Stopping teams parking up is just one of F1’s problems with stand-alone sprint races

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1’s planned change to its sprint format next year faces an unusual problem: Avoiding a mass mid-race withdrawal of multiple cars.

The planned change has other challenging implications F1 needs to address.

Following the trial of three sprint events this year, six more are planned for the 2022 F1 season. But their exact format remains under discussion and subject to approval.

Following negative feedback from drivers and fans, F1 intends to end the practice of using ‘sprint qualifying’ to set the grid for the grand prix. Regular qualifying sessions will be used, as at other rounds of the championship.

The short Saturday races will therefore become stand-alone events. But F1 realises that if these races are no longer being used to determine the grid, teams need a further incentive to participate.

As it stands, only the top three finishers in sprint events score points. This may have to be extended, as F1’s motorsport director Ross Brawn acknowledged earlier this week.

“At the moment setting the qualifying for Sunday means every position in the sprint is relevant,” he said. “So if you let a position slide in the sprint on a Saturday then you’re going to start one place further back. So there’s an incentive from the front to the back.”

Ensuring all drivers have a reason to compete in a sprint race is more complicated than it may appear. In a grand prix, non-scoring finishes outside the top 10 still count towards championship placings.

Sutil scored a valuable 11th for Sauber in 2014
This is why, for example, Mick Schumacher leads Robert Kubica and Nikita Mazepin in the standings, despite none having scored any points. While lower-order positions in the drivers championship may seem unimportant, the same detail applies to the constructors’ championship, and finishes outside the top 10 in the past have determined which team receives millions of pounds in prize money.

But ascribing a value to finishes outside the top 10 in a sprint race the same way will be difficult. For example, it would be unfair to give 11th place in a grand prix equal weight in the championship to 11th place in a one-third distance sprint race.

This is one of the problems Brawn and his team are now grappling with. “If you have a stand-alone race on a Saturday with points for the top 10, what’s the incentive for the bottom 10?” he said.

Failing to reward those who finish in the bottom half of the field in a stand-alone sprint race, or giving too low a reward, will result in teams parking their cars instead of competing.

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“In the real race there is some incentive because finishing orders could count towards championship positions,” said Brawn. “So how would you deal with a sprint where only the top six or eight or 10 get a reward? Because the bottom 10, after a while, would decide this isn’t worth doing.”

Brawn admits F1 doesn’t have a solution in mind for this problem yet, and one may be hard to come by.

Reverse grid races would be exciting, says Brawn
“There’s quite a lot of consideration to be put into how you would configure a stand-alone race and not cannibalise the main race, but also make it a race worth having. And I think we’re some way from really being able to conclude or decide what that should be or if it should even happen.”

If F1 were to offer more points for lower-order finishing positions in sprint races, the points system for the grand prix may have to be revised. For example, if each finishing position is to be worth at least one point more than the next, a sprint race win would have to be valued at least 19 points, which is only six points less than a grand prix win at present.

That would leave a grand prix win grossly under-valued. What could it be increased to? Brawn has previously indicated he believes sprint race points should be proportional to those scored in a grand prix, which is three times the distance. Therefore, a grand prix win would have be valued at no less than 57 points, more than twice what they are now.

Alternatively, F1 could introduce a flatter points system for the sprint races, offering the same number of points for multiple positions, and bring the value of a win down to around a third of a current grand prix victory (8.3 points). Either option would be a significant departure, and F1’s third change to its points system in four years.

Other significant questions about the proposed sprint race format remain unanswered. Notably, how would the grid for this race be set?

Brawn remains “quite excited” by the possibility of using a reverse grid but F1’s recent fan survey indicated the idea is disastrously unpopular: 68% of fans opposed it. “I think it would be perhaps a step too far,” Brawn conceded.

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By separating the result of the sprint race from the grid for Sunday’s grand prix, F1 also has the opportunity to change the order of events during the weekend. Qualifying at sprint events could move to Saturday, bringing the benefit of consistency with all other rounds of the championship, and the sprint race take place on Friday.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2020
F1 won’t ensure a grand prix decides the title
“That’s an option, albeit not one that we’d considered,” said Brawn when the possibility was put to him. “But certainly one that, if it was stand-alone and you didn’t have the sequencing, then theoretically that would be possible.

“We’d look at how that will all join together but definitely if it’s a stand-alone event there’s no reason why it couldn’t.”

Another consequence of increasing the number of sprint races and awarding more points for them is a higher chance that the world championship would not be decided during a grand prix. This is a possibility Brawn is prepared to accept.

“We’d all love a cliff-hanger last race of the season,” he said. “Maybe we’ll get one this year, which would be fantastic.

“But if a driver could win the championship on a Saturday with a sprint and somebody needed to stop him then that would be a pretty exciting aspect to it. It could certainly bring a new nuance to it.

“We’d all like to see the championship won on the last Sunday of the season. But it doesn’t very often happen. So I think it will have a general impact on the races we choose, but we won’t be pushing the last event so far forward that it couldn’t possibly happen.”

Brawn may not be concerned by that possibility but FIA president Jean Todt may well be. Todt is not a fan of the sprint format, objects to it being described as a race and is concerned with preserving the ‘image and credibility of the championship’. A title being decided on a Saturday – or even a Friday – surely wouldn’t fit with that.

But Todt’s final term as FIA president will end before the 2022 season begins. Perhaps Brawn is banking on his successor being more willing to accept the kind of radical changes F1’s plans for its sprint format appear to be pointing towards.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2021 F1 season

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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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54 comments on “Stopping teams parking up is just one of F1’s problems with stand-alone sprint races”

  1. They could always give teams that complete a sprint race a free component change, or ‘x’ dollars that can be applied to their cost cap.

    1. Yeah i agree with this, bring the cost cap down further and have a sprint race championship with points for every place down to 20th, and the teams get “prize money” added to their cost cap at the end of the season depending on the placing in that championship.

  2. Make it its own championship and banish it too Fridays.

    1. That does make sense. The sprint races were only created to increase entertainment value so yeah, banish it to Fridays and give it it’s own championship and it’s own set of engines and gearboxes. That way the Friday engines stay with it and it doesn’t affect the championship.
      The unfortunate thing is that rookies wont get to do much testing, but who cares, they can always do more in-season young driver tests.

  3. DNA always change that is life… So i expect F1 will change but i rather have it controled and slow.

    1. strange i thought i replied someone ….

    2. If your DNA changes it means something has gone wrong.
      Not sure that’s the right analogy though maybe for the Sprint it is.

  4. Martin Elliott
    4th November 2021, 13:45

    2 races each week-end. About 1 hour duration. Full points for each.

    Works in over motor racing.

    1. Agreed! Just posted the sane thing !

    2. I’d rather have one normal race than two sprints. Actually, I’d rather have one race a year than a full season of “sprints”. After all, I don’t need a replay and drivers don’t need a rematch. Why only the things we’re okay with need to be changed? This feels like having children operating the sport, figuring out new rules and ideas in “you know what would be fun!?” fashion. Why do we need to split a race into two? Why do I have to waste two days on F1 when I can dedicate one afternoon? Why do we need to reduce the chance of something happening? To reduce the number of pit-stops (without which we’d lose 90% of excitement, sadly or not, but that’s F1, there are tactics involved, also luck) doesn’t seem like a good idea. One hour race does not need pit stops at all. As an F1 fan I never wanted instant fun, tweaking the rules so we force something different to happen. All I need is more teams and some teams being more capable to fight each other. I don’t understand what sprints bring to me as a viewer at all. On top of that I need to spend an extra day watching the events (since I don’t want to miss anything, being a fan). I’m not sure I’d be willing to do that for long, I have life. Just my two cents (or a bit more, sorry for the rant, but I feel things are becoming ridiculous).

    3. 2 hours is the test of stamina and concentration.
      It is F1.
      Please, no.

  5. Have a separate points system for Sprints, much like the Tour de France has the green jersey for sprinters. Consider a different way of earning points (for example, difference between starting and finishing position). They win the “sprinters championship” at the end of the season, and a reputation as a good overtaker. This should favour the midfield teams as they have the most to gain (as opposed to the top guys that don’t have as many cars ahead of them).

    If the grid is set in Friday qualifying, at least have the rule that non-finishers in the Sprint start at the back of the grid.

    This still doesn’t provide much incentive for backmarkers that know they are slow to not retire the car. To be honest, I don’t particularly care if they do, as they rarely improve the show. They also need the track time more than the sport needs them.

  6. Make the sprint a second standalone GP.

    Full length , full points.

    No practice sessions, just quali plus two GPS. Ideally different track config, if not then different tyres.

    1. @Depailler Bringing more than three different compounds for the same weekend isn’t really an option if this is what you imply by different tyres. I’m not entirely sure.

  7. The main problem with stand-alone sprint races is that surely at least ten points would have to be awarded for it to be meaningful, and that significantly devalues the Grand Prix. Three short sprint races should not be worth more than a Grand Prix. This awarding of significant points was one of my biggest fears about the format from the start, and it seems it is going to happen before even the end of the ‘trial.’

    By the next global fan survey, I’m sure the 6.7% in favour of sprint races will swing the other way, and can only hope that will spark the end of this awful idea.

  8. Why not get rid of the driver points aspect all together? Set the grid based on constructor points (if the first race of the season has a sprint use last years standings) and only award constructor points for finishing order. That way you can keep the sprint race somewhat meaningful while not having a championship decided on a Friday or Saturday.

  9. What a mess.

    1. Yep. The obvious solution is to drop this embarrassment.

      1. A mess of epic proportions.
        The problem has or is being created and now they seem to be desperately searching for a way to fix it.
        Looks like a damaged endurance race car held together with Duct Tape. Every pit stop, add more.
        Recommendation … “Turn around. Go back, it’s a trap”.

  10. Keep it as it is, but award the pole position prize to the Friday’s pole sitter.
    On saturday, call it “sprint race winner”.

  11. Since we’re changing everything Formula 1 is, I’d say make it a reverse grid based on championship position, award points to the top 6 for a separate “Sprint championship”. That way Formula B can race for something as well. It would be nice seeing the midfielders like Ferrari or McLaren to try and fight their way through to win the B championship, while the contenders can relax in their car having coffee.

  12. How much of an issue is this really going to be? Both Haas cars were running 19th and 20th in Turkey 2 laps down, and they didn’t retire. They absolutely had no hope whatsoever, yet they continued. I’m fairly certain teams will be negatively impacted more from retiring from every sprint race than to run them, even in the lower positions. If they really just want to retire all the time, just let them. Not like we’d be losing much.

    A lot of people (myself included) want to see drivers driving flat out without conserving tyres during a race. That’s what the sprint race/qualifying essentially gives us. Make it points for the top 8 drivers with the winner getting 8 points down to 1 point for 8th place, give them free tyre choice and just let them race flat out for 100km.

    As for which tracks I’d like to see sprint races on, I think Baku, Silverstone, Austria, Spa, Austin and Brazil would be my picks.

    1. If they really just want to retire all the time, just let them. Not like we’d be losing much.

      Problem is that if Haas pull out, why does Alfa need to continue? So they retire, and the next ones too… Before long, half the field are sitting in their garages with half the race remaining.
      You may not think the lower teams add much, but many people do. We don’t all watch for the top 2.

      1. Who says I care only about the top 2? If teams like Haas wish to retire just because they don’t see the point of participating, then let them. You think a team that retires on purpose would be able to maintain staff or driver morale? Or even maintain or attract sponsors? That’s how this works. Teams will not retire just because they don’t think they’ll get points.

    2. It’s explained in the article why teams don’t retire cars in full races despite being out of the points.

      Some people may want to see short, flat out events. But others (me included) want to see the very best drivers in the world tested to the limit – testing their mental and physical endurance over a full race distance, testing their strategic thinking, testing the teams ability to innovate and develop a machine capable of maintaining high speeds and performance over long distances.

      There are plenty of other motor racing formats that concentrate on short, sharp hits of racing action. Formula 1 should be the pinnacle of the sport. And the pinnacle of any sport should see the very best in their field tested to the max. That’s what creates drama and excitement. For me, anyway.

      1. @oweng I read the article, but like I said, finishing 19th does absolutely nothing for Haas. Unless they are in contention to finish 12th or higher, they are not really racing for the championship. But yet, they continue. Teams have hundreds of employees working for them. Imagine how they would feel if they saw their team retire on purpose undermining their work? Or the sponsors that pay millions just to once again see the team quit.

        1. Whether it be Haas, Williams, Sauber or any other team having a bad race, they will keep circulating in the race.
          There are sponsors to appease and contracts to fulfill. Every time the TV cameras focus on a car, there is a statistical reckoning for broadcast coverage and this all filters back to the bean counters. If the audience is there, the cars will be on track.

    3. I think the term parked on the title gave up the wrong impression.
      It is not literally retiring the car, but just not pushing.
      I mean, mid teams would see what happened on the first laps, and f there is some gains, good, if not, lets conserve the car for sunday.
      They are not racing nor sprinting, they are just going around.
      This was evident for most usual fans from the inception of the idea. But soon even new audiences will notice.
      furthermore, teams, especially mid grid teams wouldnt waste on saturday the power they need for sunday.

  13. By the way, the fact that some race weekends award more points than other is an infringement of sport principles. Why does Monza award more points than Monaco? Or Bahrain? There is no logic behind that. It’s like the double points on the last race of the season (worst idea ever).

    1. By the way, the fact that some race weekends award more points than other is an infringement of sport principles.

      I agree completely with this point, and I think it’s one which needs making more often.

  14. Just award points to all finishers. Higher positions always get more, but everyone has an incentive to finish. Championship positions can change with that 1 point.
    Yes, the GP points system needs to change with it – but I support that change regardless of sprint races.
    Every finishing position matters in the championships, so why not just award points and make it easy for everyone to see? No more digging through results to see which race someone finished 16th instead of 17th to earn their championship position.
    Give the winner 50 points, or 100. Or 1000. It’s not important as it’s just a number – all that matters is the weighting.

  15. I’ve suggested this before, but I wish for the following points system alternatives:
    top five (5-4-3-2-1), top six (6-5-4-3-2-1), or top eight (8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1)
    Having a different points system for the standard race on Sprint weekends would be needless.
    I don’t see a reason for such different treatment.

  16. How about a sprint cup but only for teams which did not finish in the top five last year? So this year three or six races without Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Aston Martin and McLaren, all competing for a sprint championship and cash for the constructors (just not enough to disadvantage the team that finished fifth in the championship last year). Or even two sprint championships, one for the top five teams last year, one for the bottom five teams last year.

  17. Participation ribbons could be just the ticket to make the series relatable to the young’uns. Ha! No, actually, I would love to hear about a variation on the way MotoGP gives the teams something to play for on Friday.

    But we can all see that these ones are gonna do what F1 always does—give some wiggle here and some waggle there—and end up with a bit of a mess that will be tweaked endlessly until the depth of unhappiness is experienced fully by all concerned.

  18. Typical of F1, creating a problem to a solution.


    Sorry, I never post a comment in caps but I’m at the end of my tether with what is happening to F1.

    1. Totally agree.
      They are constantly trying to stuff F1 with all these changes.
      It is nothing but a dilution of F1 into just another money making racket.

  20. Set the grid of the sprint race by championship order.
    Award 20-19-18-…-3-2-1 points for the all positions, but those points will only count towards the WCC.
    That way we’re saved by the WDC (which is more important to most of the fans) being decided on a Friday/Saturday and not on a Sunday, the WCC has a new variable that makes more of an unknown (as it usually it is decided before the last race) and it still gives incentives to smaller teams to fight for positions at those sprint events.
    Hell, we could even have a rule like “teams must use a young driver instead of their regular ones for 1 or 2 sprints” to shake up the order…

  21. They’re officially adamant we’re having them, so just make a separate championship and leave the proper championship alone. You can do all the gimmicks you like with the Sprint Cup.

  22. In Ukrainian, there’s a saying which could roughly be translated as “a woman had no trouble, so she bought a piglet”. That’s what it looks like to me: Ross Brawn fusses over an idea that creates more problems than it solves.

    It will be interesting to see what they come up with; but more and more it looks like “fake show” instead of proper competition.

  23. I have a suggestion which I don’t claim to be original.

    Leave the Grand Prix races and race weekends alone, having practice, qualifying and then race at all venues.

    But then combine the concept of a young driver practice with the sprint races, and have a sprint race as often as possible with drivers who have less than two years experience of F1 driving, making it a separate championship, a way of introducing new drivers, excitement of a short race where qualifying follows the same format as for Grandes Prixes.

    It would be a great bridge between F1 and F2, provide more seats for developing more talent, be it’s own revenue stream rewarding teams with more prize money and sponsorship opportunities. And more profit for Liberty, broadcasters and promoters.

    It would halt the adulteration of F1 while giving us all a better experience. .

  24. Frankly when I read how convoluted this seems as they try to adapt to feedback, I’m starting to wonder if they should just consider their question asked and answered…there isn’t a more exciting way that has been proposed or trialed so far, that people want to have, to replace flying lap qualifying as we currently know it, to determine Sunday’s race order.

    That said, I’m glad Brawn is acknowledging things such as that overwhelmingly people (including the drivers) want the flying lap method of qualifying to be used to determine the order of the starting grid on Sunday. At the same time I do get F1’s desire to make Friday a more compelling day, and for 6 events next year this is what they will be doing, in whatever iteration they will decide. Well, unless of course they do decide to drop the idea altogether but I doubt that will happen until they see how 6 events, different than this year’s, will be received.

    So since this is going to happen 6 times next year, what I would propose is they have FP1 on Friday. Then they have their cars to tinker with for the next 2-4 hours after which there is a Sprint Race that is run starting in the order the drivers finished the previous main Sunday race. The Friday Sprint race will be for constructor points only, based on the same system of points used now. So drivers placing 11th or worse will still have their placing count for something as per the article above. All drivers still have incentive to go for it. A ‘Constructor Sprint Race.’ Let’s see how quickly a team can translate or improve their form from one race to an entirely different track.

    Saturday could then constitute another practice session, FP2, followed by regular flying lap Qualifying (not a points paying event) to determine the race order for Sunday as per usual. To me that would make all Saturdays and Sundays feel more normal, even the 6 Sprint weekends. And this would take away from driver points other than on Sundays determining the WDC. Driver points will only be awarded on Sundays as usual (this year’s 3 races aside) no matter the weekend throughout the whole season.

    1. @robbie there may be many wondering if the issue is that the commercial sponsorship deal had been agreed upon first, and Liberty Media was then faced with a rush to implement some sort of event for them to sponsor afterwards.

      Given there were multiple attempts to have a reverse race voted through, there really doesn’t seem to have been much, if any, consultation on this option until the reverse races were completely off the table. The concept doesn’t really seem to have been properly evaluated at the beginning, having largely been chosen because other options were less popular and this basically hadn’t been thought about for long enough for anybody to have thought of a counter argument.

      The process of changing the regulations was rushed, consultation seems to have been cut short to meet the deadlines and there now seems to be a sense that we’re now stuck with this and it’s a case of trying to fudge some sort of solution because they’ve invested too much capital (both politically and financially) to scrap or otherwise radically overhaul the concept.

      1. anon Fair comment. I do leave some room for the concept that you don’t know until you know, in that they can’t have necessarily been able to predict the reaction entirely, hence the trial, and the tweaking to come, but yeah the two main points I think being most want quali for Sunday to be regular flying lap quali, and most don’t want the Championship decided on a Friday or Saturday. I get that. I don’t want to see reverse grids either and it seems Brawn gets that the teams have already voted that down and as he calls it ‘a step too far,’ and surely he gets that it shouldn’t be necessary with the new cars.

        I’m not discouraged, and still don’t mind them looking for ways to make for a more exciting Friday, but yeah I agree it also feels like ok where do we go from here now that we know this and that, or shouldn’t do this or that.

      2. The pretty much summed up what my feelings have been all along.

        An idea has been rushed through without enough thought or detail, and it wasn’t even the original idea, which thankfully teams all said no too.

        Unfortunately the trial that has not been a trial at all seems to now be set in stone because as suggested, commercial interests were attached to it, quite possibly before the so called trial had even been agreed to.

        I’m now waiting for them to come to the conclusion that the only way forward that will solve all their issues will be reverse grid with some sort on incentive to get the teams to reluctantly agree to it by a slim majority. To be immediately followed by the announcement that this is what the fans wanted and were excited to see.

        My guess – reverse grid from 2023.

  25. Stop with this stupid ideas!!! Delete for ever this stupid experiment!!
    Keep doing this RaceFans, continue to put question marks on this stupid idea, must be stopped!

  26. I think Bernie had a great idea regarding the sprint race points… Award around 1/3 the total points for the sprint race, then award the rest for the main Sunday race. This way it will make both races carry some importance.

    OR,. the best solution is to just get rid of the sprint races altogether… it’s just a waste of time.

  27. Anyone else remember when Sunday was a sprint?

  28. No answers by a catastrophe of berks…

  29. A great idea should sell itself & one that was well thought out shouldn’t need to be constantly ‘fixed’ after the fact.

    The fact that Ross, Stefano etc.. are having to constantly sell the sprint as an amazing idea & constantly having to justify it’s existence while coming out with obvious spin like ‘Fans are overwhelmingly positive about it’ when I think even the fans who support the idea would admit that opinion is far more divided suggests that the format is perhaps not a great idea.

    And the fact the format is full of holes that need fixing & that some of them are things that they don’t appear to have a good answer to suggests the format wasn’t well thought out to begin with. And that some of the flaws are things that fans (Among others) were pointing out beforehand also shows that those in charge weren’t paying attention because they were too busy putting commercial deals in place ahead of the sport & before the sprint format had even been finalised.

  30. Make the “Liberty Saturday Cash Grab Sprint” a double point scoring event – reverse grid from the previous race – drivers have to wear another drivers underwear (decided by an hilarious viewer participation reality show the night before) – 10% of the profits from burger vans goes to charity – and Berni Ecclestone presents the trophies whilst stark naked apart from an eye patch?

    Look – if it doesn’t work I will factor in some prostitution and drugs OK?

  31. Just require all drivers entered into the championship to participate in a kart race on Friday afternoon if they’re so desperate to give the fans something else to watch.

  32. I never thought I read about or actually see Nascar-style “start and park” cars in F1.

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