Sprint races or sprint qualifyings are and will continue to be an extremely controversial topic in the world of Formula 1. As we know, yesterday, April 26th, 2021, the highest category of motorsports decided to approve this type of races, at the same time, there will be a total of 3 Grand Prix in which this format will be tested (this was also announced). At the moment, Monza and Silverstone are the most likely to receive this type of race in the three days of their respective Grand Prix, however, there will be another that will be held in non-European territory. In this piece we will discuss in detail what sprint races are about and what they consist of.
To begin with, the main objective of sprint races is to increase the action on the track, as well as to engage the fans in an innovative way. On the other hand, according to F1, this new Grand Prix format will increase the chances of each driver to score points, podiums and even obtain the victory, giving even more merit to the driver who is the winner in the Sunday race. In a very brief and explained way, this is the new format: The first 60-minute free practice will take place on Friday, but instead of the second practice session, a usual qualifying session will be held (with Q1, Q2 and Q3 ) which will decide the order in which the cars will start in Saturday's sprint race. Subsequently, the second free practice session (60 minutes long) will take place on Saturday morning. This will be followed by the sprint race, and the order in which the cars finish will be the same in which they will start the main race on Sunday, this being the only event on Sunday and the last of the Grand Prix weekend.
What are the characteristics of the sprint race?
The distance will be only 100 kilometres, that is, a third of the total distance of the main race on Sunday. To give clearer examples, Monza is 5,793 kilometres long, for a total of 18 laps. Silverstone measures 5,901 kilometres, so 100 kilometres would be 17 laps of the circuit. Another feature is that the pit stops will not be mandatory, that is, a driver can run the 17 laps with the same set of tyres with which they started. This does not mean that if there is an incident and a car is damaged, the driver cannot enter the pits and must finish the race with his damaged car, on the contrary, they can, but it is also allowed not to enter. Continuing with the characteristics of this “mini” race, yes, the drivers who finish in the top 3 will receive points. Third place will receive 1 point, second place 2 points and first place 3 points. It should be noted that there will be no awards ceremony or podium in this race.
Parc fermé will also change. We have to remember that this concept refers to the fact that teams will not be able to modify drastic mechanical elements in their car after a certain day at a certain time. In the races that have this format, parc fermé will start from Friday afternoon, this means that the teams will not be able to modify their cars after qualifying for the sprint race. But what elements will they be able to modify? To begin with, the weight distribution can be modified for the next sessions. Wear parts can also be replaced, these can be brakes, spark plugs, air and oil filters, among others. The refrigeration can also be modified as long as the room temperature changes more than 10 ° C between Friday and Saturday. To conclude this point, we all know that teams have a "curfew" at night, that is, they must finish any action on the circuit and in the car and this is usually early at night. For these races, the Friday to Saturday curfew will be removed as the cars will have to be without hands on three hours after the qualifying session.
What will the tyre distribution be like?
The tyres will also be a key factor for this type of racing. It has been clarified that all drivers will have a total of 12 sets of dry tyres-slicks (1 set less than usual). The distribution for all will be two sets of hard tyres, four of medium tyres and six of soft tyres. It is important to emphasize that there is currently a rule which states that the 10 drivers who managed to advance to Q3 must start with the same set of tyres with which they managed to set their time to advance. This rule will be out in the Grands Prix that have this type of sprint races and the teams and drivers will be given the opportunity to choose the set of tyres with which they want to start both the sprint race on Saturday and the main one on Sunday.
This concept looks quite promising, giving more battle since each driver will be able to choose the tyres that best suit their car, however, many people believe that it will create tension between the teams by not having the rule they were already used to. Another point that has received some criticism is that the qualifying session that we are used to see (with Q1, Q2 and Q3) is ‘taken for granted’ with the arrival of the new type of races, besides that it is still a working day in which will take place, causing fewer fans to have a chance to see it. It should be noted that there have been times when the qualifying sessions have more audience than the race itself, this being one of the weak points of this new introduction to the category. What do you think? Will it be a good strategy?