F1 Adds Sprint Shootout With Qualifying To Increase Theatrics

Motorsport / 6 Comments

The sprint no longer has an effect on Sunday's race.

Formula 1 is introducing a brand-new sprint race format, and the first of the season will take place this weekend in Baku.

F1's sprint races made their debut back in 2021 as a shorter race on the Saturday of a Grand Prix weekend. Originally, the sprint race was used as an alternative to the usual qualifying, and it was a nice opportunity to score some points.

The new sprint format will no longer determine the starting order. Instead, the Friday qualifying session will set the grid for the main event on Sunday. Saturday's action will be completely self-contained, and the sprint race will have its own qualifying session. The newly named "Sprint Shootout" will be a 100-kilometer (65.2-mile) dash, including the usual formation lap behind the Aston Martin Vantage safety car.

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The idea behind the change is obviously drama, theatrics, and most likely crashes, though F1 would never admit it. Instead, it's saying that incidents in the sprint race will no longer have an impact on the starting grid for the actual Grand Prix on Sunday. Effectively, if you qualify in first place on Friday but crash out of the sprint race, you'll still be on pole on Sunday.

According to F1, it will give the drivers more incentive to push during the sprint race, which has been a problem in the past. In addition to being relegated to the back of the grid, you can wreck a car in pursuit of points. This eventually leads to penalties later in the year as teams run out of their parts allocation.

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The points system remains unchanged, with eight going to the winner, seven to second place, six to third, and continuing until eighth place gets one point. Teams and drivers log their points separately for their respective championships.

The changes also get rid of Saturday's practice session, which many drivers would love. Verstappen, Russell, and Norris spoke out about fewer practice sessions to give Formula 2 drivers more time on the grid.

The change in format also means tweaks to how penalties are given. Now, grid penalties incurred in first practice or qualifying will apply to the race, and grid penalties incurred in the sprint will apply to the race. That means a driver behaving badly in a sprint race can still screw up their starting position for the Grand Prix.

We'll see how the new system plays out, along with the new general rules, at this coming weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

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CarBuzz Opinion: F1 Teams Still Lose

CarBuzz has a love-hate relationship with sprint races. While we enjoy the additional entertainment, we realize it comes at a significant cost to the F1 teams. Sprint races are much shorter, so the drivers only have one tactic at their disposal: going full send. The risk of binning the car is increased exponentially because there's almost no time for the grid to fan out. And racing drivers aren't built to back down.

Putting a car into a wall during a sprint race may not seem like a big deal at the time because the driver still keeps his original qualifying position. But he'll have to take a grid penalty later down the line when the team goes over the allocated power unit parts allocation. In a worst-case scenario, this happens at a championship-deciding race. Imagine getting a 10-place grid penalty in the penultimate race because you binned a car in the Baku sprint race. Not to mention the cost of an F1 car, which can lead to a team going over the budget. Or drop upgrades out of fear of going over the budget.

Choosing the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to host a sprint race is ridiculous. It's a narrow street circuit, and it will force drivers to overtake in places where they really shouldn't. We're not betting, people, but a red flag during this weekend's sprint race seems inevitable.

Mercedes-Benz AG
Mercedes-Benz AG
Mercedes-Benz AG

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