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Formula 1

Gary Anderson: The bigger sprint changes F1 should’ve made

by Gary Anderson
3 min read

Formula 1’s new sprint weekend format won’t make a huge difference for teams, with the main change being the fact that the grid for the grand prix itself will be set by a qualifying session rather than a short race.

We still have FP1 on the Friday morning for the teams and drivers to get up to speed, evaluate any upgrades and work on the set-up for qualifying. When Friday qualifying starts, that is when they go into parc ferme and your set-up is locked.

That will give you one, two, or, if you are lucky, three qualifying mini-sessions to work through as you earn your grid position for Sunday’s race. But given you can’t change the set-up for the Saturday morning qualifying session that sets the grid for the sprint race, why should the outcome be any different?

Yes, there are set tyre compounds for the shorter segments of the sprint qualifying session, but the teams all have to use mediums for SQ1 and SQ2 and softs for SQ3, so everyone having to use the same compound in each session negates any chance of a team springing a surprise.

If you have screwed up the main qualifying with a mistake or got stuck in traffic when it mattered, then yes, there is a chance you might just improve. But it’s the main race that counts for both points and prestige.

The sprint race is action-packed, but the reality is that you can only do damage which could very easily destroy your whole weekend and cost the team lots of money in repair bills with nothing to gain for all their effort.

By not having an FP2 session, it just means that the teams will need to be a little bit more organised in FP1.

We have seen on many occasions that FP2 is the important session, primarily because of its timing, which is usually very similar to the normal race weekend qualifying session and the race.

But with limited practice laps now, everything will be compressed. A little bit less of a tyre understanding might just mean it is more of a gamble going into the main race.

I would suggest having qualifying for the sprint as the second session on the Friday after FP1. Then you should be able to adjust the set-up overnight on the Friday before the cars go into parc ferme before the first session on Saturday, which is then qualifying for the main event. Then you have the sprint race on Saturday afternoon, with the main event on Sunday as normal.

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For the sprint race, I’d suggest you need to use the set of tyres you used in Q1 of the sprint qualifying and for the main race event you need to use all three compounds available that weekend for at least five timed laps.

If it’s going to be changed to make it more of a spectacle, then do it properly. But having the cars in parc ferme from the start of the second session, which is qualifying for the main event, is ludicrous.

The teams are pretty good at getting the best out of anything that is thrown at them, so I don’t think very much will change with the revised schedule for Baku. As of right now, with these changes the chance of a Williams on pole position is a bit of a pipe dream and would need major weather intervention.

The sprint races could turn out fairly exciting, but I expect most teams would be briefing their drivers to keep it clean and minimise potential damage. If you are out of the points with five laps to go, it’s best to park it and save the limited components for the big day.

Also, the potential penalties that could be handed out that could affect the main event are endless.

The idea is that drivers will be more willing to attack in the new sprint. But given grid penalties can be applied for the grand prix itself as a result of misdemeanours in it, why risk anything in the sprint?

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