Formula One introduced the Sprint weekend format during the 2021 season. Fans and pundits alike have been divided on whether the revised weekend sessions are an improvement on the traditional F1 weekend schedule. Sprint races are one third of the grand prix distance set at just 100km.
The weekend sees the teams have a single free practice session on Friday morning which is followed by qualifying replacing free practice 2. The qualifying sets the grid for the Sprint event on Saturday afternoon which follows a second free practice session in the morning.
F1 Sprint positives
The grid for the grand prix on Sunday is set by the classified order from the sprint race result.
This format provides F1 event promoters with competitive action on track for each day of the weekend and has resulted in Friday ticket sales improving at venues where the take up was traditionally low.
A further advantage of the Sprint format is that it mixes up the grid at times as happened at the recent Say Paulo GP. The teams have just an hour of free practice before the car’s set up is locked in for the weekend as qualifying begins on Friday afternoon.
This means the F1 competitors with superior analytical resources are limited far more than usual as the time slot for their analysis is reduced from over 24 hours to just 2.
Sprint format needs ‘tweaking’
One of the anomalies of the Sprint weekend is the seemingly redundant free practice 2 session on Saturday morning. The cars are locked into their Parc ferme setups from Qualifying the day before and so inevitably the Saturday morning session becomes just a tire test.
Ross Brawn recently suggested the Sprint weekend format may be ‘tweaked a little’.
Formula One could solve another criticism of the Sprint weekend format together with the redundant Saturday practice session in one fell swoop.
There are many who believe setting the grid for the grand prix from the Sprint race result devalues the pole position claimed on during the Friday afternoon session.
By canceling Saturday practice a second qualifying session could be introduced which produces the weekend’s pole position winner and sets the grid for Sunday’s race.
3 extra Sprint races for 2023
Sprint races are run without pit stops at present because the time required to change tires is too large a proportion of the race time. So the venues selected for Sprint races need to be considered properly and circuits where overtaking is easier work better for the shorter race format.
The FIA has allowed Formula One to increase the number of Sprint events from 3 to 6 in 2023, although as yet no official announcement has been made as to where they will take place.
Brazil is likely to retain its sprint given the FIA brings no support races to the event and the promoters merely run two local racing based events.
Venues for 2023 F1 Sprints
The other venues in the frame at present are Azerbaijan (April), Austria (June), Belgium (July), Qatar (October) and Austin (October).
This would see 3 Sprint events held between October 4th and November 4th in Brazil which is not ideal. Formula One would prefer to move the Qatar even to Jeddah although the Saudi authorities appear to be balking at the incremental fee required.
The F1 commission recently stated it would be re-examining the regulations for the Sprint weekends. These include revisions for the parc ferme restrictions which “place additional operational requirements on the FIA due to the significant increase in parc ferme requests between qualifying and the sprint,”
Further teams receive a ‘damage allowance’ for Sprint weekends however the calculation of this will be revised and simplified for 2023. Each team will be entitled to claim a fixed amount for each of the 6 Sprint weekend events.
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— Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN (@alfaromeoorlen) November 22, 2022