Explaining the 'sprint qualifying', the new addition to F1's race weekend

May 1, 2021
PHOTO: AP

FANS and petrolheads alike started the week with the confirmation of a major shakeup in the format of three race weekends this year.

While a lot were stoked to see how this could affect the season, many others were vocal about their feelings against this change. Just a quick look at the comments under F1’s official announcement, you can tell that not a lot were happy about it. "It", of course, is the addition of a “Sprint Qualifying” race that would determine the drivers’ grid placement for Sunday instead of the usual qualifying session.

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This new format will have its pilot run at the British Grand Prix on the weekend of July 17.

Ross Brawn, F1’s Managing Director of Motorsport, believes that this would be a good way to increase engagement for fans and to make race weekends more exciting. They would essentially be getting “more”, especially if they’re watching live, as there would be 2 races within a weekend. This would also help in increasing ticket sales, especially for Friday, as race aficionados would witness more than just practice sessions.

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On the other hand, those who oppose it argue that it reduces the essence of a Grand Prix. Others also complained about how they’ll miss the action, as the grafted-on race would fall within the work week.

Sebastian Vettel, four-time F1 World Champion, was also a critic as he thought that it did not make any sense. (However, his stance has since changed and he is now more open to the idea.)

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Discussions have been happening for a while on whether or not this would be a good move for the sport. It was given the green light after teams voted unanimously in its favor and all financial arrangements were finalized.

But how does it work, exactly? We give you the rundown.

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Less practice sessions, more racing

In the format that is currently being used, Friday consists of two practice sessions, which used to last 90 minutes, but is now just 60. Then, there is a third practice session before qualifying commences on Saturday. This gives the teams a chance to know what could be improved before Sunday’s race.

With the introduction of “sprint qualifying,” the practice sessions have been reduced to just two, that are now evenly spread over the weekend. The first free practice would happen on Friday, while the other would fall on Saturday.

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    Friday’s practice would be followed by a qualifying session that is similar to the standard Saturday qualifying that we see today. However, this qualifying would just determine the drivers’ place for the sprint race. Plus, they are only allowed to use five sets of soft tires during this session.

    100km to determine Sunday’s grid

    The sprint qualifying race would be the deciding factor for Sunday's pole position, as well as the grid position occupied by each driver.

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    There will be no mandatory pit stops but there would be two sets of tires available for use. DRS (drag reduction system, which can adjust a car's rear wing for an overtaking boost) would also be enabled.

    This race could be crucial for the championship as points would be given for the top three finishers. First place bags 3 points, second place gets 2, while third place comes home with 1.

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    Now that you’ve gotten a gist of how the sprint qualifying can change the race weekend’s format, are you looking forward to it or are you against it? As for us, we’ll be reserving our judgment until the lights go out at Silverstone.

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    PHOTO: AP
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