The long-debated Sprint Qualifying format is expected to be approved by the F1 Commission today, paving the way for its introduction at three rounds later this year.
The scheme, first revealed by RaceFans in February, is likely to gain unanimous backing. Formula 1 believes adding extra races on Saturdays will increase viewership of race weekends, and has been trying to introduce the format in one form or another for years.
But while Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has claimed the plan enjoyed “great feedback from everyone”, several drivers publicly expressed scepticism over it. Sebastian Vettel said it “makes no sense”, Sergio Perez urged F1 to think carefully about “risky” experiments with the race weekend format and Daniel Ricciardo said the extra races must not diminish the value of winning grands prix.
The drivers largely fell into line following a meeting with Domenicali during pre-season testing in Bahrain, where they are believed to have been urged to rein in their criticism having panned a similar proposal last year. Pierre Gasly confirmed the sprint race proposal was discussed but said “I don’t want to go public.”
“We did this meeting to see all together whether we can move the sport forward and improve the show for all the people and all the fans, because that’s what we all want,” he added. “The main target is to improve the racing. I think all drivers are united in trying to make the car performance closer to each other, improve the show.”
The Sprint Qualifying races will be held at three rounds this year. The British, Italian and Sao Paulo grands prix are expected to be chosen.
The remuneration package teams will receive in exchange for putting their cars at risk of extra damage has been a sticking point, and could be subject to further last-minute revisions. This is not expected to prevent the format being approved. Final ratification will come from the World Motor Sports Council, which will likely be done via an electronic vote.
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