Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021

Vettel suspects another motive lies behind “official” reason for Sprint Qualifying races

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel remains sceptical over whether Formula 1’s new Sprint Qualifying races will make grand prix weekends more exciting.

A plan to introduce extra races on Saturdays at three rounds this year was approved by the F1 Commission earlier this week. Vettel, who has said previously the idea “makes no sense”, is doubtful that its true purpose is to create more action.

“We need to see,” said Vettel. “Obviously it’s decided so we’ll give it a go.

“The reasoning behind this, there’s probably two ways to explain it but the official one is that should be more exciting. We’ll see if it’s more exciting. I hope it is.”

Vettel said F1 should be prepared to shelve the plan if it does not produce exciting races.

Start, Silverstone, 2020
Poll: Will F1’s new Sprint Qualifying races enhance the championship?
“If it turns out to be more exciting and the people like it, then maybe we’ll all have to sort of reset and adapt.

“If they don’t like it and we don’t like it then we should go back. I’m generally against creating a mess on purpose, otherwise you just might roll the dice.

“But we’ll see. Hopefully the cars get closer and closer to each other so we don’t need to think about more of these things. But as I said, now I’m pretty open and we’ll see how it turns out.”

Vettel’s former team mate Charles Leclerc welcomed the news Sprint Qualifying races will go ahead, but said they must not detract from the importance of the main event on Sundays.

“I’m quite happy that we are trying this,” said Leclerc. “I think it’s good that we have three grands prix where we’ll try this.

“The main important thing is that it doesn’t devalue the Sunday event, which is the main race, and this should remain the main race. But to have a sprint race might be interesting. We’ll see also the cars be pushed to the max from the first lap to the last lap, which which will be nice for us drivers.”

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Author information

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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34 comments on “Vettel suspects another motive lies behind “official” reason for Sprint Qualifying races”

  1. They don’t currently have any tires that can be pushed to the end of a 20min sprint race!!

    1. Isn’t it 1/3 distance, and the lighter fuel load will surely make the hards work. I haven’t heard what the Quali Tyre rules will be. Will Q2 tyre be used for sprint race quali, or for the race proper, or not at all?

      1. @tricky No Q2 rule on the sprint race weekends. Free starting set choice for both races of those weekends.
        Correct, the lighter fuel load means less stress on tyres, so getting them last shouldn’t be a problem.

  2. I think their only purpose is to allow tracks to offer more “valuable” action on friday in the hope of boosting ticket sales and for TV / F1TV to try and get more views as well. In the end, that is what brings in the money.

    The other stuff is, as Vettel mentions, just the reason it got sold with, but not the real reason, otherwise they would have insisted on the “rolling the dice” part more.

    1. +1. You are probably right about the real reason.

      I am all for new ideas about the week-end format, but that one isn’t likely to produce much excitement. No miracle, at the moment exciting races require cars out of position.

    2. @bascb on that note, there are reports that the cost of a 3 day general admission ticket for the British GP has risen from around £175 in 2019 to £200 now (or about $240 in 2019 to $280 today, which is an increase of about 16.7%).

      Part of that will probably be linked to the BRDC trying to claw back some of the revenue they missed out on in 2020, but it does seem that the addition of the sprint race is also being used as part of the justification for the increase in price as well.

      1. And it’s a more exciting Friday for the 3-dayers too.

        1. @robbie it depends on what some were going to the track on the Friday for – there have been those commenting that they went to the track on a Friday because, being practice sessions, they had increased access around the circuit and increased access to the drivers after the session, given there was less pressure around the Friday sessions. If you were looking for that different experience, then you might not necessarily view the current proposal as an improvement.

          It also has to be said that, by the nature of a three day pass, it’s not really just about the Friday session alone – it’s how the Saturday and Sunday play out as well that will influence whether you feel you really got value for money over the whole race weekend.


            anon I’m sure, but given that attendance in general at many races finds itself lacking, let alone for Friday which is usually the weakest attendance day, I’d say F1 can’t stop progress in trying to up Friday numbers and indeed weekend numbers overall because some of the generally small number of attendees on Friday might not like the changes to the day’s feel. The idea is to get more people there as there will be more action, and I’m sure they’re willing to forego a few thousand fans who might prefer Friday to be more casual, in favour of lots more who will be drawn to a more enthralling day. Is it really a good thing if Friday is so casual that far fewer people go? Probably promoters wish more would attend every day, not just Sunday. Keeping Fridays the good ole way surely isn’t going to do that. Granted, a more enthralling product on the track and thus an increase in F1’s reputation on the excitement scale on Sundays might up the attendance on Fridays and Saturdays too, as a global buzz takes hold. If this year produces a closer title battle and next years cars continue that trend, 3 day tickets and thus attendance on said three days should increase. But Fridays could remain still relatively weak if it’s ‘just practice.’

      2. That’s a great deal for Argentine gamers ;)

  3. Why would anyone move the one part of the F1 weekend that produces close competition and compelling TV that ends at a predetermined time to a Friday. On purpose. To replace it with a 100km procession.

    This whole thing is silly.

    1. the one part of the F1 weekend that produces close competition

      I know what part you mean but I have no idea how you could possibly describe it like that. Even P3 is more exciting than Qualifying.

  4. The simple fact one would have to distinguish main race from the other one is enough devaluation. I’m yet to grasp what good this brings.
    As for Vettel, once a certain knight said “cash is king”.

  5. I have seen that race promoters & broadcasters are already starting to promote the gimmick race as another race so it’s plainly obvious that whatever the official line from F1 is about avoiding using words like race or winners isn’t going to stop others from doing so which is going to detract from the main race.

    Many of us here are the more dedicated F1 fans so we get the difference between the gimmick race & the main race, But many of the more casual & newer fans aren’t going to know the difference so if they watch a race on Saturday & see somebody win that race they are going to think they have watched a race that somebody has won & the media will likewise report it as such which will detract from the main race.

    Having more than 1 race with more than 1 winner on a weekend automatically takes away from the importance of the main race so just by having these gimmick races they are automatically detracting from the gp.

    The whole thing is a poorly thought out, Completely unnecessary gimmick with nothing but negatives and zero positives.

    1. @roger-ayles Of course we already have a pole winner as it is, and the winner of Sprint Qualifying will still be the pole winner, so I’m sure it won’t be all that hard to figure out. I’m sure viewers won’t miss the fact that the weekend goes beyond Saturday and that there is actually the usual race still on Sunday.

  6. This is one of the things Zak Brown refers to. Sprint races will only help top teams trully lock the top places ror the actual race

  7. I suspect that the motive for sprint races is to attract fans who can’t be bothered to watch a two hour race. Sort of like that first free bet, which draws you in and then makes you want to do more and more until eventually you are prepared to watch the entire season. It makes sense, from F1’s perspective, as sports need more fans, and the money that comes with them, to survive. It may also be followed up by more gimmicky features to ensure that every race is exciting, because of those fans that would switch off after one dull race (and then write on twitter that F1 is terrible, creating a bad image for the sport). It’s a shame for the loyal fans that will stick with it through dull seasons like 2015, knowing that it will become exciting again soon, and in fact any race has the potential to be an absolute classic, but that is just how life works now. If it weren’t for the increase of the aforementioned fans, F1 would not have enough fans to survive and would cease to exist. I would prefer for F1 to stay pure, and hopefully it will, but I would rather see it become gimmicky that disappear altogether.

    1. @f1frog you pretty much nailed it in one.

      They’re doing it to attract new fans and new sponsors and for no other reason.

      If, and I’m sure it will, their analysis shows that shorter races attracts newer, younger fans, we’ll see, as you say, more gimmicks and more shorter races.

      Ultimately Sunday races are going to get changed to multiple short races. They won’t do it for every race but over time there’ll be less “proper” full Sunday races and more sprit format races because that will be the only way they’ll be able to retain any of the new Twitter centric, short term “fans”.

      Us older rusted on fans are not really their target, more are we particularly important to them as they believe we won’t leave.

  8. David McClelland
    29th April 2021, 21:26

    Wait, what was the other reason? 1: More Exciting and 2: …?

    “The reasoning behind this, there’s probably two ways to explain it but the official one is that should be more exciting. We’ll see if it’s more exciting. I hope it is.”

    Reply moderated
  9. I suspect another motive lies behind “RaceFans” reporting around Sprint Qualifying races.
    I mentioned many times before that I have not made up my mind yet (how can we) and that I will wait for the actual session. I’m positive though that they’ll test this rather than bluntly introduce, like all the innovations in the past.

    I’m disappointed about the one-sided reporting around this test.
    How can you head an article with only one quoted word and create IMO a tendentious heading?
    Why not with a full Vettel quote? “I’m pretty open and we’ll see how it turns out.”
    Or quote Leclerc in the heading? “I’m quite happy that we are trying this”

    1. @coldfly I do hear you on your observation I really do, and I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, but I have a however.

      However, I listen to some talk radio usually for at least a bit of time throughout each day, primarily on weekdays, on a particular channel I like. It consists of regular hosts throughout the day, starting with a morning man, then a nine til noon guy, someone on from 12 til 2…you get the drift. They all talk about all kinds of topics all day, and they all have their opinions. Often certain political leanings. Often quite neutral. It’s a real mix. People (listeners) are encouraged to call in all day. And the hosts actually prefer if you call in with a counter argument to the one the host is presenting. He’s presenting his opinion and would rather not have people just call in and agree all day.

      As to them having their opinion? For the odd caller that complains about them using their show to promote their own opinion, they get an immediate response akin to ‘That’s my opinion now tell us yours,’ or if the caller gets rude, they might even get a ‘then get your own show!’ response from the odd belligerent listener. They’re paid to have an opinion, they know they have to back it up with a strong argument, and then they prefer to take debate on it not just agreement all day, for that would make for much less enthralling radio, and they want to leave listeners with several angles to consider.

      Obviously I’m saying, without meaning any offence to you whatsoever, it’s Keith’s blog, Dieter’s too, they have their opinions that are often quite neutral I find, and not usually one-sided, but when they do have an obvious stance that’s fully their right, just as we all have the freedom to start our own blog, and they give us all full freedom (within the comment regs), to disagree all day long. They encourage a conversation.

      I do get what you’re saying, but I don’t expect Keith and Dieter to do as you suggest quotes-wise, nor do I think they should. And you know where I stand on Sprint Qualifying. I think it should be noted as you often do, that a headline can be a bit provocative or even slightly misleading, until one reads the article, and that is the point …to read the article…and respond. And note…KC and DR include the positive words Vettel and Leclerc use as well. They could have been far more one-sided in their choice of drivers’ quotes to include, or not.

      Reply moderated
    2. It’s drifting slowly down from repetitive to tedious.

      Reply moderated
  10. Martin Elliott
    29th April 2021, 21:46

    I wonder why Leclerc thinks the Sprint Race will be flat out start to finish?
    It will be dictated by the second fastest car. The winner should be going as slow as possible to still maintain a sensible gap, not increase it!

  11. Will they have reverse grid?

    1. I thhink Vettel thinks that is still their plan. Only with subtel changes they want to change the format.

      Still I like to experiment so we can see if it’s good or bad because talking about plans says nothing doing it does.

    2. @jureo No, which is a good thing.

  12. c’mon Seb, it’s abuot money, as it always is…

    Reply moderated
  13. Its all about the money, more eyes on the telly, more butts on seats.

    Excitement is the PR goal because being truthful is not attractive.

    1. If it isn’t better then the butts and eyes just won’t be there and the very tally of those bodily parts will be the measure.
      So if you really hate the concept, do your bit, park your ass elsewhere and don’t watch.

      Reply moderated
    2. Its all about the money, more eyes on the telly, more butts on seats.

      But isn’t that true for all fan focused sports (I guess all sports bar strip poker)?

  14. What do they mean by more exciting? Do they mean more likely to lead to accidents?

    This sprint race might have made sense before they went and band the Quali mode. If the extra engne mode were still allowed then i can see how a special sprint mode could be exciting. With the engines turned up for the shorter sprint races, it might lead to some teams blowing up their engines.

    I wont mention the extra fuel this consumes or the extra tires, or the likely impact on the engines and all those
    other parts. Will they change the rules to accomadate the extra wear and tear? I don’t it.

  15. “We’ll see also the cars be pushed to the max from the first lap to the last lap, which which will be nice for us drivers.”

    You reckon? I doubt the teams are going to be willing to let their drivers fight too hard or push the cars to anywhere near 100% to gain 1 spot on the grid. Sure, they’ll go for it at the start but once they settle into position, I can see everyone turning their engines down and taking it fairly easy. Obviously if you have a problem in qualifying and need to gain some places back, you’ll push to move through the field but otherwise, I can’t see anyone taking too many risks.

    1. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s going to be a procession.

  16. Groundhog day.
    Give it a rest gents.

    Reply moderated

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