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Formula 1

Gary Anderson: Sprint qualifying format is packed with flaws

by Gary Anderson
4 min read

There are times in life when you think the world has gone mad. And then someone comes up with this sprint race idea and your worst thoughts are confirmed! Yes, the world of Formula 1 is completely bonkers.

I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who has been fairly closely involved in how a team operates and I have been through many different scenarios in qualifying and race, including doing one qualifying run on low fuel one day then a second run with race fuel the next day back in the mid-2000s, and there have been many other proposals during my time in F1.

The latest one a couple of years ago where the cars would be eliminated based on where they were at certain points in time during the session is the one that was the most stupid. Mind you, this new one is not far behind.

The FIA and F1 have made a statement outlining every part of this plan, and I will comment on each part separately:

The justification

“The format is designed to increase the on-track action and engage fans in new and innovative way. It also strikes the right balance of rewarding drivers and teams on merit while also giving others the chance to battle their way through the field on Saturday to increase their race chances on Sunday.”

Yes, it will increase the on track action with a short race on the Saturday. It’s around one-third distance so for ease let’s say 20 laps. Now, if you look at my performance column from last week, it underlines that the race end result after a full grand prix was more or less the same as qualifying, so why will this format allow drivers or teams to battle their way through?

Haas Williams F1 2021

The scoring system

“On the Friday there will be a qualifying session after the first free practice that will determine the grid for the Sprint Qualifying on Saturday. The results of Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying will determine the grid for Sunday’s race. It has been decided that the top three finishers in Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying will receive points, with first place receiving three points, second place two points and third place one point.”

So extra points for the top three will only mean that the championships get decided earlier in the season. I think I speak for most to say that this is not what the majority of spectators or enthusiasts want to see. For me, a championship battle to the last race will be a 100% better spectacle.

The Friday schedule

• 60-minute First Practice in the morning with two sets of tyres for teams to choose freely.
• Normal Qualifying format in the afternoon with five soft tyre sets available only.

At least keeping qualifying as is is a positive thing. As I said above, it has taken many years and many alternatives to end up with something that works well.

The Saturday schedule

• 60-minute Second Free Practice in the morning with one set of tyres for teams to choose freely.
• 100km Sprint Qualifying in the afternoon with two sets of tyres for teams to choose freely.

So gone is the challenge of trying to make the soft tyres last for those 20 laps, teams can just choose the medium and we will get a grid position procession.

I’m also pretty sure that the drivers will understand that risky moves could have serious consequences on the rest of your weekend – so won’t try them.

Lewis Hamilton off Imola F1 2021

The grand prix itself

• Full distance Grand Prix with two remaining sets of tyres

This doesn’t really explain it well enough. Do you have to start the main race with what you used in Q2 or the same tyre as you used in the sprint race? Does it mean you only have two sets total? If so that means a one stop race for everyone.

Apr 26 : Alonso, Alpine and other F1 strugglers

From what I read there is still a lot to be sorted. For example, not every team has enough latest spec parts with them at each grand prix so with parc ferme rules starting at the beginning of qualifying on Friday, what happens if there is any accident damage in the sprint race and a team has to use a lower spec component for the main race?

This whole plan still needs a lot of sorting before it will be a usable solution.

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