A Saturday of changes for F1 today in Silverstone that ended with the debut of the new Sprint qualifying format. The weekend started out with Friday’s first practice session as usual, but it was followed by quali for today’s Sprint race.
“I enjoyed Friday. Just having one practice straight into qualifying I think it's quite cool,” said Lando Norris. “I think it's more of a test, not just for us as drivers, but also for engineers and things like that to try to get on top of everything quicker instead of having a whole day and then the night to kind of perfect everything and put so much time into it.”
This morning drivers got out on track for a quite unusual FP2 session with cars being on Parc fermé since Friday afternoon’s qualifying.
“I don't think it's a waste of time,” declared Norris when asked about this second practice session by MotorLat.
“We use FP1 to really get ready for qualifying. FP1 is now like what FP3 normally is and FP2 is getting ready for the race. So I think that both are very valuable for both situations. We still learn a lot and it gives us good indications of how to prepare for the sprint race.”
And what about the 100 kms Sprint race?
“It does feel a bit different, just being able to push that out. In some ways it just feels like a second stint of a normal race, after a pitstop to where you just push to the end.”
“The difference is the first three or four laps where you have high fuel and use tyres like you do when you're in the top 10, you just don't have much grip on the first lap. So doing all these types of different lines and moves is generally quite difficult,” he explained.
A difficulty that, for the short nature of this new format, drivers didn’t encounter in today’s 17 laps.
“With much newer fuel and new tyres and stuff, you are able to push more and kind of find the limits more and try more different things, which makes it more exciting,” observed Norris. “You saw like Fernando came through on the soft tyre. I don't think it would have been as easy to do that if we were at high fuel, for example.”
Both Lando and his teammate Daniel Ricciardo battled it out on track with Alonso’s Alpine this afternoon before putting their McLarens behind Charles Leclerc, in P5 and P6 respectively.
A good experience that Norris wouldn’t mind replicating in “specific races”, “but it's not something I would want to do every single weekend, so I think having it every now and then is good.” Ultimately, for the young driver, “it's not important if we like it or not, if it was a better show for the fans and they enjoyed Saturday more, I'm happy with it.”
This Sprint format left a positive first impression on Ricciardo as well.
“I liked it, so far I think it's been a good experience,” he said. “It's a bit easier here because it's a circuit we're very familiar with, so I think having one practice and get straight into qualifying works well.” As for the rest of the weekend he “really enjoyed yesterday and also today just having another chance to kind of do a bit of a race.”
While asked whether he enjoyed being able to push without having to think about pitting, his thoughts turned to the team.
“They [ the team ] contribute all weekend behind the scenes,” he said “I do like that the crew gets to really hands-on be part of the race on a Sunday.” But pit stops are also “kind of the moment to feel the pressure of the intensity of the race.”
“So I do like the pit stops, but I don't think today not having them changed the dynamic of the race. It’s just one thing less to focus on or think about with regards to strategy and things like that,” he concluded.