What are F1 sprint races and how do they work?

Find out how the F1 sprint race works and alters the usual race weekend, from qualifying on a Friday to Saturday's 100km flat-out race

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In a bid to add even more action to race weekends Formula 1 introduced sprint races to three race weekends in 2021, and have continued with the new format.

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?

There is just one hour of practice before going into Friday qualifying which sets the grid for the main Grand Prix.

On Saturday, there is another qualifying, known as the sprint shootout. This sets the grid for the 100km sprint race later in the day. Originally, only the podium scored points in the first season of sprints, but that was changed in 2022, so eight points on offer for the winner, seven for second all the way down to a solitary point for eighth place.

The main Grand Prix takes place as normal on Sunday afternoon.

FridaySaturdaySunday
MorningSprint Shootout
AfternoonFP1Sprint RaceGrand Prix
EveningQualifying

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.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc in action during 2022 Austrian Grand Prix sprint race REUTERS/Florion Goga

Who wins?

In theory – and according to Formula 1 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.

Max Verstappen in the Red Bull Racing leads Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz during 2022 Austrian Grand Prix Sprint. Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

But that cuts both ways – at the first ever sprint race at Silverstone 2021, 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.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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