George Russell, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Sakhir, 2020

Poll – Should F1 use the Bahrain Outer Track for 2022’s proposed first sprint race?

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The 2022 season begins, as it did last year, in Bahrain, with a second pre-season test followed by the Bahrain Grand Prix itself on March 20th.

But when the lights go out above the grid for the first time that weekend, it will not be to signal the start of the grand prix itself. Instead, the intention is for the first racing action of 2022 – and the first with F1’s radically overhauled cars – to be a sprint race that will set the final grid order for Sunday’s 57 lap event.

Formula One insists its highly touted sprint race format gives fans more of the racing they love, but is there something else that the sport can do to add an extra layer of intrigue to what could well be the first sprint of the season?

Back in the heavily pandemic-compromised season of 2020, Formula 1 used back-to-back races at the same circuits to help flesh out the calendar amid the heavy logistical challenges presented by covid. After the Bahrain Grand Prix in November of that year, the teams remained in the nation for a second race the following weekend – this time around the alternative route of the Bahrain International Circuit’s Outer Track.

It proved an incredibly eventful and memorable race. The uniquely short length producing sub-sixty second lap times and a trio of straights leading to a high average speed lent itself remarkably well to encouraging racing throughout the field, with eventual winner Sergio Perez able to scythe his way through the field after being hit on the opening lap and dropping to the back to eventually claim a historic maiden victory.

With no plans to use the novel outer layout for future grands prix, should the sport consider adopting it for the proposed sprint qualifying race ahead of Sunday’s event around the typical grand prix configuration?

For

The best case to make for Formula 1 to make use of the Outer Track once again is in how popular its one-off race proved back in 2020. RaceFans readers rated the Sakhir Grand Prix as the second-best race of the season out of 17 rounds for that year, with an average score of 8.8/10.

While there were a lot of factors that contributed to that score beyond the track itself, the high speed straights leading into only four major braking zones throughout the 3.5km circuit allowed drivers plenty of opportunities for slipstreaming and out-braking, with DRS then giving overtaken drivers a chance to fight for their surrendered place back.

Beyond the merits of the Outer Track as a circuit, running on an alternative route between the sprint race and the grand prix would help to keep Sunday’s race unique and avoid diluting the spectacle of seeing two races at the same track on consecutive days.

If F1 and its teams can figure out the logistical and schedule headaches of running two configurations over the same weekend, then this could add an extra element of intrigue to the opening race of the year.

Against

If the goal of the sprint race format is to encourage more action and racing spectacle for viewers over a grand prix weekend, then there are a lot of factors that play into that beyond simply the circuit itself.

There’s a lot more to be lost in a sprint race than gained – especially if you’re towards the front of the field. It’s no guarantee that drivers will be more inclined to risk a late-braking move if the Outer Track offers more natural opportunities, just to move up one more place on the grid for Sunday.

There’s also the fact that the Bahrain Grand Prix will be the first race weekend run using Formula 1’s radically overhauled cars. With so many unknowns heading into this new season above all others – and points available for top finishers – this is not the fairest weekend in which to throw another wildcard into the mix.

That is, assuming it would be even possible for F1 to even allow for a race at all. Teams and drivers would require at least one dedicated practice session around the alternative layout before the race – how would that fit in when all other preparation would be with the full circuit in mind?

I say

Assuming that Formula 1 and its ten teams do come to an agreement to expand the sprint format to six rounds this season as proposed, then we may have to accept that sprint races are here to stay. At least for the foreseeable future.

If that’s the case, then why not try something different with the Bahrain Grand Prix and let the drivers loose around the shorter version of the Sakhir circuit once again.

Not only does the Outer Track carry an almost kart track quality to it, it will keep the sprint race distinct and separate from the grand prix itself. With such a short lap, there’s even a realistic chance that the leaders could even hit lapped traffic before the chequered flag at the 100km mark, adding a whole new element to sprint races we’re unlikely to see elsewhere.

The Sakhir Grand Prix back in 2020 was a unique and fascinating race that produced some of the most enthralling wheel-to-wheel action of the last few years. With cars that are supposedly better equipped to produce closer racing, it would be a powerful test of the new regulations and the sprint format itself to see what happens with a short race around the perimeter of the Bahrain International Circuit.



You say

If there is a sprint race at the Bahrain Grand Prix, should it be held on the Outer Track layout?

  • Yes (79%)
  • No (21%)

Total Voters: 169

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 45 comments on “Poll – Should F1 use the Bahrain Outer Track for 2022’s proposed first sprint race?”

    1. If there is a sprint race who cares how they run it? Just have a proper qualifying session instead.

      1. First qualifying session of the year on a Friday. How underwhelming.

      2. Thank you for saying it.

      3. Imagine having a sprint race that is not qualifying but a race.

    2. Starting the season with a sprint race sounds just really awful. Now I am less excited about the new season…

    3. BOOOOOOOOOO Sprint at start of season no please. Let’s see how the new cars perform first.

    4. I think the assuming it would be possible is the main issue here… It would be a nightmare for organisation. Marshall posts would only be needed at some sessions and not others. Access roads would be off limits as they would be part of the race track on some sessions. Race control software and systems would need to switch between different configurations. Extra cameras would be needed. Some adverts would only be visible in either the sprint or the main race. Teams would need two configurations / setups for 1 weekend. It doesn’t seem worth all that hassle.

      It would be a good option for an esport F1 race where you just load up another layout, less practical in real life.

      1. +1 I would love any excuse to use the outer layout, it’s a lovely change. Mixes it up. But I imagine the amount of ‘faff’ that would go into using two layouts on successive days would probably be more than it might seem initially. Timing loops, cameras, marshal posts, even just signage, I assume there’s an amount that gets shipped around the world, and they’d be moving it in the night (or extra staffing would). As much as I’d love to see it, I’d guess someone would just look at the extra costs (things like graphics which are presumably already rendered) and think ‘not worth it’. Pity.

        1. On some level, I’m surprised Bahrain don’t just suggest using the outer circuit all the time. Other than being held at night recently there’s very little differentiating it from other 2000’s built circuits. I like the turn 9/10 sequence, which is impossibly difficult on the F1 video games (I have to bend time twenty times before I’m happy with it). It’s all pretty unremarkable.

          Nobody would build Monza today, and nobody would want 23 Monza’s making up the calendar, but it’s a nice change. And perhaps Bahrain can find a ‘niche’ in doing such a thing. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the outer loop, and Russell in a Merc, I probably wouldn’t remember the 2020 grand prix, I certainly don’t remember the 19′ one (I’m not going to google it, but I’ll guess Lewis won).

          1. I did google it, Lewis did win.

            1. It was the race where Leclerc almost won for the first time and then had the loss of power at the end that dropped him to third.

          2. @bernasaurus There’s one other reason you might remember the 2020 race on the “normal” layout. Grosjean.

            But agree with you. Too difficult logistically.

      2. @Michael @bernasaurus I couldn’t agree more with you two.
        I reckon the biggest issue would be the timing system since timing loops are different for these two configurations besides, of course, the timing line on S/F straight. The other things mentioned are equally valid, though.

      3. This is a prince’s scalectrix track essentially. He will bring in as many slaves as needed to make it happen.

        1. @darryn Zero difference.

    5. Sprint races are awful wherever they are held. More air time and more money for Liberty. There is no other reason to have them.

      Greed.

    6. I’m all for the idea! There needs to be some added value to the sprint races in the form of a novelty like the cars going around some different corners/straights and being able to compete to a different lap time record.
      The shorter track with a bit of a prolonged straight is perfect for exactly that.
      It also makes for a nice contrast with the larger, proper race that will feel fresher with added corners and lap distance.

      This should be the default format for all sprint races on tracks where there is a possibility for arranging a shorter – and hopefully faster – alternative track route.

      1. I agree. If we do have to have these races then I don’t see the harm in using this variation.

    7. As others have noted, it would be a logistical nightmare for the teams and FIA to run 2 races in 2 different layouts in just 2 days!

      However although Bahrain has a pretty good normal circuit (one of the best Tilkedromes I’d say), I really really liked the outer ‘oval’ circuit last year and I think they should seriously consider alternating between these two every other year.
      That way it would be fresh change every year for the fans, and the teams would be a bit less prepared as they would have the data for each circuit from 2-year old cars, so there could be a bit of the unknown factor at each race…

      1. @black Rotational use might be a good thing. I like your idea.

    8. Firstly, the Sprint format getting scrapped for this year seems likely over a money distribution dispute.
      The real point is how realistic would changing track configuration back-&-forth within a single weekend even be?
      I’m seemingly the only one who’s thought about this aspect.
      Changing layout during a weekend gap like in 2020 is possible, however during the same weekend, I’m unsure how doable timing system-wise, etc., also considering F2.
      Even if altering twice within three days was somehow realistic for timing system infrastructure, would that be worth doing anyway, as changing a circuit layout is a triviality.
      Better be rational and use one configuration per weekend to save everyone from an unnecessary mess.

      1. @jerejj If the series thinks there’s a commercial upside to it, nothing about the logistics ought to be impossible. In 2020, Indianapolis hosted IndyCar and Nascar Xfinity on the road course on Saturday and Cup on the oval the next day. And of course, IMS is a Grade 1 facility, so there’s a precedent for the sort of thing. But with Liberty seemingly happy already with the sprint format, I doubt they’d think there’s enough of a benefit for it to be worthwhile.

    9. F1 shouldn’t use any track for sprint, but if they inevitably do, they should stick to the same layout for the whole weekend, there’s absolutely no need for more chaos than nowadays’ so called entertainment already produces. What’s next, doing the quali with Mini Coopers?

    10. Do it for all of the sprint races, choose the circuits that can have different configurations and have the sprint races on those.

      Silverstone, COTA, Bahrain, Raul Ricard, Abu Dhabi, Barcelona can all run shorter versions of the track

      1. @Sam Crawford Not all short versions are FIA Grade 1, not to mention Silverstone’s, COTA’s, Yas Marina’s, & Montmelo’s alternatives would be terrible for racing.

      2. They should use the pre-2010 Silverstone layout. I mean, they should use that for everything and pretend the new section was a bad dream that never happened, but still…

    11. “Should F1 use the Bahrain Outer Track for 2022’s proposed first sprint race?”

      No. My final answer. No sprint races in 2022, and as for pushing for one at the first race weekend of the season 😠

    12. In sprint/qualifying weekends I content myself with the highlights of the preliminaries, If that. Action for its own watered down sake is boring.

    13. A more accurate poll would have a 3rd option of not having the sprint race at all.
      IMO, having it on the outer circuit is the only thing that makes it slightly interesting.

    14. I could not care less. Should we do this her gimmick or make it a bigger gimmick and swap the track layout cuz we can?

    15. The obvious attraction of user a different layout for the sprint race is that for once the pecking order might be slightly different between the two races. Especially i cars are under parc ferme and the teams have to find a compromise setup between the two layouts. At least that time it wouldn’t look like one single race extended under two days with a mandatory red flag inbetween.

      1. *of using*

    16. José Lopes da Silva
      23rd January 2022, 20:39

      Yes, go for it!
      Teams needing two different setups in the same weekend is, to me, a Big Plus.

    17. Let’s get rid of the blue flags for a sprint race on the short track. That will bunch up the first 3 or 4 cars behind the back markers! 🤣🤣

    18. The longer they persist with this sprint race stuff, the more it reminds me of the ill-fated “elimination qualifying” of 2016.

    19. We’ve now been waiting for an extended period for the appearance of these new cars that are supposed to fix the dirty air issue and enable better racing.

      Who on earth thought it would be a great idea to ruin that anticipation by turning the very first race weekend with the new cars into a sprint circus weekend.

      No no no to the sprint abomination. Please Liberty, read the room. Stop insisting that everyone loves the sprint and look at the real numbers.

      If they start with a sprint, I’ll miss the weekend and have a look at the new cars when we have the first “proper” weekend.

    20. I mean why not honestly. If we’re doing Sprints for something new and exciting then might as well try out different track layouts as well.

      Honestly and I’m not joking here, but at appropriate tracks that can accommodate it for safety I’d LOVE to see the occasional race in the opposite direction on track. Seriously. But I know that’s highly unlikely and very few venues would be able to do it.

    21. On the surface of it, a sprint on a different track layout sounds interesting and would mix things up for sure.
      Problem is the teams would want to configure the cars differently for the sprint and the main race, but they can’t. Parc Ferme Rules would scupper that idea. No changing the cars from the start of Qualifying to the GP.
      My take is that this is the thin end of the wedge to get to a two race weekend so that they can morf into an all-electric drive series. Sound familiar.?

    22. “running on an alternative route between the sprint race and the grand prix would help to keep Sunday’s race unique and avoid diluting the spectacle of seeing two races at the same track on consecutive days.”

      Exactly! The Grand Prix is the main event and always should be, so a step like this would show the Sprint for what it is…a side show, an appetiser if you will. It avoids taking away the importance of the Grand Prix itself.

      But of course, the ideal situation would be to just have a normal qualifying session…

    23. This comments section…. So predictable.
      The question wasn’t “how much do you love sprint races” it was “what do you think of (this particular) idea?”
      Yet half of the responses took their own direction.
      Why do F1 ‘fans’ have so little imagination and tolerance for ‘their’ sport changing and evolving to keep with the times and shifting audience?

      Slight reality check here – it isn’t ‘yours.’ It belongs to the the FIA and is run as a commercial partnership between the manufacturers and teams that participate in it and the marketing company that sells it.

      1. Dear “S”: People above are doing this because the approach F1 is taking when polling on whether Sprint races are something fans want (in places such as F1 Fan Voice) is by excluding “I don’t want Sprint races” as an answer option. As such, we have to premise our responses on Sprint race articles by saying “We don’t like the concept, but if you are asking me to comment on X thing you want to change, my view is Y.”

        If fans of other sports took the approach you want F1 fans to take on sprint races, they would just roll over and let World Rugby change half the matches in the 6 Nations into 10 minute games between teams of 5 players each, saying you can score tries anywhere in the opposing team’s half. Or football fans would have to accept a decision by UEFA to make the Champions League final a 20 minute match where the goals are the width of the pitch and the teams are forbidden from fielding a goalkeeper.

        Fans have a say in any sport because without us, the teams generate no revenue. If fans don’t turn on the TV (or stream the games etc) the revenue stream dries up. So out voice matters and we should use it when we see decisions being made which are bad for the sport.

        1. I appreciate your sentiment, @geemac. But your last paragraph sums it up.
          Your message directly to F1 is your viewership. Stop it, and they’ll be asking why. Keep watching, though, and they’ll just ignore your concerns and count your money.

          Your examples are nonsense, of course. F1 isn’t completely changing rules on a whim, and this small article/survey/comments section on one of hundreds of fansites globally isn’t even going to register on F1’s radar.

          And having been a F1FanVoice regular for more than 3 years, I can assure you that it is primarily marketing. They don’t care any more about what you say there than they do if you say it here. Or on Twitter or Reddit.
          If they don’t like what you say on F1FV, they make it go away.

          Unless you happen to run an F1 team, are spending $Millions sponsoring F1 or are broadcasting it, of course. Then they’ll listen to you.

    24. Anyway – I think the short layout should get it’s own complete GP.
      Don’t just stop at qualifying on one layout and racing on the other – have a whole GP on each.
      Practice and 2 sprints back to back on Friday, then run two unique qualifying and GP sessions each day thereafter.

      I don’t think any of these comments about it being too difficult are at all a problem. This is F1, and they have all the resources they could want to make things happen.

    25. I think the sprint race should have no impact on the rest of the event itself or the main championships.

      Simply a reverse championship order race with a mini championship of it’s own to contend for.

      Don’t interfere with the rest of the weekend. Don’t let it impact on the main season. Make it a side hustle with its own parts (engine, gearbox etc.) allocation and budget etc.

      That way the intention of creating extra drama and entertainment can exist without the potential to ruin the main championship aside from if a car needs a total rebuild. But, even then, make sure there’s enough time for it if necessary.

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