In a bid to add even more action to race weekends Formula 1 introduced sprint races to three race weekends in 2021, and that’s been repeated over the course of 2022.
F1 owners Liberty Media want to have meaningful action on all three days of a Grand Prix event, and while the sprints have had mixed reviews from fans, they seem here to stay, at least for now.
They shake up the whole weekend schedule and dictate the Grand Prix grid, and there’s points at stake too, so how do they work?
How do F1 sprint races work?
Qualifying moves from Saturday to Friday, and sets the grid for the F1 sprint race the following day.
On Saturday, the drivers blast through 100km of flat-out racing, equating to about half an hour of action. The finishing order of that then dictates how the grid lines up for the Grand Prix on Sunday, which otherwise goes ahead unchanged.
Originally, only the podium scored points in the first season of sprints, but that’s increased for 2022 – there’s eight points on offer for the winner, seven for second all the way down to a solitary point for eighth place.
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Pole and tyres
In 2021 pole position went to the winner of the F1 sprint race, whilst the winner of Friday qualifying was awarded the title of ‘Speed King’.
After that was ridiculed, starting in 2022, the winner of Friday qualifying gets pole position in the record books.
Unlike normal race weekends, drivers must use the soft tyres for qualifiying, and then get a free choice of rubber to start the sprint race and Grand Prix.
In theory – and according to Formula One Management – the fans. Sprint races have split opinion so far. There’s been a few snoozefests and it devalues qualifying, which has been F1‘s most consistent source of entertainment over the last two seasons.
Additionally, they’ve been accused of rewarding the frontrunning drivers who have a poor qualifying session by giving them a get-out-of-jail-free card.
At the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix, Sergio Perez struggled with track limits all through Friday and could only qualify 13th.
However, he was red-hot in the sprint and made it up to ninth, essentially wiping out his qualifying errors.
But that cuts both ways – at the first ever sprint race at Silverstone last year, Perez was running seventh until he overcooked the exit at Chapel and crashed, meaning he started from the pitlane on Sunday and missed out on a potential win.
And the sprints undoubtedly give more entertainment than what they actually replace – another free practice session.
Like them or not, F1 management is committed to making them a permanent part of the calendar.
F1 wanted to double the number for 2023 and hold six sprints, but that was blocked by the FIA, meaning there will once again be three across the season.