Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2020

“Support from all parties for a new qualifying format at some races” – FIA

2021 F1 season

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The FIA has established a working group to investigate changes to the F1 race weekend format in time for the 2021 season, which may include the introduction of sprint races.

As RaceFans revealed on Tuesday, Formula 1 is evaluating a plan to introduce sprint races at three events this season. The proposal would involve moving qualifying forward to Friday at those races, and using it to set the grid for a shorter sprint race on Saturday. This would in turn decide the starting order for Sunday’s race, and may also award championship points.

The proposal was discussed by the F1 Commission – including representatives of the sport, the FIA and teams – and were positively received, according to a statement from the sport’s governing body.

“All teams recognised the major importance of engaging fans in new and innovative ways to ensure an even more exciting weekend format,” said the FIA.

“There was, therefore, broad support from all parties for a new qualifying format at some races, and a working group has been tasked with creating a complete plan with the aim to reach a final decision before the start for the 2021 championship.”

The 2021 F1 season is due to begin at the Bahrain International Circuit on March 28th.

The FIA also confirmed the number of days given over for testing the new, 18-inch wheels for the 2022 F1 season has been increased from 25 to 30. Another working group has been established to discuss how salaries of drivers and top team members can be controlled over coming seasons.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on ““Support from all parties for a new qualifying format at some races” – FIA”

  1. And the meeting was chaired by Emperor Nero…

  2. Let’s see Mercedes wining on Saturday, starting at back on Sunday and see them wining again. So exciting!

  3. My concern with this sprint race idea is that your just going to take action that would usually happen during the GP & shifting it to Saturday which may then make the actual race less interesting.

    For example say somebody qualifies out of position during the actual qualifying session. On a normal weekend we will have the prospect of them coming through the field during the race to look forward to, Yet with a sprint qualifying race they will simply do that on Saturday which will then rob us of some action during the main race on Sunday therefore making it less interesting/exciting.

    Additionally your going to be setting the grid based more off race pace then before which may again end up doing nothing but resulting in the Sunday GP been more static than it could be.

    In trying to make Saturday ‘more exciting’ (TBH I think it’s exciting enough as it is) I fear all they will end up doing is make Sunday’s worse when the Grand Prix should be the main focus & biggest attraction of the weekend.

    1. That is a pessimistic way of looking at it. On the flip side, it is quite possible that one of the front runners may shunt during the sprint race or get something else wrong and start at the back during the main race.

      Quali has been far too predictable over the years and I think a sprint race has more chance of upsetting the grid compared to the current quali sessions.

      I think this will make Friday interesting, Saturdays a bit more unpredictable with continued impact on Sunday. A far better proposition.

      1. @f1g33k

        On the flip side, it is quite possible that one of the front runners may shunt during the sprint race or get something else wrong and start at the back during the main race.

        I still see that as a negative though, Especially since it’s then having a bigger effect on the championship should they decide to award points in the sprint race.

        I think I just see far more negatives & honestly don’t see any real benefits or positives. It feels like it’s something been done just so they can say they are doing something which is never the right thing to do.

        And also TBH I just generally don’t like shorter sprint races anyway as they always feel like they are over before you’ve really had a chance to get into them & also lack the strategy, management & other things that make longer races more interesting to me.

        And honestly if these sprint races were separate from the rest of the weekend/championship i’d simply not bother watching them, But since they will impact the GP & championship I kind of feel like I have to watch to avoid missing part of the overall story of the season.

    2. @stefmeister Yes that sounds logical to me

    3. @stefmeister my view entirely.
      I just look forward to a Friday or Saturday getting lost to rain among this format.

  4. My biggest issue with this plan is the shift of qualifying to Friday. Along with the majority of people I work on Fridays so I wouldn’t be able to tune into Qualifying. It’s probably the most exciting part of the weekend with the cars at their fastest yet most people will now miss this

    1. @burden93 For Canada and Brazil, qualifying occurs in the evening hours in Europe (assuming you’re in Europe). Afternoon only for Monza.

      1. That’s even worse tbh as Friday evenings are usually chilled out for most people/family time or socials with friends or people at work, I know its COVID now but these are long term plans. Friday evening viewing really isn’t primetime for anyone, even many hardcore F1 fans would be put of. Saturday qualifying has no issues tbh & is actually rather fun most weekends. If anything Friday testing will also be missed as it was never a ‘must watch’ event & only dedicated folk tuned in during Friday mornings/midays which is easily watched whilst at work/home as background viewing. A big event on Friday evenings isn’t good

      2. Sorry, but in normal times, Friday night is social time. I’ve already largely based my regular weekend around an F1 tradition. I’m not changing that now. I’d rather have qualifying I the current P3 slot on a Saturday.

      3. @jerejj I missed the announcement that it was those three races! You’re right, at least it makes it watchable, but as others say Friday night is hardly ideal when we already give up Saturday and Sunday afternoons to watch!

    2. I agree, qually is brilliant and needs to be on a weekend. I love the idea of a sprint race but not at the expense of Saturday qually. Its an experiment so we’ll see but id like a Friday qually for the sprint race. Qually Saturday then teatime sprint race. The ‘grand prix’ is on Sunday and is still the blue riband event with qually based on outright one lap pace

  5. Jose Lopes da Silva
    11th February 2021, 17:45

    Please go ahead with it.

  6. Sounds like a recipe for a crash fest. Teams may need a 3rd or 4th car on those weekends increasing costs.
    It might be interesting till someone gets injured. I hope not but we will see how this gimmick works out.

  7. The Qualifying format is fine as it is — what could be changed is removing or at least reducing all the parc fermé restrictions.
    I would allow qualifying setups and race setups… not so far as changing parts unless they break, but anything that is relatively easy to adjust, such as ride-height, stiffness, camber, wing angles, etc.

    1. I am not sure I agree re: parc ferme (there definitely should be more exceptions IMO) but I do think this is the best qualifying format we’ve seen in decades. It’s a shame if it loses its meaning.

      1. @nanotech I think parc-ferme has been by far the biggest issue with qualifying going back to it’s introduction in 2003 as all it’s done is ensure that there is very little (If any) performance fluctuation between qualifying & races as they qualify with the same setup they run in the race. Yes they can change wing angle & tyre pressures during pit stops but it’s still essentially the same setup they qualified with in other areas.

        If you go back to before 2003 & especially before refueling was introduced in 1994 you would often see some fairly big performance swings as cars that worked well on a setup around low fuel in qualifying didn’t always work as well when setup for a race or vice versa. That’s what gave us things like Nigel Mansell coming through the field at the 1989 Hungarian Gp, He couldn’t get the car to work on low fuel in qualifying but nailed the race setup that he was also able to optimise knowing he had some passing to do.

        1. You would also see quali engines that were thrown away after 4 laps of use – cool, but not really “helpful” in the overall global perception of the sport.

          I am a firm supporter of qualifying the car you’re going to race (that was also t-car days).

          I think we’re agreeing, BTW :) my only issue is when something stupid goes awry and the car starts at the back as a result – for me, homologated part swaps are OK, engine swaps are not, and that’s generally how it’s enforced. There’s some grey line in between, but as I said I love this quali format. It is exciting to watch, vs 40 mins of dead air and all cars come out, or 1-lap-each quali.

          1. PS as we all know, the biggest issue are the various tire life cliffs. Push at 110% in quali, drive the race at 80%. But that’s way off topic!

  8. You obviously can’t please everyone, but as a Canadian (same as US) ET timezone viewer, it was nice to wake up early on Sat/Sun, watch the races, and then have a productive day, most weekends.
    Now I’ll be avoiding spoilers on Friday afternoons until Sat morning, and packing in quali an hour prior to sprint race.
    And I’ll have less to look forward to, as they reduce the calendar down to fewer venues and weekends.

    Anyways, not the first time FIA has changed my F1 viewing patterns, and I’m sure won’t be the last.

    1. @nanotech Fellow Canadian here. Since the Friday ‘pre-quali’ I’ll call it, is just to set the starting order for Saturday’s actual quali, for me it makes Fridays more exciting but just for me personally I don’t think I’ll be nearly as ‘spoiled’ if I hear Friday’s results ahead of Saturday, because Saturday is the real quali.

      So for me, and perhaps I’m splitting hairs but when you say you’ll have to ‘pack in quali’ ahead of the sprint race….well, the sprint race is quali. But that said I will be trying to see everything from Friday by Friday evening as I prefer not to be spoiled on any of it, lol.

      1. True, it will give me something to do in Friday quarantine lockdown!

        If Saturday sprint race is the “real” quali, Sundays are going to be very boring. May reduce my need to watch both weekend days!

        1. @nanotech Not sure why the Sundays are going to be very boring. If it is because of things such as stefmeister is suggesting above, my short answer to that is that one never knows what might happen on Saturday, but it is still qualifying, it will still set the order for Sunday’s start, and for me on average the fastest will remain so as will the slowest, but we will have had a busier Friday, an exciting qualifying race on Saturday, and a Sunday race that will still remain as it always has, and the grid will either be fairly normal and expected as is usually the case, or something may have happened on Saturday to make it a bit topsy turvy as can happen already as well. I don’t see why anything strange happening on Friday, that could have made for a more exciting grid had that happened on Saturday, is now going to be automatically paved over and made ‘normal’ again because of Saturday’s sprint qualifying. e.g. if a bloke that normally would be qualifying in the top 5 has an issue and has to start at the back of the pack on Saturday, since it is a short sprint race perhaps that bloke will only have time to recover to 10th on the grid. It isn’t a given that he would simply start from the back and end up as the winner (pole sitter) as can happen over the full length of the actual race. So I envision that through Friday and Saturday we can still end up with a topsy turvy starting grid for Sunday’s race.

          Just one other thought on this but I think it is key. This might all be a much better concept to employ (not saying they shouldn’t experiment this year) once the cars are far less dependent on clean air. Once that is the case we might see some far more exciting action and some surprises on Saturday than I think people are imagining will be the case with these clean air dependent cars that can be processional, moreso at some tracks than others.

          1. Frankly, the clean air / less aero wash is what makes me leery of this concept. If you still can’t pass or even follow closer than 2s back, Saturday races will be as boring as many Sundays now, and as you note we’ll be relying on mistakes or mechanicals to spice up the grid again on Sundays. Max or Lewis washing out in quali will be sorted in sprint race. Ricciardo or Alonso (hopefully he’s OK) will be less able to work through the field. Tire deg in a shorter race will be less of a factor.

            The main difference is that now I’ll know more in advance about what a “race pace” looks like in a given car, so certain races will be more predictable, barring incidents.

          2. @nanotech I don’t expect with the wholly new technical regs to still see cars having to hang back by 2 seconds just to keep their car performing well. That is the whole point of the reg changes and since they have been worked on them massively, with the teams’ input and then finally their blessing, I expect it to be as they have stated which is that the cars will lose something like only 20% of their performance vs the 50% they lose now while trailing in dirty air.

            But additionally to that, I think the sprint qualifying race will be on low fuel and perhaps even one set of softer tires, so I still expect the quali pace on Saturday to be higher than the race pace on Sunday when they are on full fuel etc, just as is the qualifying pace higher than on race day with the usual qualifying method.

  9. Since all teams will work relentlessly to explore all scenarios for quali/sprint/gp, I believe now that this will in fact protect the best teams (ex Mercedes) from anomalies or problems in qual etc, as the tendency is for the teams with better performance to be in front in Qualy. Usually the crashes occur on the start of the race from the middle of the pack to lower positions, more chance for the worst teams to have setbacks. Also, this will devalue the effort for the qualifying session, or minimize the chance of success of a midfield team with an super quali lap. Ex. Leclerc might qualify on 4th on the grid. While with the normal gp he would have a chance of points, with 2 races, he will be probably a bit behind for the start of 2nd race and outside of points by the end of a gp race. This will in my view benefit the better teams.

  10. I forgot to add that this will also help a team like Mercedes. If let’s say Bottas have an accident in a race, it’s over for him, whereas if he crash in a sprint race, he will probably end on the podium on full race even if starts from last place on the grid, as Mercedes performance advantage + DRS makes a breeze for the top teams to reach top 6 places on first stint.

  11. Let’s just have random drawings for start of the sprint race qualification. I really thing this is a bad idea and counter productive to the idea of the budget caps.

    1. @talus21 Here’s An even better idea for determining the grid order for a Saturday QLF race; Put every drivers’ name written on a piece of paper into a hat or a bucket and pick them up randomly. The starting order would be according to the order in which names got picked up.

  12. Pros: more entertainment for fans and income for circuit owners etc.
    Cons: minimal difference to drivers standings, possibly more work for mechanics and cost for teams if there are crashes

  13. I think all of this is just an attempt to get more viewers on a Saturday. As a lifelong fan in the UK, but not someone willing to pay for a Sky subscriotion, shifting points scoring to Saturday just means I’m less likely to watch on a Sunday (where I do pay for a number of races each year via NowTV/Sky).

    A Sky day pass is no good, as the 24 hr pass if purchased on a Saturday to watch qualifying, expires just before the race airs on a Sunday.

    For this to work in the UK Sky/NowTV need to offer a weekend pass, or an F1 event pass.

  14. Still don’t see the point of this. If the sprint race is to set the grid for the actual race on Sunday, surely the sprint race is nothing more than extra laps? And extra laps means the top teams (Mercedes) would have more time to make their way up to the front in the case they had a problem in qualifying. Or, if they have a problem in the sprint race, the FIA can be like, “No don’t worry. You get another chance tomorrow, so it’s okay.” Seriously, I cannot see how this new system would help anyone other than the top teams.

    F1 has always been about qualifying on saturday, and the race on sunday. The people running this sport need to realise that changing qualifying isn’t the solution to fixing the ‘entertainment’ factor. We saw how disastrous it was the last time they changed qualifying, and I’m honestly praying that this system never makes it past the testing phase.

    1. They aren’t looking to fix anything. They know that the current format works. All they are asking themselves, and now it seems like the teams are willing to explore it too, is “Is there an even more exciting way to do qualifying than we already have?”

      No the sprint race isn’t just extra laps. The sprint race is the qualifier. The winner wins pole. The rest of the order gets established too. No different than the quali session they have now. The only difference is that instead of solo time-trial type qualifying runs, they will race for it together. Not sure what is so confusing.

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