Formula 1 has been debating the Sprint Race weekends for a while now, a format that was introduced in 2021 to “spice up the show” but how about we scrap the whole concept?
The Sprint Race format initially introduced was changed in 2023 as the Sprint race was made into a separate Saturday affair after its result was initially used to set the starting grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday.
Initially, a qualifying session on Friday set the starting grid for the Sprint race which was ridiculous to be honest, as for the Grand Prix, the fastest car should start on pole, not whoever finishes first in the Sprint.
Thankfully F1 decided to change that in 2023 with Saturday reserved for a Sprint Shootout on Saturday morning setting the grid for the Sprint in the afternoon, while Friday featured one practice session after which the cars’ setups were locked into parc ferme conditions ahead of a Friday afternoon qualifying for Sunday’s race.
But that made teams unhappy as they needed more time to set their cars up, with Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc getting disqualified from the United States Grand Prix in Austin after their cars failed post-race FIA scrutineering fueling the discussions to change the Sprint format yet again.
The #44 Mercedes and #16 Ferrari were deemed illegal after their under-floor planks were found to be excessively worn out, something both teams out down to insufficient practice times meaning they couldn’t set the cars up properly, keeping in mind that many cars would have been disqualified as well had there been more checks – it’s a random check.
This also affected the Grand Prix, as the Sprint is effectively the first stint of the full race, meaning that takes away from the anticipation for the main event on Sunday.
It’s not working, so this is how we change it…
While Liberty Media and Formula One Management claim the Sprint format is for the fans and to improve the show, it is actually about bagging more money as Liberty continue to milk their prized F1 cow…
But the organizers in Austin revealed their attendance numbers on Friday did not improve, nor were Sunday’s figures affected by Max Verstappen’s dominance, which raised the question about the worthiness of the Sprint.
Now we have talk of reverse grids for the Sprint and even having a standalone championship for it, all ideas that send shivers down the spines of F1 aficionados.
At GrandPrix247 we have not been fans of any of the Sprint formats so far, and to be honest for me personally, I like the standard format, three practices and slow buildup up to qualifying and then the race on Sunday.
If we need to change something, how about we go back to the two qualifying sessions format? That used to run between 1950 and 1996, where basically a driver’s best time over these two sessions set his position for the race.
To ensure drivers and teams push in both sessions, we’d make the grid position of each driver for the race decided by the average of his two best laps set in Qualy 1 and Qualy 2.
And to make the teams happy, we have two practice sessions, one on Friday, ahead of the first qualifying, and another on Saturday ahead of the second qualifying. Parc ferme for cars kicks in after the second and final practice.
That means we have action on all three days of the weekend, while the teams get their practice time, without a meaningless Sprint Race diluting and serving as spoiler for the Grand Prix.
Big Question: What do you think is the ideal three-day Grand Prix weekend format for F1?