Unresolved questions over Sprint Qualifying won’t stop format’s introduction – Binotto

2021 F1 season

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is confident Formula 1 will introduce its new Sprint Qualifying format this year, despite key details of the format remaining undecided.

Formula 1’s plan to hold the extra sprint races on Saturdays was revealed by RaceFans early in February. But over a month later, with the first race of the new season less than two weeks away, teams are still yet to agree several important aspects of the new format.

F1 intends to hold Sprint Qualifying races at three rounds of the world championship. The British, Italian and Brazilian grands prix are now understood to be the favoured events. For the plan to go ahead, the final proposal must be approved in a vote of the F1 Commission.

The Sprint Qualifying proposal is radical in some respects. Points are expected to be awarded to the top three finishers in the Saturday races, meaning the three chosen rounds will award a maximum of 29 points instead of the 26 at the other grand prix weekends.

However other details of the format have not yet been agreed. The outstanding areas of discussion include changes to restrictions on tyre compounds and DRS during the Sprint Qualifying races, and the format’s effect on the ‘Parc Ferme’ rules which govern when teams can make changes to their cars.

Binotto said a meeting between teams and F1 regarding the plans on Saturday was positive, and does not believe the sticking points over the format will prevent it being introduced this year.

“We are obviously happy to support the concept,” said the Ferrari team principal. “There are still a few details that need to be addressed, which we are discussing and working on, but I don’t think they will be stoppers.

“So it’s only a matter of finalising the proposal in all aspects. But we are really working on those and hopefully in the next few days it can be announced.”

Williams team principal Simon Roberts said his team also “support the idea.”

“We’ve certainly been working closely – and I think other teams have as well – with Formula 1,” he added. “I think most of the technical stuff is pretty much there. And it was a positive meeting. We just wait and see what happens next.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 48 comments on “Unresolved questions over Sprint Qualifying won’t stop format’s introduction – Binotto”

    1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      15th March 2021, 10:04

      I’m actually surprised the teams support this, is there more money on the table for them if sprint races go ahead? Will driver salaries go up as well in the future because having an extra race say at every GP next year increases the risk of crashing, increases the mental strain on a driver and so on. If Lewis is worth $40,000,000 a year or whatever he’s getting for 20 plus race a year is he now worth $50 or $60,000,000 a year because he is racing 40 plus times?

      1. It’s not “sprint races”, but ‘Sprint Qualifying’.
        And teams only support ‘testing’ it.
        Not getting the semantics right seems to drive the opinions, @canadianjosh

        I don’t know if it will be good, bad, or indifferent.
        But I share the general opinion in the paddock that it’s good to test it so we can all form an informed opinion.

        And also we should open up to the reality that in most sports (maybe all but motorsports) qualifying tends to be a full match/game/race rather than some kind of short ‘see who’s fastest’ session.
        Imagine that in Swimming they only do the dive to determine who enters the race and from which lane;
        Imagine in Athletics they do an individual 100m dash to define who enters the marathon and from which position;
        Imagine in Football they do a shootout to determine who goes to the final of the World Cup.

        1. Testing great. Changing the format of the competition last moment, not so great.
          Competition distortion is a very unwanted thing, the FIA always seems to aim for.

          The biggest problem at this moment in time is the way they go about it, not the fact they want to change something.
          It seems ingrained in F1 culture..

        2. Imagine that in Swimming they only do the dive to determine who enters the race and from which lane;
          Imagine in Athletics they do an individual 100m dash to define who enters the marathon and from which position;
          Imagine in Football they do a shootout to determine who goes to the final of the World Cup.

          @coldfly I don’t think these analogies really apply here. If those were the methods that had always been used to determine entry to these events then people would accept it as part of the sport and would train and practice based on that format. For example anyone entering a marathon would have to accept that their starting position was determined by their 100m pace, so they may want to do some cross-training if it was more beneficial to start closer to the front rather than focusing purely on their long distance pace. Obviously for practical reasons this makes little sense for a running event, but this is basically the qualifying format that has always been used for F1. Hence, F1 teams don’t design a car purely for long run pace – they also prioritise 1 lap pace since they know that qualifying position is crucial to your race result.

          1. @keithedin, I understand and accept that qualifying in (most) motorsports has not been the same as other sports.
            I merely posted it to make people think and open their minds a bit. Opposing this new qualifying format (qualifying has been changed before) is not the end the world, not the end of motorsports, nor even the end of F1.
            And it’s only test.

            I’ll share my judgement after the test.

            1. Coventry Climax
              16th March 2021, 19:06

              @ Coldfly: My mind already is as open as can be. Don’t need you for that, thank you, and I think there’s more readers here that don’t like the insinuation. My mind is also -if I may say so myself- quite sound. Which means I’m not in favor just because it’s a change: I need solid reasons, and I haven’t seen, read or heard any.
              Had they just told it like it is – all about the money -, that might have made a different story altogether.

        3. Speaking of semantic, it’s interesting that Binoto talks of the “introduction” (First presentation of something destined to become permanent) rather than “Testing”. Maybe the teams now something we don’t. I think the writing is on the wall: No mater what the Sprint quali. will be a smashing success, therefore it will be expended to all races next year! Say the same people that speak of cost cutting. LOL

          1. And to continue the semantics and editing choices discussion: It’s interesting that Binotto is NOT quoted using the word ‘introducing’ yet it shows up in both the headline and editorial story.
            @carbonized

            1. @coldfly My takeaway was ‘unresolved questions’ and ‘key details’ was actually Binotto’s ‘a few details.’

      2. @canadianjosh Your rhetoric of racing 40+ times is just that, said that way because you don’t like the idea. Obviously F1 and the teams do not look at this as anything other than Sprint Qualifying. And at that, it will be the same number of race weekends that they have scheduled, with only 3 of them having Sprint Qualifying this year. Your playing with the numbers is a weak way of supporting your disdain for the trial.

        But to answer your question about more money on the table, I would say yes in the long run that is the idea. Along with making F1 financially sustainable, and more fair amongst the teams with better money distribution, and making cars that can actually race more closely, they plan to make F1 a much more affordable, exciting, enthralling sport, which should garner a bigger audience, rather than the diminishing one that has been the trend for years, and so should be able to attract new teams and sponsors and grow the sport.

        1. Coventry Climax
          16th March 2021, 19:17

          ‘Shalalalala’ is the reason audience numbers dropped. Instead of getting rid of it, they introduce ‘WeedeeWeedeeWoo’,
          and – with a serious face- say it’s the solution.
          So this means we end up with ‘Shalalalala-WeedeeWeedeeWoo’.
          Might be a great song for the Eurovision contest, but it’s not going to get the numbers up, and certainly not long term.

      3. My gut feeling is that the F1 powers have put their foot down on this initiative and is forcing the teams to all toe the same line for the time being

    2. And the train rumbles on. At this point they don’t even care anymore if this “solution” (to a conveniently invented “problem” that this doesn’t even come close to rsolving) has a support base with the viewers.

      1. The problem is that the stands at the track and the tv numbers suck especially bad on Saturdays, that is what this is all about.

    3. Liberty’s gamble is that, in their attempts to bring in new viewers, they don’t alienate a portion of their existing fanbase.

      Let’s see how this pans-out…

    4. Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos…..Hmmmm why dont they just include the other classic tracks….Spa, Suzuka and Monaco…..Package them up……call them the ‘Super Six’ or something….I can even hear the…..

      I’ll stop talking.

      1. @asanator It is quite telling that the circuits chosen are ones that tend to produce good races or are at least popular with the fans. They are trying their best to ensure the events are highly rated which they can then show as ‘proof’ that the Sprint Qualifying format is a success. Whereas if they’d chosen Barcelona, Sochi and Abu Dhabi to trial the format then they could be almost certain that those events would be rated lowly and they would have little justification for pushing the format in future.

        1. @keithedin Makes perfect sense to me for the trial, especially given how handcuffed these cars are in dirty air. This will give them at least something a little closer to what it could look like with the new cars that are far less dependent on clean air. I’m sure this is the logic to extending the DRS range to 2 seconds as well. It seems to me inevitable that Sprint Qualifying would be even better once cars are far less disturbed in dirty air. And why would they ‘hurt themselves’ with this trial by going to the lengths to all get together and agree to it, only to trial it at tracks that would not give a good representation of what it could be?

          In general I am convinced that there is a good chance we will be changing our minds about the quality of racing (ie. lack thereof) certain tracks provide once the cars can race closely together.

          1. @robbie Well, we honestly don’t know exactly how next year’s cars will perform until we see them actually try to race each other. It could be that tracks which currently make it hard to follow and tend to produce poor races will next year become some of the most lively and action packed events due to the new car regulations. You could argue that running a Qualifying Sprint test on the current iteration of cars which are about to undergo a massive overhaul for next year is a relatively fruitless affair that won’t give much meaningful data on it’s future potential whichever tracks they use for it. I don’t see how you can say that some tracks would be a better representation of the racing in the next generation of cars when we haven’t seen them in action yet.

            But in any case, I don’t particularly mind testing a new qualifying or race format. My concern is that whatever the outcome they will use whatever justification they want to ensure they can push it forward permanently, whether the tests are well received by fans and beneficial to the racing or not.

            1. @keithedin That’s a fair comment. Just that for me I don’t see how the new cars won’t be a drastic difference given how even small changes can change F1 cars a lot. You’re absolutely right the proof will be in the pudding and as I have said around here before, I firmly believe the only reason they have retained DRS for the new cars is as a stopgap measure just in case the teams somehow find a way to remain too addicted to aero downforce, and thus needing too much clean air still. And then that can be tweaked further and DRS shed completely. That’s my hope and full expectation. But I fully expect this has been researched very thoroughly by Brawn and his team in their wind tunnel, with input from the teams as well, and that there is a collective understanding that they must make these cars easy to fight closely with each other.

              As to your last paragraph I do get that concern, but I don’t share it to a great degree, simply because I think Liberty and Brawn only have the best of intentions for doing all the right things with this entity we love, so I trust them. They have done so much that is good and was essential, that for me they deserve the benefit of the doubt and to give this trial a fair shot and see. It helps me that they have brought the teams in, all of them for a change, post-BE, and included them in agreeing the new chapter of F1, and it helps me that they have agreed. I have no sense they’re being bullied into it and are all just playing yes men/women. Nor do I feel we’re, let’s say, having the wool pulled over our eyes as fans and that they’ll do whatever they want anyway. That may seem so to some who just don’t want to see change, but hey, it’s their bat, their ball, and frankly I’m stoked about the fact that an entity has come in a done all the right things in order to right the ship post-BE. I’m really not phased by this trial, and can’t imagine it is going to be such a negative experience that running with it permanently, especially with the new cars, will be a bad thing. It’s no deal breaker for me, I can guarantee that, even without seeing a Sprint Qualifying weekend.

            2. @robbie saying that it is not a sprint race because they have decided to call it a “sprint qualifying” instead is not an argument that I find particularly convincing. To that end, if it is not meant to be a “sprint race”, then why would you then intentionally give it a name that so strongly alludes to “sprint races” if you don’t want that association to be made?

              Arguments about semantics aside, I know you talk about how “stoked” and “hyped” you are about Liberty Media and are throwing a lot of very enthusiastic praise at them, but here is a simple question – what quantifiable means would you want to see used to judge where this is a “success” or a “failure”? I’m not asking for an exact figure, but rather what metrics you want to use. I hope you do not take offence, but at times your posts have felt a bit long on buzzwords about “excitement” and “enthralling” events and short on how the outcome of this is meant to be judged.

              GT Racer’s post makes clear that Liberty Media aren’t giving those in the paddock a clear idea what they think a successful trial would look like, and that they might never have a clear answer to that question.
              I know it’s easy to bash people with the line that “they just don’t want to see change”, but it looks more like a lot of fans are asking “what are you trying to achieve” and are concerned that even Liberty Media seems to not really understand what it is trying to achieve here. You might contend that Liberty Media might know what it is doing here – if it does, it’s still arguably failing in that, from what GT Racer is saying, they’re doing a poor job of communicating that information in the paddock.

              In 9 days time, the teams will be submitting their cars for scruitineering for the first race of the season and yet, as is made clear in this article, they’re still working out how the rules for this format are meant to work.
              Nobody has yet explained what the rationale is behind picking certain venues for these trials or what technical changes will be required to make those races work.

              Whilst you talk about how well Liberty are meant to be researching other changes, Liberty Media haven’t talked about what research they’ve done on this proposal or what that showed. There haven’t been any polls of the fans or any events getting our involvement, no comparison of this approach to how it might compare to other series – or, for that matter, any mention of whether other series have seen any measurable benefit if they have tried using a similar system – or any real attempt to engage the fans on this proposal before this announcement was made.

              It doesn’t feel like it’s a properly research decision, and the whole decision making process feels like the priority is to rush it through a.s.a.p. to try and cram it in before the season starts – which makes some feel worried that there might be some botched decision making because things aren’t properly thought through.

            3. Coventry Climax
              16th March 2021, 19:23

              Good reply, @anon; your mind is quite open as well, I’d say. ;-)

    5. So Montreal seems to be the one sacrificed in favor of Silverstone, even though I thought Interlagos would be the one. I wonder why? What changed regarding Montreal specifically?

      1. Maybe Montreal did not feel like hosting this @jerejj? Or, maybe more likely, they aren’t actually that sure a race in the middle of a city like Montreal will really come to be?

          1. @bascb @jerejj Can a venue just say ‘we don’t feel like it?’ Not sure about that. As well, as we speak Montreal is still in a fairly restricted lockdown status, at least as of today. Obviously I can’t speak for by the time the race is meant to be run. Canada has been quite slow in administering vaccines compared to many other countries, although finally we are about to receive more and more vaccines so the administering should start to ramp up in a big way. That said, many people are still in a ‘we’ll believe it when we see it’ mode due to the aforementioned snails pace so far, country wide, at getting supply and getting jabs in arms. So far for us in Canada it has been a supply issue, so with any luck the jabs should start to ramp up in a much more accelerated way starting this week.

            1. Well, I am sure a venue can say “no thank you” to Liberty wanting to try something new @robbie.

              But I do think that in this case it is more likely that Montreal was interested – since the quali race thing puts more emphasis on the friday as well, with qualifying moved there, it should be good for promoting the race in the city for the whole week.

              But yeah, I can see how Liberty – because they want to plan this ahead – changed their plans because they are not completely sure it would work in Canada and moved it to a venue where they might be able to test this with an audience almost certain.

            2. @bascb Ok, if you’re ‘sure.’ And yeah I think it remains to be seen as to what amount of audience there might be in Montreal. As well, is it still a guarantee that they will be flying over to Canada? I don’t know, and do they even know right now? But that said, I’m not sure the success or failure of the trial depends on a physical audience being there.

            3. @robbie – I think the doubts over whether Montreal will happen at all are more likely to be the reason they went with Silverstone.

              But it is also somewhat more likely that they will be able to test it there with at least some audience

    6. The number of articles quoting people who try to sell this to us will soon exceed the number of articles on Hamilton’s 2021 contract negotiations.

      1. @exeviolthor True. I hadn’t thought about this.

      2. You know that Alonso’s comeback took a shorter time than Hamilton’s 2021 contract extension?

    7. I don’t see why a team would bother putting a car on the grid for this. Only three points earning places means this race is really a practice session in disguise, but without the ability to make changes to the car, and with more risk of colliding or crashing. Obviously it is worth something to those at the top of the points tables, but for everyone else it is a waste of time. Say half the cars pitted after the first lap, and the rest were carefully driving around the track trying to stay out of the way of anyone wanting to overtake? F1 will look like a laughing stock.
      Maybe they should make it so if you have get the Fastest Lap point then you have to retire from the race (and you keep that point as well).

      1. It’s qualifying. @drycrust
        Why would any team withdraw from qualifying for a better grid position? It’s not like teams are sitting out qualifying today to reduce the risk of crashing and colliding. And there aren’t even points on offer today.

      2. @drycrust This comment makes so sense whatsoever. Why would teams not participate? There are no points for qualifying now, yet everyone participates.

    8. The points thing is a complete disaster, and at the rate this is progressing, I’m sure there will be points for most overtakes as well before long. Fanboost next.

    9. Something I heard over the weekend was that teams have largely agreed with it as none of them honestly expect it to ‘work’ & are hoping that once they trial it & it’s shown that it’s a format that won’t work for F1 then Liberty drop the idea completely.

      The general opinion in the paddock from what I was told is that nobody seems to know what this is going to achieve or why it’s been done. Even those who were firmly against the reverse grid proposal last year understood why it was a format that Liberty were keen on, But nobody understands what the likely qualifying race format will really do.

      I did also ask somebody what the definition of success would be & the reply was basically that nobody really knows & it will likely be something that is never clearly defined.

      1. @gt-racer it sounds a lot like what happened with the elimination qualifying concept then – that the teams expected it to fail and decided that it was best if those who pushed for the idea were then made to take the full force of the backlash.

        A lot of the points you mention really are not that surprising – it did sound like the vagueness was because they hadn’t decided how it was meant to work, hadn’t decided what they were really trying to achieve or worked out how they’d quantify if it works or not.

        The fact that nobody really knows how success might be judged sums up the whole process – if you can’t define that, then it allows you to come up with whatever interpretation you want to justify your next actions. I know some have tried to attack those who do not support the idea as “being reluctant to change”, but that isn’t the problem – rather, it’s that people want to have a sense that those in charge might have some idea of what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how they’ll assess whether their plans have actually worked, rather than just blundering about aimlessly hoping that something might come up.

      2. gt-racer That’s interesting. I’ve been an advocate for this trial, and I thought it was simply that it might be a more exciting way to qualify for the race, and at the same time it makes for a more potent Friday, with the usual qualifying format happening then. I thought that was pretty clear as to ‘why.’ Seems a bit weird to me that they understood why Liberty talked of reverse grids, but rejected them, and now that they don’t know why Liberty is talking of Sprint Qualifying, they’re accepting it, but I guess as you say they expect it to not survive past the trials. I’m fine with that too. Just seems strange that they don’t just vehemently oppose the trial then and get it dropped as they did reverse grids.

        I remain of the opinion that there must be something more enthralling than spending much of the one hour under the current format waiting for the last few minutes of tension as to which Mercedes gets pole.

        1. @robbie I think those asking why are looking at it from the perspective that everytime fans have ever been asked about the weekend format (Including in some fairly recent survey’s conducted for Liberty) the significant majority view has always been that fans are happy with the format as it’s been.

          Additionally those that have been around the sport longer term know that qualifying on Friday has never been a draw, Hence why Friday qualifying was abandoned twice in the past. The last time qualifying took place on a Friday (2003) virtually nobody watched it & track attendance was down on Saturday with the primary reason been down to peoplle having to work & be in school.

          And in terms of the qualifying race the term ‘why’ is been used as hardly anybody in the paddock thinks it will be all that exciting, In fact the general opinion seems to be that it will likely be significantly more uneventful than the Grand Prix. When that opinion was put forward the counter argument was that they can just make DRS more powerful to guarantee some changes in the order to make it appear more interesting when they start pushing overtaking figures.

          1. @gt-racer Ok good stuff, thanks. That’s interesting feedback. Much appreciated.

            1. @gt-racer Just a few further thoughts on this. I had to google to refresh my memory after you mentioned Friday quali up to 2003. I do wonder if there might be some differences now. In terms of audience, I wonder if now with more people having the ability to record Friday sessions digitally, not to mention the availability of streaming, Fridays might now garner a bigger audience. As well, if the current format is more enthralling than the single lap runs one car at a time as it was back then, perhaps Fridays would be more attractive or accessible now. There is also the ability for Sky et al to replay the Friday qualifying ahead of the Sprint Qualifying, or at least the highlights, for those unable to watch on Friday due to work or school. No matter how one looks at it, Friday will always be a work day. Or perhaps it should only be practice on ‘ignorable’ Friday after all.

              As to a Sprint Qualifying being uneventful compared to the race, that is probably something Brawn would prefer as he doesn’t want to take away from the race, but for me it is about a more exciting qualifying and is not meant to duplicate race day, and I still think a Sprint Qualifier could be more exciting than flying lap qualifying.

              But hey, it’s a trial, and for 3 races, and when one researches the various formats they have used in the past, often they have gone with a format for at least a few years if not longer before changing.

    10. They should probably test their little plan on a junior formula then.

    11. this would only work if the starting positions for the sprint race are the reverse of the results of the previous GP. any DNFs from previous GP would be placed in their current championship position.

    12. Here’s an idea…instead of 1 sprint qualifying, keep the 3 rounds qualifying format, so 3 sprint races of 15 mins each where the bottom 5 cars gets knocked out and top 10 feature in ‘Q3’ to shoot out for pole just like normal qualifying.

    13. Regret buying BGP tickets now – it’s going to look like I support this nonsense

    14. The problem is that the stands at the track and the tv numbers suck especially bad on Saturdays, that is what this is all about.

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