F1 Sprint: Is it Worth It?

During the Silverstone weekend we saw the very first F1 Sprint but did the controversial new format work?

Written by Chloe Harper Daly

August 6, 2021

In qualifying, Sir Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on pole for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix; however, he did not receive the title of pole-sitter but rather speed king. By the first corner in the sprint, this was all undone as Max Verstappen overtook him to take pole for Sunday’s race. In reality, Hamilton and his team worked hard to get their pace back only to lose it all. That is one of the first problems of the sprint; it makes qualifying on Friday seemingly pointless. A simple fix to this problem is to learn from the feeder series. In F2 and F3, qualifying is for the race on Sunday, but the sprint race grid is determined by reversing the top 10 in qualifying. That way, all your work on a Friday qualifying session isn’t lost to a 30-minute race where you probably won’t score any points. Why would you not use the old F2 format when it has been proven to create more action? 

 

Ok, so let’s say you’re a driver, you qualify P4, and that’s where you start in the sprint race. Do you push in the sprint to try and get the 1,2 or 3 points on Saturday and risk suffering damage that will affect your Sunday? If you have to retire, like Sergio Perez, that puts you at the very back of the grid for Sunday, the event that brings the most points. Drivers are less likely to risk their position for the Grand Prix in the sprint making for less action than F1 was hoping for. 

 

F1 also was hoping that everyone would choose different tyres for an interesting strategy battle, but unfortunately, most drivers went on mediums meaning they were able to manage the tyres well for all 17 laps. In an interview after the sprint, George Russell said that the real action comes around 20 laps in when the tyres start to degrade. This makes for less overtaking, no strategy battles, and fewer mistakes. All of which make racing exciting.

Max Verstappen’s winner’s wreath hanging over his RB16B after the F1 Sprint (Photo via @RedBullRacing on Twitter)

Only awarding the top three with points, and only up to 3 points at that, is completely useless. You’re asking teams to run their car more aggressively during the weekend, meaning there is a greater likelihood of things like engine problems, the need for new brake pads, and issues with clutch discs. As much as the gap in the midfield has gotten closer, HAM BOT VER still dominates those top 3 spots. Only awarding points to the top 3 is essentially just extending their lead above the other drivers. Once again, they should’ve followed F2’s lead. This means the top 8 in order would receive 15,12,10,8,6,4,2,1 point/s. Points will give teams and drivers more incentive to push in a sprint rather than keeping position for Sunday’s race. 

 

Another flaw is that it reduced teams’ practice time. The drivers were expected to qualify after one hour of practice at a track they haven’t driven for a year. No amount of simulator work will give them the same data as being on track. They did a second practice session after qualifying, which didn’t make much sense, seeing as they already did their qualifying laps. They tested race programs, starts, and tyre compounds, but it didn’t seem to be very beneficial. Again this issue can be easily fixed. They could keep most of the original format the same, having practice 1&2 on Friday, then practice 3 and Qualifying on Saturday, but could add the sprint in the evening. Teams would then have the appropriate amount of time to prepare for qualifying, the sprint, and the race.  

 

As much as there are flaws, some parts did work. We saw Fernando Alonso make up 4 places to start Sunday’s race P7, which is not where he usually lines up on the grid. It also gave fans more opportunities to see real racing throughout the weekend. It is good to see the FIA trying new things in a sport where change is met with hesitation. The first attempt at the sprint may have been rough, but hopefully, the next one in Monza will be much more exciting with a few changes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, I’m Chloe and I have a huge passion for motorsports. I want to work in media in the future and I love writing. My favourite drivers are Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo and my favourite team is McLaren. You can find me on Instagram @chloeharperdaly.

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