Fans show limited support for F1’s sprint qualifying format in official survey

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1’s new sprint format has largely failed to win the support of fans according to a survey commissioned by the series.

But the sport intends to press ahead with plans to hold more sprint rounds next year.

Over 167,000 fans responded to the Global F1 Fan Survey, details of which were published today, showing a small majority of 6.7% agreed that the “introduction of sprint race has improved the show”.

More popular ideas included adding a race for third drivers (which had 7.7% support) and reintroducing refuelling during races (9.3%). Other even more popular suggestions were allowing multiple tyre suppliers (38.5%), which older fans especially supported, and “Leave drivers free to race without intervention, except for dangerous driving” (39.5%).

“Sprint races are viewed as having marginally improved the F1 show,” noted the official report on the survey.

Survey data showed that when asked when sprint qualifying had “improved the show”, 40% of respondents agreed while 34% disagreed.

Earlier this month F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said the “vast majority of the comments that we receive are totally positive” about sprint qualifying.

Speaking today Domenicali said he was pleased with the response the format had received, which he believes is much more popular among new fans than existing ones.

“The number is very, very encouraging because you need to consider that we see for what we receive as a figure the mixed feeling of having more traditional fan, less happy for the change, while the new fans are really happy to see things are moving in a different way,” said Domenicali.

Sprint qualifying events are being trialled at every race this year. Domenicali stressed they will not be introduced for every race weekend, which was opposed by a majority of 43% of those who responded. “We are not even thinking to go with other grands prix in a different format,” he said.

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Domenicali indicated an increase to six sprint events is planned for the 2022 F1 season, as RaceFans previously reported. The format may be altered, but Domenicali indicated it will not involve a reverse grid, which was opposed by a majority of 51.5%.

“We believe that we can create a very fixed number that will be, I think, six [sprint events] in the [near] future with this format,” he said. “With changes that we are thinking, together with the teams, in order to improve the quality of the offer.

“But as you can see, and this is something that is current with what we don’t want to do, is the reverse grid, that in this research has clearly not been given a great appetite. But we know that is not part of the discussion we are having.”

Despite the lukewarm reception to the format so far, Domenicali is hopeful F1 can find a balance which will appeal to new and old fans of the sport.

“I think that it is encouraging and the trend is confirmed by this kind of mix: The avid or traditional fans versus the new fans. And that’s why this is really the right place where we need to find the right compromise.”

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55 comments on “Fans show limited support for F1’s sprint qualifying format in official survey”

  1. On the official website it said fans had a positive reaction to the sprint format. if they consider this positive reaction then we can be sure of one thing. F1 has already decided to adopt this format fully regardless of what the fans think.

    1. And the mention of F1 Sprint is not even a whole sentence on it’s own — the other half mentions totally unrelated sustainable fuels.

      There was also a net positive reaction to F1 Sprint, and there was strong awareness regarding sustainable fuels.

      Their attempts at spinning a positive around the session formerly known as Sprint Qualifying (obviously renamed to F1 Sprint) is getting twisted.

  2. Sadly it’s exactly as I expected, ignoring any criticism and forcing a bad idea through.

    1. They live in their own world.

  3. I do think there’s a good idea in the sprint races/sprint qualifying thing but what we have currently isn’t it. Good idea, badly done.

    I’d like to see more of the concept but only if they tinkered with it a little more? Made it either it’s own independent thing regardless of qualifying or the race, or gave it some more tangible rewards, or more incentive to the drivers to actually push more than 2-3 laps before settling for a result as they know there’s no point in fighting harder.

    Again I got to say good on them for trying something new or different, I just think it needs some attention to really bring it out better than this.

  4. To quote Mr. Twain…..

    Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    Good job there Domenicali, just eliminate all the no votes and everyone is in favor.

  5. As the old saying goes, “There’s lies, damn lies, and statistics”. Claiming sprint qualifying marginally improves “the show” based on 6.7% approval definitely falls into this category.

    1. Absolutely. But this is how business goes in the US. Cash rules everything around us.

  6. Over 167,000 fans responded to the Global F1 Fan Survey, details of which were published today. Just 6.7% agreed that the “introduction of sprint race has improved the show”.

    I took a look at the report and I believe this is factually incorrect. They are displaying the difference between positive reactions and negative reactions. So that +6.7% implies a net positive result, which could have been the result of for instance 46.7% positive, 40% negative, and 3.3% neutral answers. That is why some proposals in that document have negative percentages: the difference between positive and negative answers it resulted in a net negative result, which is notated as a negative outcome.

    So as much as I hate the sprint qualifying, their research definitely imply that there is a slim majority of support for it.

    Full report:

    1. @keithcollantine just tagging you, Keith, as I think that this point shows a fundamental issue with the claims in the article

      1. Yes. Keith’s mind is made up on this issue and it shows every time he writes about it.

    2. @gsagostinho Thanks for bringing this up, because without your post I wouldn’t have realized the difference. That is indeed hugely significant towards understanding the data and their reaction to it.

      A 6.7% support share is terrible, but a +6.7% differential does reflect slight support and shouldn’t be met with the same level of derision.

      1. @exediron I’m happy this helps! Interpreting statistics can be super counter-intuitive and I completely understand how the conclusion of this article came about (there are other sources out there making the same mistake).

    3. Yes. Annoyingly, you are right and the sprints do just about have the support of the fans. However, I feel confident that, in time, the majority of these sprint races will be processional and so will lose the support of the fans, and I think this survey was released before the Monza sprint (as it says early September). So I haven’t given up hope yet.
      Thankfully, the likes of success ballast and reversed grids are still hated, so for now we don’t need to worry about those being introduced. And I hope that if we have to have six sprints they will at least rotate the tracks used a bit, because Monza qualifying in particular is perhaps the most exciting of any (along with Spa) due to the slipstream, so I particularly don’t want a sprint in between there.

    4. This is the only comment that matters.

    5. @gsagostinho I don’t disagree with your interpretation and I can see where the difference of views has arisen – I’ve made a couple of changes to the text which hopefully makes that distinction clearer.

      1. But, the Sprint Qualy punchline in the Joke of the Day still makes 93.6% of fans giggle.

  7. I’m surprised that a company that managed covid maybe better than anyone let this slip through. The point of market research is to shape your narrative. Not go against it.

  8. Stephen Higgins
    21st October 2021, 18:17

    So scrap it. Simple.

  9. F1 and Liberty are just making themselves look ridiculous now. They commission a survey, which is a good idea, to find out what fans think is, or would improve the sport. But then they more or less completely ignore the results.

    There may be some element of including shorter sprint races that is a good idea. However, the current format is just not working and is obviously thought of as something of a failure by the fans. If they are going to increase the number of races that include sprint qualifying or similar then they really need to make a proper justification and reasoned argument for doing so.

    Anyone with a brain in their head will automatically conclude that the decision to continue this is mostly about money, and that F1 don’t really give a hoot about the views of most F1 fans.

  10. F1 is such a big sport that it’ll never please every viewer, so it’s totally fair that the people in charge maintain that they are more interested in attracting new (American) fans. That’s their business plan, and that’s not a problem. But that’s of course not all there’s to it, as had been mentioned many times here and elsewhere there is a big financial benefit to the mini-race format.

    Another aspect where money determines the way F1 works is on the tyre front, so it’s interesting to note in the survey that Pirelli’s continued monopoly supplier status continues to be the single most unpopular aspect of F1. Motorsport is of course quick to point out that support for multiple tyre suppliers was higher in 2015 and 2017, but the numbers are still very negative. That it is improving somewhat is also no surprise considering the percentage of viewers that never knew any different continues to grow as the years pass.

    1. @cashnotclass I would say their business plan could be a problem if the number of new fans that you draw in ends up being less than the number of fans that you might lose by changing the nature of the sport.

  11. Yeah, you might want to change that misleading title.

    As much as I hate Sprint Races, the survey shows a +6 net favouritism for sprint races, not that 6% of the people surveyed overall liked it and 94% didn’t.

    That’s significant, and clearly not “little support”.

    1. I have no idea how you extrapolate that means that there is a 6% increase in favoritism.

      It simply states that out of 100 people, only 6 of them like sprint qualifying.

      1. That +6% means that of 100 people, 53 are in favour and 47 are against, hence a difference of net +6. Other questions had negative net values, because more people disliked them then liked. This article is indeed based on a flawed understanding of the research findings and how to read the statistical results. And just to clarify, just like the OP, I abhor sprint qualifying.

        1. @gsagostinho It’s not exactly a roar of approval though – especially since lots of people saw the question (or simply how F1 Fan Voice had previously handled the question) and refused to submit the survey at all in protest.

          1. GS (@gsagostinho)
            22nd October 2021, 9:03

            @alianora-la-canta I’m not arguing it is, I’m simply arguing that most people here are reading those numbers wrongly. Whether the results fits with our expectations or personal preferences is another question altogether, and one that goes beyond the survey findings.

          2. @gsagostinho On this point, you are correct. 6% in favour and 30% against would have left a suspiciously high number of “don’t knows”…

        2. You’re trying to explain basic math to posters on the internet, so of course only 6% will understand you

  12. Stefano, how much more obvious can you make it that your paycheck is directly related to advertising revenue? Pathetic to harm F1 in the long term, so you can fluff it up full of sugar to please a few investors’ short term gains.

  13. They say this is the largest F1 fan survey ever conducted with 167,000 fans taking part…… Yet the 2015 survey had more than 200,000 fans take part & the 2017 one over 215,000 & while I may not be great at maths i’m pretty sure thats’s more than 167,000.

    In terms of the sprint, As far as i’m concerned they no longer exist. I don’t like the sprint race itself or how it effects the rest of the weekend so i’m simply not going to engage with them starting with Interlagos. May even skip some sprint weekends completely next year as I think 23 races is too many anyway, Me hating the sprints gives me a good reason to skip some even though the thought of missing any bit of track action really hurts me.

    1. @stefmeister Looks like you are using the ‘visitors’ stat from 2017, and not the number of completed responses. Relevant extracts from the 2021 and 2017 reports below:

      2021 report:

      The total sample made available to Nielsen Sports, our expert research partner, was 167,302. This
      represents a 12.9% increase on our previous largest survey, which was conducted in 2017

      And from the 2017 report:

      Largest-ever sample of fan feedback: 215,892 total visitors and 148,170 completed responses submitted for analysis

      2015 Report does state that over 200,000 “replied” though. Maybe their earlier reporting was not accurate or they are mixing up how they correlate statistics (replied vs responded etc.). If not then it does look like 2015 was the largest survey in terms of respondents.

      1. @keithedin The 2015 survey, if I recall correctly, allowed partial responses (because there was a bunch of optional sponsorship-related bonus questions that I for one elected not to do).

        1. @alianora-la-canta That would make sense. The 2015 response number seems like the anomaly but if you then take away the partial responses from that total, then the other statements could be correct.

  14. Is F1 based in Soviet Union?

    1. No, it’s based in neocapitalism, which explains the particular flavour of reporting inaccuracy we see here. (In the Soviet Union, a bad statistic like this would likely have been completely hidden, rather than part-hidden and talked around).

  15. This comes across as deliberate misrepresentation of the survey results. Liberty needs to be careful with that (whether the impression was deliberate or accidental) because it is a publically listed companies and shareholders are likely to ask for the raw results if they notice the discrepancy between what fans said and what Liberty heard.

  16. A good way to handle the F1 sprint could be to hold it in place of FP2 but with a slight change. Let first half be a small qualifying session so that practice could be done and grid for sprint is decided by that order. Then have the sprint with points awarded to the top five drivers, and only the drivers bot the teams. These points only count towards WDC and not for WCC. Prohibit team orders, or radio communication for this event. Then it could really become a thing.

  17. “The number is very, very encouraging because you need to consider that we see for what we receive as a figure the mixed feeling of having more traditional fan, less happy for the change, while the new fans are really happy to see things are moving in a different way,” said Domenicali.

    I don’t really like this. A traditional fan may be less happy for the change, but they are also likely to be more loyal and will be more likely to watch every race and stick with F1. A new fan may be more likely to just be trialling with F1 and will quit if there is a dull season, or they find another sport they like more. Young fans are often grouped with the new fans in terms of valuing their opinions more, and I disagree with this too, despite being on the younger side of the spectrum myself. When I was ten, I read an article in Autosport about a suggested new format involving three sprint races on Saturday with random grids for each but allowing every driver to be front, middle and back of the grid for one race each. These were given reduced points, and the results of them all were combined to make the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix. At the time, I thought this sounded like a great idea. Now I think it would be horrible. My ten-year-old self should not be allowed a more valued opinion, as it changed as I got older and learnt more about the sport, and the same could be true of other younger fans and newer fans (who are often in the same category).

  18. I am quite shocked by he results of the survey. My initial reaction was: Formula One, please ignore these fans!

    Refuelling will never come back, because the people in charge remember how boring races were during the refuelling era. But it seems fans want to see less action on track and more action in the pits.

    Multiple tire suppliers? So fans don’t want to see the best drivers or best cars win? They want to see a battle of tire suppliers?

    With fans voting in favor of this kind of nonsense I wouldn’t take their vote on sprint races too seriously.

    1. @uzsjgb

      I for one is strongly against inverted starts and sprint quali’s. I totally agree with what your saying about multiple tire suppliers.
      I think most of those comments who want it are coming from fans who started watching F1 after that era and from fans who may not understand the impact it has. It would be more of a battle of tires than of cars and driver abilities. Pitstop fueling will not happen because of the image it gives, they want to distance themselves from petrol, watching the time it takes and all that petrol seen in pitstops is not the look that F1 wants.

      1. @redpill @uzsjgb I am strongly in favour of multiple tyre suppliers because to me F1 is supposed to be a competition not just between teams & drivers but also engine suppliers, tyre suppliers, brake suppliers etc… I also liked how having multiple suppliers ensured tyres were the best they could be & were actually continually developed for pure performance which is something I don’t think we’ve had in F1 for over a decade now.

        I remember the buzz going into 1997 & 2001 as Bridgestone & then Michelin entered as a 2nd supplier & how that really pushed forward tyre performance & development both times. It was exciting, It created an added area of interest & introduced an added element of variability that you don’t get with a sole supplier (Which they have sort of tried to recreate with more artificial elements like having to run 2 compounds, Starting on the tyres you qualified on & high degredation). Think of races like Hungary 1997 a race that likely would have been quite dull & uninteresting if we just had 1 tyre supplier or how Olivier Panis in the Prost was pulling out surprise results early that year before his accident in Montreal. Or even the swings back & forth through 2003.

        The argument that it’s too big a factor in performance also ignores that over the past decade tyres have played a far bigger role in performance & race results & also been a far bigger story far more often than was ever the case when we had competition. It’s just less satisfying & a bit more artificial now because the tyres just come across as been a bit rubbish a lot of the time & something teams, drivers & fans regularly complain about which you never had in the days of competition.

    2. Exactly this @uzsjgb. F1 knows this too, or they would yield to public demand and bring back refuelling and tyre wars, as they now will ‘yield to public pressure’ and implement sprint races.

  19. As soon as the TV numbers were in for Friday qualifying and Saturday spints the experiment was over and Liberty were pushing this through no matter how badly it makes the championship look or how it effects fans who simply can’t be all in for 2 hours on Friday, Saturday then 3 hours on Sunday.

  20. I’m not much of a fan of Sprints myself but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of these answers came from overly nostalgic F1 fans that think the past was better in every way possible.

    1. that’s it

  21. Let’s just accept it’s here to stay and there was never any doubt it would be from the day it was first mooted.

    As always, F1 will do what it thinks is best for it, it’s income stream and it’s financial stakeholders. Fans actually sit very very low on the totem pole when it comes to decision making.

    Even if we vote with our eyeballs, it will take a year or two for that to show up, unless a very large percentage stop watching/attending – they’re counting on fans just accepting it and they mostly will.

  22. Ok I’m gonna say it….”3-part sprint”!

    Like they did the qualifying..split up the sprint into 3 short sprints. We get 3 times the race start chaos and a totally unique event (not just a shorter race that may devalue the grand prix).

    1. I think that we would all agree that the start and the first lap or two are the most exciting part of the weekend.
      So my idea is simple.
      Do away with all free practise sessions, sprint qualifying and the race.
      Instead fill Friday, Saturday and Sunday with two lap sprints.
      Each sprint would last about 15 minutes, formation lap, start and a couple of laps.
      Each sprint grid would be formed from the finishing order of the previous and points are only awarded for the last sprint of the weekend.
      It should be possible to fit half a dozen sprints into each day with the added benefit of allowing title sponsors for each race.
      It’s a win-win situation as each race duration fits nicely into the new, young fans attention spans and there are no boring tyre conserving periods to yawn through.

    2. @attakorn No I think the plan is probably to split up the races as much as possible with safety car or red flag periods. The ‘younger fans’ and American market like this.

  23. “The number is very, very encouraging because you need to consider that we see for what we receive as a figure the mixed feeling of having more traditional fan, less happy for the change, while the new fans are really happy to see things are moving in a different way,” said Domenicali.

    I suspect this is a language issue otherwise it is nonsense.

    Traditional fans know that the cars change nearly every race, that drivers change every year and that the sporting and tech regulations change nearly every year. If a traditional fan did not like change there would be no traditional fans.

  24. I really don’t understand why everybody on this forum is so negative on the sprint races. The qualifying is still there but on friday, the race is still there on sunday. The sprint race just adds race time to the weekend.
    For me it’s fine just look at it this way the race starts on Saterday they stop the race and than continue on sunday.

    1. @grapmg I don’t like how it makes some weekends more valuable in terms of points than others. Why should 3-6 race weekends offer more points than the rest, That is just as bad as when they had Abu Dhabi 2014 be a double points race just because it was the last race of the year.

      I also do feel that it takes away from the GP on Sunday as having seen a full build-up, Race start & race on Saturday i’ve found that i’m less excited/hyped come Sunday as i’ve seen it the day before.

      I also feel that it takes away some of the elements of the unknown because having seen a race on Saturday we have a far better idea of things like tyre wear, How possible overtaking will be & what teams race pace is likely to be which again takes away something going into the GP on Sunday. The first stint of a GP is always the most interesting in terms of not really knowing where everyone’s at, You shift that to Saturday with the sprint & that first part of the Sunday GP then feels far less interesting for me.

      I also don’t like how it affects the feel & flow of the rest of the weekend. I went into more detail in a comment not too long ago so i’ll just link to that to save my repeating myself.

  25. Now don’t let it decide Sunday’s grid.

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