Start, Interlagos, 2021

Williams drivers confused by F1’s sprint race rules change

2022 F1 season

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Formula 1’s changes to its sprint race format for the 2022 season left the Williams drivers unclear on the rules for the upcoming championship when asked for their views on the revisions.

The series considered a number of changes to the format for the new season, including making the Saturday races stand-alone events which did not decide the grid for Sunday’s grand prix. That plan was dropped – the sprints will continue to set the grid – but F1 announced the driver who tops conventional qualifying on Friday will be regarded as the pole position winner for the weekend “for statistical purposes”.

However Nicholas Latifi was under the mistaken impression F1 had decided to proceed with the stand-alone race plan following complaints over the format used last year.

“It’s great that F1 has showed that they were going to be flexible and reactive to if it seemed like it wasn’t working out,” said Latifi. “Clearly there were some criticisms about the format, and there was a lot of suggestions of ways to improve it.

“I think what they have done is probably exactly what a lot of people wanted to see, that’s for a sprint race having no bearing on Sunday’s race, meaning Friday’s real qualifying sets the grid as it always has, and that’s just an extra kind of shoot-out.”

One change which has been made for 2022 is an increase in the number of points available in sprint races. The top eight drivers will now score instead of the top three. Latifi praised the change, saying “people actually have something to gain because now it’s the top eight score.

“So drivers will probably feel more incentive to risk something knowing there’s more points-paying positions and knowing that there’s not as much consequence for Sunday’s race,” he continued.

Latifi’s team mate Alexander Albon admitted he was “a little bit confused” about F1’s plans for sprint races in 2022. “I was told that the grid for the main race has changed a little bit and that seems a little bit strange, that side of it,” he said.

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After the details of the new format were explained to him, Albon said: “Okay, sounds good.”

He also believes awarding drivers more points will add to the action in this year’s three sprint events.

“I feel like drivers are going to put a little bit more on the line now there’s more points up for grabs,” he said. “I think that’s all for it.

“The racing should hopefully be good, the cars should follow better. We have to see how that plays out. I think it’s a good thing. I think they’ve chosen good tracks as well, which tend to promote good racing and we’ll have to see.”

F1 originally capped the number of points available in sprints at just three for a win last year due to concerns the importance of the grands prix would be lessened if the extra races yielded a significant reward. However Williams team principal Jost Capito is confident that increasing the maximum score to eight would not undermine Sunday’s races.

“I don’t think that diminishes the value of the grand prix,” he said, “I don’t think the number of points will make a difference. I think the number of points will add to the attraction of the sprint race and not have any impact on the grand prix.”

This year’s revisions to the format were prompted by responses from fans, Capito added. “This came out of the questionnaire and the research the FOM had done with the fans globally and that was what the fans wanted, and I think it’s right to do what the majority of the fans want. And if that increases the interest of the fans, it’s the right thing to do.”

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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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25 comments on “Williams drivers confused by F1’s sprint race rules change”

  1. That is ridiculus that gave more point so make it a standalone mini race and the Qualiflier on friday is for the position for sunday. It’s not that hard. and the minirace they can experiment on start postion reversed (not poplulair) or championship postions or the reverse of that so many idea’s they could try!

    1. What ‘prize’ in this sprint mini championship do you suggest would be sufficient to convince all the teams to give 100% effort and commitment?
      Nobody that I’ve seen yet has come up with a decent answer to this question.

      Obviously, an insufficient prize or reward would not entice teams to take it seriously, or even participate. The teams voting down the additional 3 sprints is a good example of this – they don’t do anything for free, even when they benefit from it.
      Championship points, of course, are desirable by all. A point is a point at the end of the championship, and they’ll take them anywhere they can get them. Now more teams have a greater chance to get more points…

  2. Imola doesn’t necessarily promote good racing regularly, though.
    Spa-Francorchamps would be a better choice alongside Red Bull Ring & Interlagos, in which case three racing-friendly tracks on paper.

  3. I really do not understand how Latifi could have misinterpreted the rule change. It is not that difficult, is it?
    Is this an inability to understand such a simple explanation? Or is this a complete disinterest in the job you are being paid full time (and quite reasonably) for?
    Regardless of whether you agree with it, you should be aware of the communication about your own sport.
    I really do not understand this. I quite appreciated Latifi but here he really drops in my esteem.

    1. If all he’s read is the statement the FIA put out – which is not unreasonable given they are the regulators – then I think his mistake is understandable. The FIA statement simply said they would ‘award pole position to the fastest driver in qualifying on Friday’. From that, I think it’s reasonable to infer that Friday qualifying, not the sprint race, would decide the grid for the grand prix, which of course isn’t the case.

    2. Drivers have little reason to follow every piece of news regarding things that for now make no difference to them as dilligently as you do.
      Once the rules are set in stone – which they havent look like it yet – they will get briefed on the details.
      They are in a comfortable position to let all the petty debates and drama be performed by us fans.

  4. One major problem of the $print format that I’ve never seen mentioned yet is that it cannot be used at all tracks (Monaco for example).
    This means that some GPs become more important than others.

    1. One major problem of the $print format that I’ve never seen mentioned yet is that it cannot be used at all tracks

      Wouldn’t that be a problem with the tracks that F1 visits, then, and not the event format, @exeviolthor?
      Anyway, they could use it – they just won’t.
      Personally I think they should, as it would provide further pressure for F1 to not only visit the ‘right’ venues, but also create the ‘right’ type of cars.

      This means that some GPs become more important than others

      Not quite.
      It means that some events have more points available than others. The GP’s themselves all have identical value.

      1. “It means that some events have more points available than others” is the same as what Nikos said.

        1. The GP is only a part of the event, Craig.

          I get what Nikos was trying to say, but what they actually said isn’t true.
          Any difference in event points value equates to the differences in competitive sessions that each event offers.

          If we want to be that pedantic about event points value, perhaps Monaco should be worth only 20 points instead of 25?
          It isn’t a ‘full’ GP distance, compared with all the others…

    2. @exeviolthor I do seem to remember this site reported Brawn saying at some point last year that it wouldn’t work at all circuits, such as Monaco, but that they might try and implement other qualifying formats at some circuits (such as One Lap Qualifying, which isn’t something I’d be against personally if done correctly). That said they also said they would drop it if they didn’t work, so…

      And why they then decided to put a Sprint at Imola is a bit beyond me though

  5. Isn’t it great how Liberty and the FIA have changed the conversation from ‘no one asked for this. very few want this. why are we doing this.’ to ‘how can this turd be polished best.’

    1. Yup, they worked consistently and diligently at framing it, and having gotten many of the ’embedded’ media on board, they were successful by never giving up on it,despite many fans not really wanting to see it.

  6. Really dissatisfied with the decision to have sprint races. It’s nothing but a political and economic decision. It does not improve racing, it does not improve the championship. The traditional format was perfectly fine and needed no fiddling with. Sure it was spectacular to see Lewis Hamilton going from last to first in Interlagos, but that is an outlier.

    1. Economic decisons are the most important decisions there are. The sport doesnt exist without money. You cant be cynical towards that.
      The sprint races were also aimed at providing more meaningful car running time for fans at the actual venue.

      1. “meaningful car running time” is a pretty meaningless buzz term. In reality there’s actually less overall running for F1 with sprint races, not to mention how it dilutes other aspects of the weekend.

        1. In reality there’s actually less overall running for F1 with sprint races

          But a higher percentage of it is under meaningful competitive conditions.
          You know – a race meeting, rather than an uninteresting, uneventful test day.

    2. I think it’s pure politics as I’m not convinced by the economic argument

      1. I think Craig that the buy in from teams and tracks makes it likely the economic argument FOM made to them in private, at least in the short term, is pretty strong. I don’t like the result, and doubt the long term, but it is what it is I guess.

        1. From what I recall, the track owners only source of revenue is ticket sales. If the sprints generate more and higher priced ticket sales for Friday and Saturday, then the track owners (promotors) will gain. That part sounds pretty good, but the overall concept, not a fan.
          On the surface, more drivers will get more points and this will incentivize action. Yes, on the surface it should.
          Problem is that if you assume that RedBull, Mercedes and Ferrari are likely to take up 6 of the top 8 places, only 2 points positions left for the remaining 14 drivers. If you are already in 10th place or lower, what is the incentive to do more than to hold position?

  7. In reality I don’t expect awarding points to 8th will change much because i’ve never agreed with the belief that drivers don’t race as hard or take as many risks when there’s no reward for it.

    When they extended the points for the GP down to 8th & later 10th one of the arguments was that it would mean drivers in the mid-field would fight harder given how points were more possible yet when you go back & watch races from before/after the changes it really didn’t make any difference to the way drivers in the mid-field raced.

    And how many times have we cut to a battle taking place outside the points that’s been more crazy than the racing going on for points positions. I remember back to when fans always used to complain that we weren’t seeing the racing going on further down given how it always tended to be better than the stuff further forward despite them not fighting for points or anything.

  8. I hate it, they are giving more importance to sprint races, more weight to them with more points being given. Let’s see if a championship is decided due to the outcome of Sprint races. For me if this happens it will be really underwhelming. This only detracts from main events in my view. Also I hate the choice of having this in Interlagos. It’s a circuit that already let other drivers overtake, it just add more nonsense randomness to it. Doesn’t need this.

  9. Not really very confusing, all they’ve changed is the points system from last year and the name. Not sure how many fans asked for either of these things.

  10. I would like to introduce a new race format:
    The FIA brings 2 identically prepared cars to at least 4 tracks.
    Each car mfg will provide 1 vehicle they want showcased.

    The competition
    Every driver gets 4 laps in the car to feel it out and figure out their marks and to set 1 fast lap. There will be 2 cars on the track spaced out by 1/2 a lap. We get to see the drivers go head to head in identical equipment and who is really the best for a weekend or season.

    The Points
    Keep the same Sprint point format for 2022 (8,7,6 etc)

    The Grid
    Grid is still set by Friday qualifying

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