Brawn urges fans to “keep an open mind” over new Sprint races

2021 French Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s head of motorsport Ross Brawn has urged fans to keep an open mind about the new ‘Sprint’ races which will be introduced next month.

The first Sprint race will be held at next month’s British Grand Prix. The 100-kilometre race will be held on Saturday, award three points to the winner and decide the starting grid for the main race on Sunday.

The format is a significant departure from Formula 1’s usual race weekend structure and has prompted a mixed response from fans. Some have questioned the need to change F1’s race weekend format ahead of 2022, when sweeping new technical regulations will be introduced which are intended to improve the quality of racing. Several drivers have also cast doubt on the need for a new format.

Brawn said the format is intended to attract new fans to the sport, and hopes long-time viewers will keep an open mind about the innovation.

“Traditionalists, I understand,” he said. “I sympathise with that view and I understand that view.

“They enjoy the format of a grand prix weekend and they like to see qualifying leading to the grid. I would just ask them to keep an open mind.”

Formula 1 will use the new Sprint race format at three rounds this year in order to decide whether it should be used more widely in 2022 and beyond.

“We will never force this through if it’s clearly not a success,” said Brawn. “There’s no incentive in doing it if the audience don’t engage. If we don’t see a strong engagement from the fans and we don’t see the benefits, there’s no reason why we will force it through.”

The limited introduction of the new format means some rounds on this year’s calendar will award more points than others. Brawn said F1 has learned from past experiences of attempting to introduce changes across an entire season, as was the case five years ago when a new ‘elimination qualifying’ format was hurriedly dropped.

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“One of the great things about what’s happening is it’s three races, it’s not the season. In the past Formula 1 has always struggled with the fact that when it’s made an adjustment it’s made it theoretically for the season.

“We all remembered the qualifying fiasco a few years ago which luckily got corrected part-way through the season. I think that was one that everybody forecast was going to be a struggle and it turned out to be.

“So this is three events where were going to trial this format and if it’s not a success, if we don’t get the response we hope, then we’ll put our hands up and then we’ll stay the way we are and we’ll look at other initiatives.

“But I’d just ask the traditionalists to wait and see if they enjoy it and hopefully they will. I think because it’s an addition to the weekend, we draw fans in on a Saturday and then they engage with us and follow through on a Sunday, that will be a success.”

Brawn said cricket has shown the potential advantages to introducing a new, shorter format.

“I don’t like to make analogies, but I think with short format cricket I think we’ve seen a much better engagement with test cricket now because short format cricket has drawn fans in.

“I think we have to be nimble but not change so quickly that we confuse fans and alienate our traditional fans. So it’s just finding that balance and that’s what we’re setting out to do.”

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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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39 comments on “Brawn urges fans to “keep an open mind” over new Sprint races”

  1. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    17th June 2021, 12:52

    I really think, not just about F1 but about everything in life, that sometimes you have to take a risk. Even if you think it’s a bad idea, even if it sounds awful or isn’t what you wanted – sometimes, that can end up being something amazing. Of course sometimes it does end up being naff but that’s just part of it really – sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But the only thing you’re ensuring by not taking that risk, not taking that leap of faith is making sure you never know if it would.

    1. @rocketpanda Well said and agreed.

    2. It’s a good philosophy, but you have to define “risk”. It’s not the same to risk a little thing trying to achieve something bigger, than risking a hard fought, difficult to obtain thing in order to try to achieve a little thing.

      In this case, I don’t know what are they trying to fix. I haven’t seen a lot of people complaining about Qualy format, don’t understand why is needed to change. And this change is not done for the “engaging new/casual viewers” because it’s more complicated and less inteligible for the new/casual viewer than the normal format.

      My personal view is that the Qualy format is good as is now, and if it needs to change, for me the best format was the “one lap per racer” one. A couple of days ago I reviewed part of a 2003 Qualy, that was in this format, and I think is the best for the hardcore fans because we can see a complete onboard lap, and is a full attack lap of each driver, seeing the differences in the lines and points of braking (and this can be a great way to show the AWS comparations graphics) and is more inteligible and simple for the casual/new viewer. Yes, they can switch the TV channel untl the las 4-5 participants, but now is the same, with casual viewers not tuning in until Q3. And if this is what they want to “fix” (the fact that casual viewers change the TV channel when there is no “elite” drivers on screen), well, what I can say… this is a Sport, not a TV show.

      PD- In a more “personal” and out of the sport discussion, experience has taught me that 95% of the time you risk something, you lose. In my opinion you have to think very well what the possible reward is and if it is worth it, but as I say, this is something personal and it goes in the personality of each one. It is not a universal truth

  2. I didn’t realise F1 is just like cricket, i must have missed that part. Cricket works cos its evenly based between bat and ball. F1 isn’t equal (not that this is an issue for me) but a race to decide the lone up for the grid is going to produce (barring mechanical failures) exactly the same grid line up as we would have for qualifying. The only shake up we get for qualifying is rain when the water evens out performance and some people luck into better track conditions. I would like to see a test (no points on offer, have qualifying that forms the grid for sunday) then have a extra race of reverse championship order and see what actually happens. I think since the fast car will win the sprint race then in the main race we already know who has the car thats going to do well in the full race. The 100km is pretty much the first stint in the race so i’m not sure how they expect to jazz anything up its going to lead to the same order and allow the title to be decided earlier.

    1. I think the main issue with the cricket analogy is that it’s totally wrong. The proliferation of the short-form game has destroyed Test cricket in most parts of the world – most Test-playing nations only want to host India, because it’s the only time they can guarantee sell-out audiences, and other bilateral series are subsidised by the ICC. It is only really in England where there is a kind of peaceful coexistence between Test and short-form cricket, and even that is fragile (witness the staggering lack of application and technique displayed in England’s recent series against NZ).

  3. By referring to the opponents of sprint races as ‘traditionalists,’ Brawn is engaging in this debate in bad faith.
    There are many reasons to oppose sprint races and few of them have anything to do with ‘tradition.’ Many fans have observed that the qualifying format is not the biggest issue F1 is currently facing, and that sprint races are unlikely to address many of the factors that make some F1 races dull. As the article rightly points out, there are already major rule changes scheduled for 2022, and it would make sense for these to bed in before any further changes are introduced.
    Essentially Brawn has made up his own idea of why people are opposed to sprint races and decided to respond to that, rather than engaging with the genuine issues that have been raised many times. It is not an especially useful contribution to the subject, although it does shed some light on the patronising way in which F1’s fans are viewed by the powers-that-be.

    1. @red-andy I disagree on a few counts. Not all ‘traditionalists’ are against the idea. And as to Brawn engaging with the real issues, he has done that with the the new chapter starting next year, as you point out. It is the very fact that Liberty have Brawn along with the teams have made the huge strides they have, that they can now experiment with a little side trial just to see. The last thing Brawn is is patronizing to F1 fans when they have taken taken such huge and vitally necessary steps to ensure we even have an F1 going forward.

    2. Well said!

      1. Sorry that was in reply to @red-andy

    3. This is the key point, if you look at GP2/3 the reverse grid and sprint races work because the cars are identical and its the driver and strategy part of the team that’s the difference. But F1 isn’t like this, so because we don’t have a more balanced playing field as good as the idea of a sprint race is it doesn’t address the bigger issue of closer racing. We need to see what 2022 offers as we have totally new cars and then see if tweeks are needed. I don’t object to some tests being done but without points please, i would hate to see a championship decided potentially on the basis of 3 test events. If one wanted to be uber uber cynical in the most extreme fashion, we have seen do or die lunges in GP2/3 (great to watch) but what are the penalties for causing an incident through “avoidable contact”? Normally its a 3 or 5 place grid drop for impeeding a driver in quali, is this the same or is it straight to the back of the grid?

      1. The F2/3 sprint races work in part because all cars are technically identical, but also in part because they reverse the grid each time – the fastest guys don’t have any advantages. But F1 isn’t doing that – they will just put the fastest car at the front right from the outset – so it achieves nothing, besides being more competitive track time.
        As for testing it without points – I’d ask what incentive the teams would have to put in their best effort if it’s not for the championship? If there’s nothing to gain from such an event, why would they bother to spend money on it and risk their car?
        It needs to be in the championship to be useful and representative of what it would look like in a championship. It needs weight and jeopardy, or else it is (literally and figuratively) pointless.

  4. I generally think fans are open minded to new ideas. However if an idea is really bad (like sprint qualifying races) then it’s completely reasonable to call it out before they first happen. In real life people think about ideas before implementing them, rather being willfully ignorant to any potential upsides or downsides before first executing the idea.

    1. @georgeod In real life people think about ideas and their upsides and downsides every day, and decide to give things a try for otherwise they’ll never really know. Sometimes at huge risk. In this case, a three race trial is not going to do any harm to the entity of F1, not going to risk it’s bottom line nor it’s very existence like some well deliberated decisions have done to many many people in their lives and businesses.

      1. @robbie I feel though that Ross Brawn saying to be ‘open minded’ is really saying that we shouldn’t criticise these qualifying proposals until they have been tried and have failed. That in particular is completely stupid perspective for him to have.

        1. @georgeod I think you are revealing with your tone that you have already well decided this idea is a failure. Why do you say ‘until they have been tried and have failed’ rather than just ‘until they have been tried and assessed, or judged?’ You are reading into this what you want to read into it because you hate the idea and have already decided based on that. He’s asking for open mindedness and for traditionalists to see it first before drawing a conclusion. You’ve already decided on the conclusion for yourself before seeing it.

          1. @robbie Not quite. To me, open minded means being open to success or failure. To do that needs critical appraisal. I think there’s been a complete lack of critical appraisal for this proposal.

            I have no problem trying it if it’s been thought through and appraised appropriately – I would be open minded. However that simply hasn’t done. They’ve been trying to put this through for a number of years and got it through by wearing people down, not because it’s a well thought through proposal.

          2. @georgeod I think you are making an assumption for how would you know how much appraisal they have done behind closed doors? The teams were brought in on this too, and while they rejected reverse grids they haven’t rejected this, where obviously they could have. And I see nothing in Brawn’s wording about asking for open mindedness that doesn’t include being open minded to failure not just success. He says it himself that if it doesn’t fly so be it.

    2. @georgeod I personally don’t believe that F1 fans are particularly open-minded. They can get worked up easily over really trivial changes, such as the new logo which caused outrage on social media when it was revealed, or the Brian Tyler theme song that has now become synonymous with the sport. And then there were people who were sceptical of the Halo just because it looked bad, including a certain Romain Grosjean himself, before it was actually used in practice and has now saved potentially several lives (Grosjean, Leclerc, Tadasuke Makino in F2).

  5. I had an issue with sprint quali, but only the fact it was on a Friday

    Now the quali time has been changed to the evening I no longer have an issue and I’m looking forward to it

    I’d still rather it was in place of P3 instead of P2 but seeing as this was all about ticket sales on a Friday, that’s never going to happen

  6. Anyone hear the rumour that F1 are considering awarding a point for the driver who gets pole wins the ‘sprint’ and the ‘main’ race. I hope it turns out to be just a rumour these gimmicks really just cheapen the sport.

    1. @johnrkh I think since only about half the time the pole sitter currently wins the race, then having a driver get pole on Friday for the Saturday Sprint Qualifier, then get pole for the Sunday race, and then win the race, deserves a point. I cannot fathom how this cheapens the sport.

      1. @robbie Will you support a fasted pit stop point or a fasted in each qualy point or will you wait till they give out a point for best dressed before you object?

        1. @johnrkh I personally wouldn’t mind a point for pole position (maybe not Q1 or Q2). Plenty of other championships do it and I don’t think it cheapens the sport at all.

        2. @johnrkh Will you not make silly suggestions?

  7. pastaman (@)
    17th June 2021, 13:26

    I’m curious how they will measure “fan engagement”. Perhaps another poll with extremely leading questions?

    1. Fan engagement has already been measured and it’s a99.9% positive! Brown has already closed his mind. When is the return of the sprinklers?

  8. If anything, F1 races are too short. How many times have we seen cars just run out of laps on their late charge.

    Like people have already said, all you need is highlight show on free TV, and it’s all solved.

    1. It may be, but wouldn’t extra length just delay the “late charge”? After all that is what a late charge is, right at the end, in F1 as in endurance racing. No?

  9. My concern is the fact that they’ve chosen two of the most popular race weekends to test this out.

    It pretty much a forgone conclusion that everyone will watch just because the races are at those tracks, so it’s likely that the “fan engagement” metrics will be through the roof.

    I’m hoping that the third race chosen will be at one of the unpopular venues like Abu Dhabi so they can assess whether a sprint race at an unpopular venue will make any difference to fan engagement.

    1. @dbradock I’m sure it is a goal of theirs to ensure there are no ‘unpopular’ venues. Personally I never miss a race no matter the venue.

      1. @robbie, generally I don’t either but I do skip practice and qualifying at some circuits whereas places like Silverstone I watch every minute.

        This year is the first year I’ve actually elected not to watch a couple of races because there’s just too many and I’ve hardly watched any practice at all. Certainly if the sprint race was at one of those, I’d still skip it.

        Silverstone though – yep I’ll watch that.

    2. @DB-C90 This is my thinking too. They have weighed this as heavily as they can in order to ensure it is a ‘success’, even if the concept is actually a failure. It all depends how they are measuring success. If they measure it as total number of viewers throughout the the weekend, then it is bound to be a success based purely on the novelty if nothing else. That doesn’t mean it would continue to be a success once the novelty has worn off.

      I am keeping an open mind and maybe I am wrong in my prediction of how this will play out. But my concern isn’t over them testing a concept, it’s over them forcing through a concept because they are desperate to change the format. Even if sprint races are a flop, I worry about what other ‘initiatives’ they will try in future since they are clearly not satisfied with the current format.

      1. @dbradock since I forgot how to tag people.

  10. I’m against the gimmick races not simply because i’m a ‘traditionalist’ with a closed mine to change but more because I genuinely dislike the concept & have done in every category that has ever adopted sprint races or qualifying races be them reverse grid or not.

    I also having looked at all the various elements of what is been done believe that the negatives far outweigh the non-existent positives.

    It’s a gimmick idea been forced into F1 by an American company that quite clearly do not understand the sport. And Ross Brawn has lost all the respect I had for him as he’s obviously just taking the money & turned into the ‘yes man’ that has to try & sell us on all these gimmicks. What other explanation do you have for his trying to use unrelated things as proof the gimmicks are a great addition. Monza last year as proof we needed reverse grids & the gimmick standing restart in Baku as proof the sprint races are an amazing addition.

    Welcome to thee American/Nascar-ification of F1!

    #LibertyOut! #NoToNascarF1

    1. “Nothing else will replace the normal qualifying format” -> And. There. Was. Sprint. Qualifying.
      “Monza 2020 showed that we need a reverse grid race” -> This. Will. Never. Ever. Happen.
      And one more thing…
      “SC was the right choice for both Max and Lance’s crash” -> Safety. Car. Over. Red. Flag.

  11. Martin Elliott
    17th June 2021, 15:25

    If there is one of a few people in the FIA I’d think was capable of carrying out an evaluation of a trial, it would be Ross Brawn. Whether done as a desktop exercise or several real events, he knows the objectives of deliverables to identified; whether they are successful and beneficial; or just completely undesirable drawbacks; and the likelihoods of them happening.

    We know this as the JB Accident Panel (RB was a member) made 7 clear recommendations. So clear that FIA immediately enacted some ie Double Waved Yellow Flags.

    However, more crucial technical ones such as a Risk Assessment of multi protection systems, well I’ve never seen any work by FIA to answer that recommendation!
    6. F1 risk review
    Consideration will be given to a review of F1 risk, in order to ascertain whether there are any significant holes in the safety defences, such that an unforeseen combination of circumstances could result in a serious accident.

    1. I think the Bianchi accident panel was actually a forecast of what was to come from Brawn, in the sense that the panel clearly knew in advance what conclusions they wanted to draw and built their narrative to fit that. Remember that they had to row back on some of their conclusions under threat of legal action from Jules’ family.

      Sprint races are the product of the same process – an answer in search of a question.

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