Formula 1 announced in April that three races will feature a new Sprint Qualifying format following a unanimous agreement from all teams. The first one will be the British GP at Silverstone this weekend and we figured we’d this was a good time to discuss this experimental format.
The usual F1 weekend’s three days are broken into these sessions: Two free practices on Friday, one free practice and then qualifying on Saturday, the race on Sunday. It’s been that way for a very long time and F1 is experimenting with changes that would increase the sport’s appeal to new audiences, changes like Sprint Qualifying.
Here’s how the 2021 British GP weekend will unfold:
Free Practice 1 – It will be the usual one-hour session but with a higher risk as it won’t leave room for major errors or any significant crashes.
Qualifying – This will be the usual qualifying session with three stages but held Friday itself after practice. This will decide the starting order for the Sprint event on Saturday and there is no Q2-related tyre restriction for the top 10 fastest cars.
Free Practice 2 – Yes, there will be another hour-long practice session on Saturday just before the Sprint Qualifying race. It’ll be the last chance for teams to collect data from test runs for the races ahead.
Sprint – This is a 100km dash, which is around 17 laps at Silverstone that will last just under 30 minutes. It’s like a short race in the F1 game but without the need for any pit stops but it could be intense depending on the tyre compounds available for the weekend. The final classification of the Sprint race will decide the starting order for the main race on Sunday.
Note: There are valuable championship points on offer for the top three finishers — 3pts for 1st, 2pts for 2nd and 1pt for 3rd.
Grand Prix – The main event of every F1 race will take place on Sunday as usual. The points scoring system and the race distance is unchanged but with free choice of the starting tyre to all 20 participants.
Well, it has been observed by fans and organizers that when the teams don’t have enough time to research through free practice, the race results are less predictable. Since it never rains when we want it to, this format could help stir the pot. Also, it won’t allow for incidents where drivers who crash in qualifying after setting a good time still start as per their best lap. The Sprint event would also push teams to ensure they have good race pace and aren’t just quick in qualifying to get a track position advantage for the first half of a race.
While it is unclear if this new format will achieve its aim of making F1 more interesting, it’s worth a shot. In the closest title fight during the hybrid era, things could get even spicier at the top between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
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