Sprint Races Coming to Formula One in 2021 – What Impact Will They Have?

| April 30, 2021 6:07 am PDT

Proposals for the introduction of short “sprint” races at three Grands Prix this season have been approved following an agreement between the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Formula 1, and all ten teams.

The plan is to introduce shortened sprint races at three events this season, superseding the standard qualifying format.

Silverstone, Monza, and a yet to be confirmed non-European event will be the first three Grands Prix to follow the new format in 2021.

That means that the British GP on July 16 to 18 will be the first chance fans can see the new format in action.

F1 bosses hope that the new measure — which is undoubtedly the biggest shakeup of the modern F1 era — will draw more eyes to the sport and rejuvenate the standard race weekend.

Here’s what to expect.

How Does F1 Sprint Qualifying Work?

The changes below mark a significant change to the standard qualifying process but will not completely replace it.

  • Qualifying goes down on a Friday following the first practice session, replacing Practice 2.
  • Qualifying will still adhere to the same Q1-Q2-Q3 format but now determines the grid for the sprint race on Saturday, rather than setting things up for the traditional Saturday afternoon qualifying session.
  • The sprint race will run over 100km, which works out near enough to 17 laps at Silverstone. A pit stop is optional and is unlikely to be used by any driver in normal circumstances.
  • The results of the sprint race will set the grid for the Grand Prix the following Sunday. 
  • Points are awarded to the three fastest finishers. First place receives three points, while second and third receive two points and one point, respectively.

As you can see, the new format is far from groundbreaking. The changes above are unlikely to be majorly disruptive to the standard Grand Prix weekend but are significant enough to add a little extra excitement for spectators.

The question is, is there longevity in this model?

Do Sprint Races in F1 Make Sense?

Multiple-time world champion Sebastian Vettel hit out at proposals for F1 sprint races in March, claiming that they make no sense.

He’s not alone, of course. But on the flip side, there are many backing the new format.

After all, there is nothing concrete to suggest that these new changes cannot be an instant success. The fact that the FIA, F1, and all ten teams found a workable compromise in the first place should be evidence of that.

Teams rejected the F1’s original proposal for an additional payment of $75,000 on the basis that it was nowhere near enough to cover the costs of running cars in the sprint races, never mind the potential damage accrued to kit.

In turn, the F1 rejected a counterproposal from the big boys that would see an additional $1 million to be added to the budget of all ten teams.

Ultimately, they agreed on a more realistic figure of $450,000 per team in addition to an insurance-based compensation scheme.

In F1, once the finances are right, everything tends to work out.

Once the F1 and the top teams can see value in sprint races going forward, I can’t see why they won’t be embraced in the long run.

That might sound simplistic, but things will only go smoothly once everyone is on board.

Will F1 Sprint Races be a Success?

Of course, it is difficult to determine whether sprint races in the F1 will catch on without first seeing them in action.

But the simple fact that they are being introduced is encouraging to some fans who feel that a shakeup to the F1 weekend is long overdue.

Not everyone is quite sold on the idea that these sprint races are the panacea to the sport’s many ills.

This is not the first change proposed to how qualifying is determined, of course.

Ross Brawn’s idea to introduce reverse-grid sprint qualifying races was stomped out by Mercedes last season, and some see this new format as the weaker sibling to those plans.

Still, there are tangible benefits to sprint qualifying in Formula 1. For example, there will be a more competitive bite to the weekend.

The new structure might lead to more spectators showing an interest in the sport. That would, in turn, lead to an increase in revenue for all, which is essentially at the heart of the changes.

But beyond the financial rewards, sprint races could also be a good thing for rookies, who will get a taste of more competitive action. Additionally, it will shake up a sport that has rested on its laurels for too long.

Ultimately, this is just one of many shakeups F1 fans can expect to see introduced over the next couple of seasons.

For instance, we have major regulation changes coming into force next season, as well as a potential third US race on the calendar.

Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA and boxing.

A self-confessed sports fanatic, when Adam is not watching and writing about rugby, soccer, Gaelic Games, and F1, he can often be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a big fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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