As avid F1 followers, you will no-doubt have heard rumblings about F1 Sprint Races over the past weeks and months. The initial plan was met with resistance due to the cost implications associated with an additional 20-ish laps of racing. But it looks like sufficient compensation has been agreed by the teams and we’ll be seeing Saturday sprint-races this year at Silverstone, Monza, and Interlagos.
How F1 sprint races will work
Unless you follow Formula One support series like F2 and F3 you probably wont know how sprint races actually work (we didn’t). So here’s the idiots guide:
- 60 mins FP1
- Qualifying (for the sprint race) with Q1, Q2 and Q3
- Parc Ferme
- Sprint race of 100km which sets the grid for the Sunday. Points awarded as follows: First place 3-points, second place 2-points, third place 1-point
- Parc Ferme
Why were sprint races met with resistance?
Anyone who’s ever been motor-racing will tell you that going testing (I.e. practice) costs as much as going racing. You use the same fuel, burn through the same tyres and brakes, and pay the same circuit fees. So why is a sprint race any more expensive than FP2? Quite simply, because it’s the start of the race where drivers are more likely to crash into each other. A sprint race might make up only 30% of an actual race distance, but its that first 30% of a race that incurs most of the damage.
What was wrong with the existing format?
For the purist, nothing. Since the dawn of motorsport organisers have used qualifying to determine the quickest car/driver package, and then put them on pole for the Sunday. This has been tweaked over the years such that we now have Q1, Q2, and Q3 format. Ostensibly this is to add an additional layer of variability to race strategy, but in reality it’s so that the promoter can use the gaps between sessions to advertise beer, watches, online gambling, and cars. How the sprint-race format fits with this I’m not quite sure, maybe it’ll make the event more exciting!
Will sprint races make the weekend more exciting?
There are two ways to look at this. First, with the clock ticking down to zero, its pretty cool waiting to know whether Lewis Hamilton will beat Valtteri Bottas’ provisional pole by three-one-thousandths of a second (or similar). This is especially so when the camera is trained ‘nose-on’ to the car coming down the straight and passing the start-finish line. But this excitement has more to do with fancy direction and expert production than an exciting bit of motorsport action. In summary, the current format is good on the telly because its been made to look good on the telly, not because its actually exciting to watch. In reality, its not. It’s the racing that’s exciting. Second, racing means bumps and spills and crashes and drivers walking through the paddock still in their helmet refusing to acknowledge the cameras. You tend not to get that in qualifying. So the added excitement that should come out of the extra racing can only be a good thing.