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Formula 1

Our verdict on F1’s flat second sprint race

by Matt Beer
6 min read

Formula 1’s second sprint trial didn’t feature much on-track excitement after the first lap, but did lead to some significant changes in the grid order from the results of qualifying on Friday.

With F1 determined to make this format a more regular part of the calendar for 2022, did the events of Monza on Saturday change any of our writers’ feelings about the sprint concept?

A race with no racing

Scott Mitchell

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Italian Grand Prix Sprint Day Monza, Italy

We’ve seen the limitation of the sprint format with the current cars. Unfortunately, the sprint will be devoid of actual racing as there simply isn’t going to be much overtaking without strategic variables.

The ‘intrigue’ of McLaren putting softs on and getting ahead of Lewis Hamilton is interesting but it is a bit frustrating to watch someone with a faster car not even be able to challenge. It’s not the same as Hamilton trying to pass Lando Norris and failing. He couldn’t even try.

Unfortunately, the optimism around F1 drivers’ racing instinct taking over and sparking action always seemed misplaced.

After all, the absence of overtaking in full grands prix is never down to a lack of desire to pass. It’s physics.

Underlined the holes in the format

Edd Straw

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Italian Grand Prix Sprint Day Monza, Italy

The Monza sprint laid bare some of the incongruity of the regulations relating to the format. That Valtteri Bottas was able to be fastest in qualifying, then won the sprint and still will neither start from pole position nor be credited with it, for instance.

The sprint race, which I will continue to describe it as because it is literally a race and that’s another idiocy F1 needs to fix, is supposed to be a high-stakes winner-takes-all battle.

But as well as the general dissatisfaction of the winner not being on pole, there was also no incentive for Max Verstappen in second place even to think about challenging him. In this case, second place equalled pole position.

It would have been more logical for Bottas to be put to the back for the sprint because at least he would have created some more interest as he attempted to recover through the field. This is definitely something that F1 should ensure happens in future as particularly in the second half of the season there will be plenty of occasions when this grid penalty situation arises.

The sprint is in general a perfectly reasonable idea and to describe the Monza race as flat is perhaps doing it a disservice. It certainly wasn’t stunning but it was short, sharp, had a bit of incident and some battles to follow – as well as impact on the title drama. In that regard, it was broadly in line with expectations, if not perhaps even fractionally better.

But that perhaps underlines that the sprint race is still a missed opportunity for F1. The idea of having three serious focal points, one on each day, is a sound one. But there are still aspects of it that need to be worked on for it to live up to its potential.

The format needs to change if sprints stay

Gary Anderson

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Italian Grand Prix Sprint Day Monza, Italy

Given this a track that is as good as any for overtaking, the Monza sprint race was a bit of a damp squib. If it hadn’t been for Hamilton making a poor start, which caused a bit of a kerfuffle at the first corner and ended up with Pierre Gasly losing his front wing and spearing off into the barrier at Curva Grande, nothing really much happened.

That said, it’s good to see Ricciardo taking a step forward. Even on the softer tyre ,which seemed to be OK for the 18 laps (minus two for the early safety car) he still got dropped by Verstappen. I think we will see more cars start on the softs tomorrow as it is a better tyre off the grid, then switch onto hards for the rest of the race.

If we are to continue with the sprint race then somehow the format needs to change. A race of 100 kilometres doesn’t seem to be far enough to get a change in tyre performance, so the only thing I can think off is a compulsory pitstop and having to use at least two tyre compounds. To align with that, for the main race you could make it compulsory to use all three compounds.

The other thing is Bottas using an extra engine and being able to start the sprint race from pole and win, so theoretically taking pole for tomorrow but having to start last, seems a bit wrong. Perhaps it’s time to allow the driver to keep their grid position and just fine them and the team points from what they have already accumulated.

What about 10 points for the first engine extra on top of your allocation, 20 for the second and so on? If you haven’t got any points when you fit that replacement engine then you don’t get a deduction, so you never go to a negative figure.

A great advert for the 2022 aero rules

Valentin Khorounzhiy

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Italian Grand Prix Sprint Day Monza, Italy

There was, I think, a collective moment earlier this season where it became clear Red Bull had really finally drawn level with Mercedes and everyone thought “oh no, why are we changing the regulations for next year again?”.

This is why. To borrow a phrase from a classic – “look at how they massacred my boy”. “My boy” in this case is the wonderful Monza track, with F1 yet again staging a procession the same weekend F2 puts on the customary good show.

This isn’t a problem with the sprint race. The sprint remains an undercooked first draft of an idea, as evidenced also by FP2 being egregiously pointless on these weekends, but it did give us a pretty fun opening lap and has created at least some built-in jeopardy for Sunday.

But passing is simply not easy enough, and if it were made easier by tinkering with DRS it would become deeply unsatisfying in an instant.

Bring on 2022.

It was rubbish, but…

Matt Beer

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Italian Grand Prix Sprint Day Monza, Italy

After the first half-lap, there wasn’t much to hold my attention in the Monza sprint. I’ve watched worse half-hours of F1 racing, but given how much the billing for this concept focuses on it being no-holds-barred racing, ultimately this was a lot of cars following each other round in a train with little prospect of much changing.

And yet… we’ve now got Hamilton starting fourth with two McLarens ahead, Verstappen on pole in a Red Bull that isn’t the fastest car this weekend, Ricciardo on the front row, last year’s winner (OK, a shock underdog winner, but still) on the back row, Fernando Alonso into the top 10 on the grid.

There are five reasons right there why the grid for the Italian GP now looks more interesting than it would’ve done had it been set by qualifying.

So it’s hitting the target of offering an extra variable to shuffle the grid and I am more excited for the grand prix than I would’ve been if the sprint hadn’t happened. But it may as well just be a couple of laps long, based on what we’ve seen from the two trials so far.

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