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Formula 1

Sprint race could be the first of many F1 format experiments

by Josh Suttill
4 min read

Formula 1 sporting director Ross Brawn believes the 2021 sprint race experiments should pave the way for more “trial events” in future, as a way of testing out format changes.

The sprint format will make its debut in next weekend’s British Grand Prix, before also being trialled at two other grands prix later this year.

It will entail the usual Friday afternoon practice being replaced with a qualifying session that will then set the grid for a 100km Saturday race dubbed ‘F1 Sprint’ – the results of which will then translate into the starting order for the main event on Sunday.

The sprint race trial is a culmination of a long-lasting push by F1’s chiefs for a shorter Saturday race, which was initially intended to use a reversed grid before this was effectively blocked by team opposition, led by Mercedes.

“I have to say the teams have been massively cooperative and they are just as interested in seeing what the results will be,” said Brawn of the upcoming trial.

“The drivers, once they experience it, can give us their views.

“There’s some traditionalists who don’t understand why we try and change things and then there’s others who are very keen to see what the results will be.

“I think this concept of having a few trial events in Formula 1 is something we should consider for the future with other things, not just the sprint, because it’s been so difficult to evolve changes or formats in Formula 1 in the past.

“And doing sufficient trial events [so] that you can make a judgement on any change of format or any difference is something we should embrace and consider for the future.”

Ross Brawn

Although F1’s last big format change, the shortlived and much derided elimination qualifying, occurred under the championship’s previous boss Bernie Ecclestone, Brawn noted that Liberty Media’s takeover of the series has created an impetus for various aspects of F1 to be reconsidered.

“When Liberty became involved in Formula 1 they wanted to take a fresh look at how we do things and how we did things,” he said.

“And of course, particularly when Chase [Carey, now-former F1 CEO] came in he had a very fresh and, let’s say, independent view of Formula 1 and he asked some very interesting questions about why we did things and what we did.

“As well as that, there was a growing engagement via social media and other means with perhaps a different audience for Formula 1. We’ve seen from the [Netflix] Drive to Survive series a newer group of fans that are enthusiastic about Formula 1.

“I think Formula 1 has shown itself to be reasonably forward-thinking in taking on board and allowing this event.

“As you know through the governance in Formula 1, it’s sometimes difficult to get these things off the ground.”

Brawn has eyed six F1 sprint races for 2022 if the trial is successful, but has repeatedly insisted that F1 will not push ahead with the format irrespective of the reception.

Austrian Grand Prix 2021

“There’s no reason why we would force it through,” he reiterated.

“And I think one of the great things about what’s happening is, it’s three races. It’s not the season.

“In the past Formula 1 has always struggled with the fact that when it’s made an adjustment, it’s made it theoretically for the season.

“We all remember the [elimination] qualifying fiasco a few years ago, which luckily got corrected part-way through the season. I think that was one that everybody forecast was going to be a struggle, and it turned out to be.

“So this is three events where we’re going to trial this format. And if it’s not a success, if we don’t get the response we hope, then we’ll put our hands up and then we’ll stay where we are and we’ll look at other initiatives.

“But I would just ask the traditionalists to wait and see if they enjoy it. And hopefully, they will.”

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