What is the perfect F1 weekend format?

Formula 1's format is set to be a big talking point later this year with potential changes coming to the sport

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Like everything in life, Formula 1 thrives off the concept of routine. From when to organise press conferences to meetings with stewards, nothing is spontaneous in a sport where the stopwatch is king.

This element of routine trickles down to the on-track schedule, with every session beginning simultaneously, pending bad weather or if a support race paints the track with bent carbon fibre.

But the tried and tested format, which has been in place since 2006, looks threatened by change with sprint races and fewer practice sessions now flavours of the month with Liberty Media.

However, the winds of change may be closing in on a sport desperately trying to appeal to a younger audience.

So what makes a perfect format?

Proper balance of racing and practice

A Grand Prix weekend has typically been a three-day event, except Monaco, which up until 2022, had practice take place on Thursday, making Friday a day of parties and media work.

During the pandemic, F1 experimented with a two-day format at the 2020 Emilia Romagna GP at Imola and the 2020 Eifel GP at the Nurburgring, albeit due to practice being cancelled for fog.

In reality, drivers don’t like too much practice, and no harm would be caused by dropping FP3 or dedicating one session to young drivers when in-season testing is still non-existent.

Despite Liberty’s best efforts, it seems unlikely two days weekends will be adopted by promoters and track owners who will hardly be enthralled by the idea of losing a day of revenue.

Formula One F1 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy – April 22, 2022 General view during qualifying REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

A return of the Sunday morning wake-up call

Friday and Saturday contain two sessions, but race day is tranquil as Formula 2, Formula 3, and Porsche Super Cup typically take up most of the day’s schedule.

This leaves a few hours of calm before a usual cocktail of razzamatazz, glamour, and tension engulfs the paddock before the GP starts.

However, Sunday wasn’t always quiet as a 30-minute morning warm-up session would take place until its shocking axe in 2003 so teams could find time to fine-tune their cars before the start.

By returning to Sunday’s warm-up session to replace FP3, teams could check if all replaced parts were functioning and gain extra mileage if rain appears on race morning.

Giving the kids a go is a must

As previously mentioned, the amount of opportunities a young driver has to show their metal in an F1 car is limited to one post-season test session in Abu Dhabi and days of testing older machinery.

To tackle this problem, teams must run a young driver in two practice sessions during the season, with drivers such as Nyck De Vries and Logan Sargeant having multiple sessions.

Logan Sargeant leads Nyck de Vries in the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix | Williams F1 Team

The problem was teams only decided to fill their quota when the season had virtually ended as a competition giving the academy drivers a programme of long runs on hards.

With their senior counterparts wanting less practice time, perhaps it would be wise to dedicate FP1 to young drivers so they can show what they’re made of to future team bosses.

So how could the happy medium be achieved?

To keep both the sporting and commercial sides happy, it’s unlikely track owners will accept anything but a three-day format.

To satisfy Liberty’s desire for more action, FP1 should be turned into an all-young driver session, with FP2 becoming the main driver’s sole practice session. 

The unloved FP3 could be removed, meaning qualifying becomes the sole session on Saturday, ensuring Sunday sees the return of the warm-up in its place.

For Sprint weekends, FP1 would be for regular drivers before qualifying for Sunday’s race, with Saturday being dedicated to the Sprint.

Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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