Formula 1 decided to change their qualifying format for three races this year to improve the show. The first run under the new rules will take place this weekend at the British Grand Prix.
In three races this year, the starting grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday will be decided by a 100 km sprint race on Saturday instead of a traditional qualifying in the style of the fastest lap.
The sprint, as F1 calls it, leads to a race of around 30 minutes (e.g. 17 laps at Silverstone) with the aim of delivering wheel-to-wheel thrillers on Saturday and a mixed grid on Sunday.
The starting order for the sprint race will still be decided by a normal qualifying on Friday afternoon (with the previous format Q1, Q2, Q3) instead of a free practice session.
For the selected laps that use Sprint Qualifying, the weekend format is as follows:
First training (60 min.)
Friday qualifying (60 minutes – Q1, Q2, Q3 format)
Second training (60 min.)
The sprint (100km race)
Grand Prix (305 km race)
In the history books and official Formula 1 records, the pole position is awarded to the winner of the sprint and not to the driver who set the fastest time in Friday qualifying.
In which races does sprint qualifying take place?
F1 has decided to debut the new format at the British Grand Prix this weekend before using it again at the Italian Grand Prix in September. A third, non-European venue will be confirmed at a later date.
Interlagos in Sao Paulo is a suitable candidate for the third event and was originally at the top of the F1 list for non-European venues, but uncertainty about whether the Brazilian Grand Prix means due to the aggressive rate of COVID-19 infections in the country that the sport will monitor the evolution of the pandemic before committing.
The US Grand Prix in Austin is another candidate.
Are points offered?
The first three drivers of the sprint race will receive points, three for the winner, two for second and one for third place.
F1 insists that the weekend’s focus remains on the race on Sunday and therefore no traditional award ceremony will be held after the sprint.
However, by awarding points to the top three, there is a slim chance a championship will be decided by the sprint qualifying result late in the year rather than the result of a grand prix, even though it is a scenario, F1 Motorsport Director Ross Brawn want to avoid it.
Such a scenario may upset purists, but in the past many championships have been won by drivers who, without the glory of finishing in the top 3, took a handful of points from a lower position.
Why change the format?
Since taking over F1 in 2017, Liberty Media has been exploring new ways to excite audiences and improve the show.
In theory, more action on the track leads to more fans, which leads to more revenue from TV and sponsorship deals.
Replacing one of the non-competitive practice sessions with a competitive sprint race seems like an easy win and F1 is confident that this will add to the appeal of a race weekend.
“A sprint qualifying weekend is a much more complete weekend in terms of competition,” said Brawn. “On Friday and Saturday and Sunday there will be an intense competition on all three days, and so we are expanding the intensity of the weekend.
“It still has integrity and still has weekend value. We want to investigate whether a shorter format is more appealing to new fans – the goal here is to maintain the engagement of our avid fans, our established fans. We we definitely don’t want to offend our established F1 fans, so this event has integrity and merit and is not a gimmick.
“The best guys will win the sprint, what they win will affect the weekend and affect the weekend.
“That’s why we want to research the engagement of new fans and consolidate and strengthen the engagement of all our existing fans. And I think F1 took a great step in making this possible for three races during the season because we can rate those races and decide if we want to move this forward and I am confident that we will. “
What happened to inverted grids?
Those who have followed the F1 news cycle over the past year will remember that the idea of sprint qualifying was born as a proposal for a reverse grid race on Saturdays.
The reverse grid format was similar to the sprint, but the starting order for the Saturday sprint race would have been decided by reversing the championship order rather than holding a Friday qualifying.
In theory, it would force the fastest drivers to fight their way through the field to secure the best possible starting position for Sunday’s race.
The idea found some support from smaller teams, but was rejected by older drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and ultimately blocked by world champion Mercedes.
Mercedes’ concern was that it would add a gimmick to the weekend that was at odds with the core principles of F1, and that the sport didn’t need such a radical upheaval at all.
The 2020 Italian Grand Prix, won by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly after a red flag break that messed up the order before restarting in the middle of the race, was used as an example of how exciting reverse grid races can be can, but the comparison was doubtful and failed to win over the skeptics.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff summed up the argument against reverse grids as follows: “This is not WWE.”
Does the sprint qualifying work?
If F1’s goal is to offer more exciting track sessions over a weekend, removing a non-competitive practice session and replacing it with a sprint race is a clear win.
But the jury is not sure whether the sprint qualifying will bring anything exciting Racing and there is also the potential for some downside to the championship as a whole.
As with the traditional Formula 1 format, the fastest cars from the single lap qualifying will continue to start at the top of the grid for the sprint race and there is a good chance that as the fastest cars they will keep their position in the lead without the race big change in the order.
It’s an age-old theme for motorsport and what the original reverse grid idea tried to combat.
Additionally, a shorter race with no pit stops will create fewer opportunities for strategic variation, which is likely to result in a follow-the-leader result as well.
Think of some of the most exciting Grand Prix races in recent years, held in dry conditions, and one of the reasons they were created is because tire strategies influenced the cars’ relative performance as the race progressed.
Often times in Formula 1, overtaking occurs because the two cars competing against each other use different tire compounds, or tires of different ages, or both – these factors are less likely to play a role in a 100km race.
Formula 1 may be pointing to the Drag Reduction System (DRS) to give the chaser a chance to overtake, but simulations of sprint races being run by the teams suggest that it may not.
The DRS is an overtaking aid that enables the driver to increase the straight-ahead speed of his vehicle by opening a flap in the rear wing to reduce aerodynamic drag. It can only be activated in certain zones around the track and under racing conditions only if a driver is within one second of the car in front.
In theory, the extra straight-line speed of the car the DRS is using will help overtake the car in front, but when you have a long line of cars all within a second – known as a “DRS train” – the benefit is often nullified and the cars circulate in packs.
There have been suggestions that DRS could be extended to cars two seconds behind the car in front, but that hasn’t been implemented and it’s not clear if it would have had a big impact anyway.
In terms of starting grid mix-up on Sunday, there is more potential for failure or an accident in a sprint race than in a normal qualifying, and that could result in a competitive car battling its way through the field in the main event.
But the risk of falling back to the bottom of the grid with a mistake in a sprint race can affect the style of racing on Saturday afternoon, as drivers are less likely to risk overtaking knowing there are many more points left in the offer for a good result Grand Prix as an additional position in sprint qualifying.
When weighing the compromise between moving up a starting place and a possible start from behind, it’s easy to imagine engineers telling their drivers to hold their positions.
In addition, an incident in a qualifying race on Saturday could have a significant impact on the championship. While the prospect of a runaway championship leader having to fight back in Sunday’s race after an accident on Saturday is tempting, there is also the possibility that a rival driver will be eliminated from the championship fight because of a car problem on Saturday for Sunday’s race fails.
The same could of course be said of a mistake in traditional qualifying, but the risk of risking everything for a single lap is not as great as in a 100 km race.
As a result, we can only see conservative processions during sprint races unless a driver finds out far out of position after Friday qualifying.
However, F1 hopes that when the visors go down and the lights go out, drivers will drive like they would at a normal Grand Prix. In addition, Brawn argues that a race without a mandatory pit stop could provide a purer form of competition ahead of Sunday’s main event.
“It’s a great sport and we’ve already seen a fantastic year this year,” he said.
“Who doesn’t want to see Max? [Verstappen] and Lewis [Hamilton] a 100 km race head-to-head with no other considerations?
“Nobody on the pit wall is going to screw it up, it’s just the two of them.”
Did everyone agree with the new format?
Sprint qualifying was unanimously approved by the ten teams, the FIA and Formula 1 itself, but required a “comprehensive consultation and review process” to get there.
The discussions included granting the teams a bonus payment from F1 for participating in the three sprint races as well as damage compensation within the F1 budget so that any repair bills from the additional sprint races do not put the teams under additional pressure Comply with the upper limit of 145 million US dollars.
However, in a speech at the French Grand Prix last month, FIA President Jean Todt made it clear that it was him not a fan of the idea and didn’t think it was real racing.
But Formula One always said the sprint was going to be something of an experiment, and all it asked teams and drivers to do is stay open-minded.
“I think to face the criticism head on, some people like the traditional approach and think we’re playing around with something that doesn’t have to be messed with, and I get that,” Brawn said.
“But I think the way in which we take advantage of this opportunity won’t do any harm to F1. And after the second or third event, it will be clear how well it works and how well the fans get involved.” it.
“I think we would like to continue doing that for next year. It depends on convincing the teams of the merits of the future. Of course we supported the teams financially this year to get this off the ground. “
“We’ll have to find solutions to that next year. So there is certainly no commitment for next season. We’ll talk about the benefits of these three events about that if we can really understand what impact they had, and therefore,” the value for everyone Involved. “
Will it be rolled out in all races in the future?
F1 is viewing this year’s three sprint qualifying sessions as an attempt before deciding whether to apply the idea to other races in the future.
However, Brawn confirmed it wouldn’t be used in certain locations like Monaco, where overtaking maneuvers are rare and the one-lap qualifying is already an impressive spectacle.
“I’m not sure if this format would be that successful in Monaco,” he said. “We see these weekends as Grand Slam events that are spread out over the season, so it’s something different.
“I don’t think it will take the whole season, I think it will be a limited number of races, but that has to be decided.”
Brawn added, “Drivers are open-minded about the format – and that’s all we ask drivers to be open-minded so that we can evaluate this event and then decide if it will be a feature of the F1 season in the future.
“If it doesn’t work, let’s raise our hands and think again.”
The complicated: rainy weather, tires and Parc Ferme
In changing the format, F1 had to consider the potential impact of a number of factors including wet weather, weekend tire allocations and the need to extend the Parc Ferme rules to three days.
One of the peculiarities of the new regulations is how they will affect the use of tire allocations over the weekend.
Three different dry weather tire compounds are provided to teams at each race, with each driver receiving eight sets of softs, three sets of mediums and two sets of hards on a normal weekend. This assignment has been optimized for the sprint format, with six sets of softs, four sets of mediums and two sets of hards available to each driver.
Soft tires usually offer the fastest lap times, but come with the trade-off of shorter life under racing conditions, while hard tires have the longest life but the worst performance over a single lap. In a traditional qualifying format, soft tires are almost always the best option for setting the fastest lap, but ideally fresh tires are fitted for each run.
In the sprint, the medium or hard tire is likely a better option for the 100km race, using only a single set to avoid a pit stop that isn’t mandatory.
For this reason, the tire usage rules for the Sprint Qualifying Weekends have been changed with the following breakdown for each session:
First practice: Free choice from two sets of any tire compounds.
Qualification on Friday: Five sets of soft compound tires for use over Q1, Q2, Q3.
Second practice: Free choice of a single set of any tire compound.
Sprint qualification: Free choice of up to two sets of any tire compound – no mandatory pit stop required. The set of tires that completed the most laps of the sprint race will be returned to Pirelli after the session.
Run: Free choice of the remaining tires – use of at least two tire compounds in dry conditions is mandatory, i.e. at least one pit stop. It is not necessary for the top ten in qualifying to start the race with the same set with which they set their fastest time in Q2.
The use of soft tires only in Friday qualifying means that F1 has abolished the rule that drivers who qualify in the top ten must start the Sunday Grand Prix on the tire that they put on their fastest lap in the Q2 drove.
This means that all 20 cars have a free choice of tires at the start of the Grand Prix.
If the first practice session or Friday qualifying is held in wet conditions, teams will receive an additional set of intermediate tires in addition to their usual four sets, but must return a set of used intermediates prior to the start of sprint qualifying.
If Sprint Qualifying is wet, teams can return a set of used full or intermediate tires after the session, which will be replaced with a new set before the Grand Prix on Sunday.
Do the math and there is a chance the normal allotment of seven sets of rain tires (three sets of full and four sets of intermediate tires) will be increased to nine sets over the weekend.
In F1, there have long been Parc Ferme regulations between qualifying and the race, in which the vehicle settings cannot be changed.
The original idea was to ensure teams don’t compete on tracks with a single vehicle configuration for maximum performance in a single lap and a completely different one for the race, which can add significant cost.
In the new format, the Parc Ferme regulations apply from the start of the Friday qualifying through the sprint qualifying on Saturday to the race on Sunday.
However, certain aspects of the Parc Ferme will be suspended to allow changes for the second practice session on Saturday morning before the vehicle configurations for Sprint Qualifying revert to the Parc Ferme specification. The idea is to make sure that Saturday morning practice is still valuable for teams wanting to test developments, although teams will likely only focus on driving on heavy fuel for the race and potentially severely limiting running to kilometers to save on parts.
Some small changes to certain elements of the vehicle setup are still allowed in Parc Ferme, such as: B. Changes to the cooling when the temperature changes by 10 ° C, some changes to the suspension and replacement of the braking material for safety reasons.
If a team damages a component in Sprint Qualifying, such as a front wing, and does not have spare parts of the same specification, it can be replaced with an older, previously used specification without penalty.