted to get rid of that second practice session and add something to Friday’s schedule that had some meaning.
If they had asked me (they didn’t), I would’ve suggested keeping the points for P1 through P8, but allowing teams to improve their starting position for the Grand Prix.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle