George Russell, Williams, Silverstone, 2021

Sprint qualifying “only benefits the guys who had a bad qualifying” – Russell

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1’s new sprint qualifying format reduced the potential for action in the grand prix, George Russell believes.

The Williams driver said Saturday’s extra race at Silverstone gave drivers who performed less well than their rivals in qualifying the opportunity to move up the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

Russell had mixed feelings about the revised format, which included an earlier qualifying session on Friday afternoon.

“I definitely enjoyed having qualifying on Friday,” he said. “I thought that was fun just to get straight into the action.

“But I feel like the sprint race only benefit the guys who had a bad qualifying and naturally just brings everybody back to their true pace. So if anything it only makes Sunday more predictable.”

Russell started the sprint qualifying race from eighth on the grid and finished ninth. But he was given a three-place penalty for a collision with Carlos Sainz Jnr, which meant he started the grand prix 12th. He finished the race in the same position, and doubted the Williams was competitive enough to finish any higher.

“The cars behind were three, four, five, six tenths quicker than us,” he explained. “When you’ve got that sort of pace advantage it’s easy.

“They seemed to be better on the tyres than us as well so it was always going to be a race of looking in the mirrors and trying to keep these cars at bay. So we would’ve taken P12 before the weekend, I think that’s a fair result, and we probably didn’t really deserve to be any higher than that.

“It always seems to be the case that we’re going backwards on a Sunday. I don’t think it’s because we doing a bad job on a Sunday. It’s just because we somehow did an excellent job in qualifying, so that’s a little bit tricky.”

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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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  • 20 comments on “Sprint qualifying “only benefits the guys who had a bad qualifying” – Russell”

    1. I don’t necessarily agree with him. I didn’t feel like the Sprint would’ve benefit drivers lower down the field massively, nor that Sprint took away anything from the proper race.

      1. Thanks Russell you helped me massively replying the likes of jere.

      2. If it doesn’t take away anything, but adds something, do you consider we should have more “sprints’ then? Perhaps in a form of race weeks instead of weekends. Monday for practise, Tuesday for qualification (or should it be called pre-qual.?) and Pre-sprint warmup race-like event, Wednesday Sprint One, Thursday Sprint Two (and one sneaky extra Sprint+ at night for track owners willing to pay up), Friday Sprint 3, Saturday Supersprint (whatever that is, we can mix something up easily, perhaps something in-between a proper race and “Sprint like 200km racing event) and Sunday Race 1 followed by Race 2 (finally – reversed grid, anyone?).

    2. Some drivers who had a poor qualifying did managed to climb up the grid in the sprint race and that took that excitement away from the big race.

      That is one of the problems of this format, it stretches any real overtaking excitement down grid over two events while, at Silverstone at least, it energised the two front runners in the big race. They simply carried on where they left off at the end of the sprint race.

      Another point: I don’t know when Russell is talking as himself or as the director of the DPDA, reports don’t usually specify but it would be useful if they could.

      Reply moderated
    3. Probably right but it’s a very back-of-the-grid view of things. Obviously over one lap Russell has shown he can qualify higher than some in faster cars than him. But I hope next year his focus can shift onto winning some races rather than just maintaining whatever position he won in qualifying. I’m not won over by the sprint races since I think they’re too much of a ‘pre-run’ of the actual race, but I get that they provide more entertainment for those actually at the venue over the weekend. If they just differentiate one-lap qualifying (‘pole’ for the sprint race), sprint race winner and GP winner, I’ll be happier.

    4. Hmmmm…

      Maybe qualifying should still determine the first 3 rows and then sprint qualifying decides the rest?

      1. Eh, that might be intersting if those fast cars are out of the sprint race, so its just the non-elite cars.

        The sprint race winner might be genuinely unpredictable in that case.

    5. Sprint has its ups and downs and in some ways it is a working gimmick but it needs fixing. Imagine if F1 would decide to host not an another race but an another qualifying. On friday normal qualifying but on Saturday the top 10 fastest guys (from fridays quali) will qualify for the top ten places and the bottom ten would fight for the places between 11-20.

      My point is there is a lot of different ways to build up the weekend but Qualifying isn’t a race or vice versa.

      1. Sprint = A driver races to qualify for the race
        So another option using that rule but in reverse could be a ten lap qualifying for every driver and the combine times would decide the race result.

        I’m all up for the sprint but it needs improvement.

    6. Broccoliface
      28th July 2021, 12:50

      Normal qualifying for the normal race. Small points, reverse grid sprint based on championship order for the saturday gimmick race. Turn it into a secondary, “overtaking challenge” championship if necessary. Like they sometimes run with the Jack Sears trophy in the BTCC.

      1. This 100% – use the Sprint to provide something different, but maintain the quali/gp format.

        Weigh the points accordingly to not detract from Sunday (say 10 for the win through to 1 for 10th place).

        Seems an obvious solution…

        Reply moderated
      2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        29th July 2021, 13:40

        Reverse grid before race…. I think the teams will find it too risky to attempt to overtake the entire field over 17 laps for a few points. Maybe give 50-75 points, if someone does it:). It certainly would be the right risk/reward ratio.

    7. Another stupid idea by the people who will soon kill F1 once and for all! If the fans are bored on Saturday, why not just go back to pre-1996 format? Two 1-hour sessions! One on Friday, one on Saturday! It was far far far more interesting than this “knock-out” drivel, and now the dangerous and ultra boring sprint race! UGH!

    8. Sprint Qualifying doesn’t benefit anything, George. And Imola still can’t be forgotten…but it was a racing incident. And Forza Halo.

    9. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      28th July 2021, 17:23

      Be interesting to see the thoughts on this.

      Friday practice 1 go back to 90 mins.

      Friday evening qualifying for Sunday’s race, standard format Q1,2,3. So Friday night we know the grid for Sunday.

      Saturday, one big super session. 1st phase, each car gets 1 run only for grid position for the sprint race, with the run order randomised. Once all 20 runs are complete, 15 mins then line up on the grid for the sprint race. Full race points counting towards a Saturday cup competition and not the championship. Obviously there is an incentive needed for the end of season winner, decreasing down the order. Could be extra development time or extra money on top of the budget maybe.

      So, Friday, Saturday and Sunday have unique selling points and the sprint format does not affect the main championship but does get winners an advantage for the following year.

      Thoughts?

      1. @davewillisporter not that my view matters, but I think your idea has merits.

        My only initial sticking point is that, if it were my team involved, I would basically run my cars at the back or retire them immediately if I had any aspirations in the primary championship, essentially saving the engines and reducing potential damage that may hinder the actual championship chances.

        Others have suggested ‘similarish’ ideas but with different cars. I would love that too, but couldn’t see it happening.

    10. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      28th July 2021, 17:28

      To add, the one run only quali for the sprint race would be more likely to produce an upset in the sprint race order than the Q1,2,3 format.

    11. If the sprint race does indeed change the “qualifying” and grid order, it only serves to make the Sunday GP even more processional. The lack of practice and the Parc-Ferme conditions also contribute to a processional GP event. Not good.
      It is all part of the show that Liberty wants to promote.
      Once the teams get into Power-Unit component conservation mode, look to see “sprint” races that are only slightly more than parades.
      It seems ironic that it wasn’t long ago they were pushing to get a weekend down to 2 days and now they are loading up 3 days. Hate to think of what’s next?

    12. Yes, also against sprint quali from what I saw so far, we’ll see at monza to get a bigger sample.

    13. I agree with him. I really don’t see what it added.

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