F1 will rethink decision to name Sprint Qualifying winner as pole position holder

2021 British Grand Prix

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Formula 1 may not stick with its decision to define the Sprint Qualifying race winner as the pole position holder.

The decision has drawn criticism from many, including Sebastian Vettel, who described it as “wrong”.

While Lewis Hamilton set the quickest time in qualifying yesterday, Max Verstappen is officially the pole position holder for this weekend’s grand prix following his win in the sprint qualifying race today. In all of the 1,044 previous rounds of the world championship, qualifying has decided who starts from pole position.

F1’s managing director Ross Brawn said the implications of breaking this link with its history is “something we need to think about, if there’s some change in the nomenclature of what we’re doing.

“Should Friday be the pole position? There’s things, like that, that we will talk about and discuss with the FIA and the teams,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans.

“But I think we can’t be held back by history. We need to respect history but we must never be held back by history.”

While Hamilton lost the advantage of pole position he gained in qualifying, Brawn said the nature of the sprint qualifying format gave him another chance to win a race he would otherwise have lost.

“He’s got a really strong insight. If that had been the proper race today he wouldn’t have won it.

“So therefore, he’s got another opportunity tomorrow to think about his start, think about [how] he used his tyres, think about how he approached it. Because if that had been the proper race today he would not have won it.”

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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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43 comments on “F1 will rethink decision to name Sprint Qualifying winner as pole position holder”

  1. I think that the official pole position holder should go to the fastest lap from qualifying. But the sprint format was quite interesting, especially at the start.

    I think the second half would have been more fun if those Pirelli’s could handle being pushed for more than a handful of laps.

    1. Definitely should be.

    2. Next idea multiple restarts! :)

      1. How about a set of nice durable tyres for the sprint race, i.e. ones that don’t blister, and regular crappy ones for the main race?

        Or, as you suggest more tyres. Push it to the extreme with a fresh set of tyres each lap? Imagine the excitement for the viewers at home! The potential for tyre mix-ups in the pit lane. How much fun we’d have, right up to the point where someone gets hurt.

    3. Indeed. Friday or Saturday is irrelevant. Pole has been won on Friday many times in the past in the days of Friday/ Saturday aggregate times where Saturday was a wash out.
      The important thing is that the fastest in “Qualifying” is the pole winner.
      Pole sitter is a different matter however if penalties are applied!

  2. So this implies are going to continue with this abomination? That was dull. I fast forwarded through a 25 minute race. The part that got me was that it was like a normal F1 race, but without the possibility of any strategy playing out over time. No sprint or strategy is just dull.

  3. Added nothing. You set the grid by SPEED. Man and machine against the clock. THEN you RACE. As we have always done.

    Bin it already.

    This isn’t NASCAR with it’s Gatorade Duels at Daytona.

    Even that doesn’t determine the pole winner.

  4. So Brawn is actually saying outright that races now will be even more predictable with qualifying leader (old pole position holder) able to learn from mistakes, and make it even more of an advantage.

  5. Watched it… for the most part boring.
    Time to realize the current qualifying is the most exciting.

  6. “He’s got a really strong insight. If that had been the proper race today he wouldn’t have won it.

    “So therefore, he’s got another opportunity tomorrow to think about his start, think about [how] he used his tyres, think about how he approached it. Because if that had been the proper race today he would not have won it.”

    Which just highlights another reason this whole format is such an awful idea.

    Teams, Drivers & us fans now have a better understanding of race pace which can only make the GP less exciting because we all now go into it will less unknowns.

    Additionally a part of what makes a race start so thrilling is knowing that it could make or break a drivers race. If somebody messes up they have to recover on the track so them getting another go to get it right shouldn’t necisarily be seen as a positive thing in my mind.

  7. This issue is, if the sprint race doesn’t count as a pole position, it would have to count as a race victory, which I think is worse.

    1. Can it not count as a “Sprint Race win”, a category with exactly one winner at present?

  8. I’m losing so much respect for Ross Brawn. His interview in the notebook said so much about his governing style, when Ted Kravitz posed the question about whether there could be an alternative to the sprint race setting the grid because it diminishes the value of qualifying his answer was.

    “No, I don’t accept that argument.”
    Reminiscent of the old:
    “The best decision is my decision.”

    Good leaders listen to the feedback from those around them and have an open mind. Brawn here has already made his mind up and uses the opportunity for discussion to justify. Sprint qualifying shall continue.

    1. Given the logic he’s using here, we’ll be seeing “best of 3” to decide a GP winner next.

    2. Monaco 2006…never forget.

  9. “…something we need to think about”

    Yeah, how about thinking about it before you do it. Beggars belief.

    1. @john-h Especially given this has been on the trailers for several months. This was not exactly a last-minute scramble – or should not have been.

  10. i remember a few years ago in the height of the ‘3 pitstops’ era we had people saying ‘no pitstops, full race fuel, same tyres for everyone, as pure as can be, strategy is stupid’

    well we got that for the most part lol and look at people complaining now.

    personally i thought it was pretty good. plus there’s a chance for more excitement again tomorrow. alonso one to watch, perez coming through, seeing if lewis can get the jump on verstappen at the line

    as for deciding who gets pole for the record books, this should be who starts the main grand prix in 1st place. i couldn’t care less how that’s decided. even with our normal qualifying, if verstappen qualifies 1st and hamilton second, and verstappen has to serve a grid penalty, hamilton will get pole, on the grid and in the record books, i.e. not the fastest driver.

    1. No you don’t, because risk/reward was very in favor of not taking risks. Points are on Sunday.

    2. 2012 had an incredible start. Something like 7 different winners from the first 7 races – and many fans complained that it was “too unpredictable” and “like a lottery”.

      Granted, that was all about the tyres too, but seriously. It was great! Pleasing the fan base is a fickle task.

      1. @racerjoss And just to underline that, I distinctly remember complaining because 2012 was too predictable (the pattern of events was fairly obvious to me and it felt like everyone else was being over-dramatic). It got slightly less predictable in the second half of the season, but Vettel was winning everything upfront, so suddenly a lot of other people were complaining about things getting too predictable…

    3. One of the reasons the regular qualifying format is so good is because people spoke out when they tried to endlessly change it. So people ‘complain’ because they are passionate about the sport they love and don’t want to see it ruined by an American media company.

  11. Mark in Florida
    17th July 2021, 19:12

    Way to bale out so early Mr. Brawn. To try out an idea you have to develop it some. If you name the fastest driver on Friday the pole winner, then you have removed the incentive to actually race on Saturday. I can only imagine that the format would have been more palatable if Hamilton had won today. I enjoyed it the drivers seemed to drive as hard as they could which mixed up the field some. All except Bottas he just protected Hamilton’s rear. I wish that the tires were better though. The sprint exposed Pirelli and just how bad these tires are. I say lets give this a chance if its not worthwhile, can it.

    1. Not really because they could give more points for the sprint race and use the same grid for both races.

  12. It is a new format and needs to be tweaked.
    Admitting that straight away is fine with me.
    Please listen to the feedback from the fans and the drivers (ignore the teams. They are controlled by their accountants) and see if it works next time.

    I do not like it so far but I am more than happy to be proved a fool.

  13. Well, I’m all in favour of watching F1 cars go wheel-to-wheel on a Saturday evening but, other than that, I’m not sure what I’ve just witnessed.

    Ferrari are quite right when they say to treat it like a red flagged race. They’ve done the first 17 laps, now for the restart and the rest of the race.

    As a fan though: Meh.

    1. That’s my thought. It just feels like the race has been extended and then split into two parts. Since they start as they finished, how is this not just part 1 of a red flagged race race with a 1 day wait in-between? That’s just frustrating. Not fun.

  14. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    17th July 2021, 19:49

    How about just bin it off instead of wasting time with names? If it’s that confusing. Awful.

  15. Writing some Monty Python lovely jabberwocky words to this another thing of poppycock of F1 racing, sprinting, poles or other stuff. Including this part: (F1 will rethink decision to name Sprint Qualifying winner as pole position holder”)

  16. Tommytintop (@)
    17th July 2021, 20:51

    As I said yesterday qualifying for a qualifying is ridiculous.
    You should have qualifying the day before the race. If necessary, bin Fridays altogether. Have a long practice session Saturday morning, qually in the afternoon race on Sunday.

  17. pastaman (@)
    17th July 2021, 21:09

    He would not have won it? How does he know? A proper race length allows for strategy and more opportunities for rivals to have a problem.

    One mistake in a sprint and your race is basically done with there being no time to recover.

  18. It would be a farce to revert. Besides, this is a way to award points for pole ;-)

    1. But it’s not really pole, just part 1 of the race.

  19. Pole position is who starts the Grand Prix in first place – next to the starting pole. It’s not a difficult concept.

    Doesn’t matter how it’s decided, whether it’s who wins a sprint race, or who got the fastest lap in a single session, or by adding two best lap times together from two sessions or from getting the second fastest lap time but having the driver who got fastest being penalised for an infringement in the previous race. It’s the driver up there in grid slot #1. Not hard, people.

  20. The sprint felt like the first quarter of the race. Just as I wouldn’t call the person in the lead on lap 11 of the Belgian Grand Prix the pole-sitter, I can’t call the sprint winner the pole-sitter because the Grnad Prix has to all practical purposes already begun.

    The victor of qualifying is the polesitter.

    1. Absolutely agree.

  21. I think it was worth watching, so I guess that means I think it is worth doing again. I was surprised to see how aggressive some of the drivers were, which is probably half the reason for doing it this way. In some ways it is sort of extending the actual race, the only difference between running a race longer and doing it this way is there is another start in the middle of the two races.

  22. Qualifying was more intense than the sprint. I don’t think that the sprint format, note use of the word format, adds anything. Particularly irksome was the truck ride. I definitely think that the fastest in qualifying should be the winner of pole position.


    The sprint was more racing and I liked that. The midfield battle was pretty intense and it was another 30 minutes of some pretty good action.

    I’m happy to see how the other 2 trials go.

  23. Should the sprint race not be used to set the grid, including pole position, what would be a reason to have it at all?

  24. If Friday becomes the pole position for the race and the spring race is disaggregated from the main race then, quite simply the big teams will not bother with the risk of the sprint race. The consequence will be that they will do one lap and then retire or pit and emerge into clear air to dawdle around safely. It seems really simple to me, the sprint race should be seen as part 1 of the main race – not a separate thing – treat it like a red flag situation with a restart from the running order. And that way Friday becomes pole position, everyone wins.

  25. Clyde Berryman
    18th July 2021, 11:39

    Formula One needs to fix that which is broken in F1 and not break knock-out qualifying which was working fine. The problem with Sprint Qualifying is that it substitutes ‘hazard’ (good or bad luck) in place of driver merit. The biggest losers yesterday were Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz. We are lucky they were the only ones. A Sprint Qualifying race on a narrow circuit might one day see half the field take each other out as they so often do in regular races these days. Stop trying mindless ‘gimmicks’ to make F1 interesting. We do not want ‘professional’ wrestling or a demolition derby (any more than it already is….) Make the driver important again! Remove ‘driver’s aids’ from the cockpit and any form of technology which helps the driver control the car other than basic steering wheel, pedals, and gear selector mechanism. Make these ‘spec’ or identical for all the teams. Isolate the driver so they must make race decisions on their own and independently once the race has begun. Only race control can talk to them during a race and only for safety reasons. You will see exciting races again based on driving ability and ‘racecraft’, those drivers who can make intelligent decisions on their own in the heat of the moment – not as instructed by their pit strategists nor as ‘button managers’ or recipients of well-timed telemetry assistance. Open up tire competition to different tire manufacturers again and have them make a tire designed to last the length of a race by limiting the number of spares available in the pits so they are used only for legitimate racing reasons – i.e., punctures or excessive wear. It should be a flat-out two hour race from National flag to Chequered flag with minimal outside interference.

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