Formula One to debut sprint qualifying race format at three events this season

F1 sprint qualifying races
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LONDON — Formula One will debut sprint qualifying races at three grands prix after an agreement with all 10 F1 teams and governing body the FIA.

The sprints will be over 100 kilometers on Saturdays and will replace the standard qualifying, determining the starting grid for the following day’s grand prix.

F1 said on Monday that two European venues and one non-European are set to stage the shorter format, though they were yet to be announced.

The two European ones are likely to be Silverstone and Monza. Interlagos could stage the other sprint qualifier if Brazil’s high COVID-19 infection rates do not scupper the Brazilian Grand Prix in November.

“I am pleased to see that Formula One is seeking new ways to engage with its fans and enlarge the spectacle of a race weekend through the concept of sprint qualifying,” FIA president Jean Todt said.

The thing to remember about Sprint Qualifying is that its intention is to expand the whole weekend,” F1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn told FormulaOne.com. “It is not intended to impact the race event. The Grand Prix is still the vital event of the weekend.

“We want to give fans engagement throughout the whole weekend. Sunday’s Grand Prix is fantastic, and we don’t want to cannibalize that, but we want to lift up the engagement on a Friday and a Saturday. Friday is really for the aficionados at the moment. Watching practice session on Friday is fun but there is no conclusion to it. But on a Friday now [at these selected events], we’ll have the excitement of the qualifying format.

“I think it will be a great addition. There is unlikely to be pit stops, so it’ll be a clean race. It’ll be 30 mins roughly, 100km of action.

“We want to see how fans engage with it and if the short format is appealing, it’s complimentary and if it works with the main race. We feel it will. We feel it’s going to be very exciting.”

A qualifying session on the Friday after the first free practice will determine the grid for Saturday’s sprint qualifying. The top three finishers will also receive points toward the championship. The first place will receive three points, second place two points, and third place one point.

With revolutionary new regulations coming to the series next season, Brawn said teams believe now is the time to experiment.

“[One of the challenges was] finding a format that had the right balance between giving us an opportunity to have exciting Friday and Saturday running – perhaps a shorter format race but one which did not take anything away from main event,” Brawn said. “We had to find that balance. Everyone had a different opinion on what that should look like. It was also about finding an economic and logistical solution that didn’t impact teams too severely.”