Sprint race start, Imola, 2022

F1 and teams considering idea for ‘stand-alone’ sprint races backed by drivers

2022 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 is evaluating a change to its sprint race format under which they would no longer decide the starting grid for the grand prix.

The series introduced its sprint format last year. At sprint rounds qualifying is held on Friday, which sets the starting order for a 100 kilometre race on Saturday, which in turn decides the grid for the grand prix.

Several drivers have said the format does not produce good racing in the Saturday race because they know their finishing positions will set the starting order for the grand prix. This makes them reluctant to take risks.

F1 is understood to be in discussions with teams over whether making the sprint races stand-alone events – as they are in Formula 2 and Formula 3 – would create more excitement and action. No final decision has been taken but the option remains under consideration.

Max Verstappen said today sprint races have failed to generate the desired excitement because they set the starting order for the race. He said because of that drivers “don’t really race” in sprint events.

“I’m just not a big fan of it because I feel like we don’t really race,” said the world champion. “There are a few [championship] points that you get but you also know that you can’t really risk it because the main race is where you really get the points. You don’t do a pit stop so you just put on the tyre which will last the distance.”

Analysis: Stopping teams parking up is just one of F1’s problems with stand-alone sprint races
F1 has already confirmed the number of sprint races will increase from three to six next year. It is in discussions with team over potential changes to the format, which could include severing the connection between a driver’s sprint race finishing position and where they start the grand prix.

Kevin Magnussen also believes this would improve the quality of sprint races.

“Max has a good point that the risk that you want to take in sprint is less because it decides the position for Sunday,” he said. “So I think maybe a good tweak could be to separate that, so you can go for it.”

Both drivers say the advantage of sprint events is it cuts down on the amount of practice drivers have before the grand prix.

“I do enjoy going from practice one straight into qualifying,” said Magnussen. “It puts a lot of pressure to find your rhythm quickly and get the set-up right. I feel like when there’s three practices it’s quite a lot, so I kind of like that.”

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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39 comments on “F1 and teams considering idea for ‘stand-alone’ sprint races backed by drivers”

  1. Probably an unpopular opinion but I actually think this will be worse. I am very much an advocate for the scrapping of the sprint races, but there are two things I do like about them. Firstly, I like it when there is a variation of tyre choice and those on softs start well but fade later in the race compared to those on mediums, which is just about the only appeal of a short F1 race in general. But the other thing I quite like is knowing that if there were to be some kind of incident between the lead drivers, they would be starting on the back row together for the actual Grand Prix which would be thrilling. And although the drivers are generally more cautious in a sprint race because of the risk of crashing, I don’t think this would change a huge amount if it was a standalone event, because I don’t think there are too many opportunities anyway for this to make a huge difference.

    Also, more points would have to be awarded if it was a standalone event, which would very much devalue the Grand Prix just as the feature races in Formula 2 are devalued by the sprint races. And I would be fearful that making them a standalone event would be an opportunity to use reversed grids, which would certainly compromise Formula 1’s position as the ‘pinnacle of motorsport.’

    Effectively, the whole idea is just a disaster, and the only way it could possibly work was if it was part of a sprint championship that was completely separate from the main championship, with a reward of prize money only, and maybe including rookies and gimmicks.

    1. Yeah, I am also somewhat unconvinced that this will really solve anything @f1frog and really just don’t think the sprint thing brought us much positives as fans at all.

    2. @f1frog As I wrote earlier let Friday be the sprint day. Qualifying/practise and the sprint. I would also only give sprint points to constructions so it would not mess up drivers championship.

    3. What I would be really curious about is what would happen when F1 uses the same weekend format as F2. With much less practice time, reversed grids for sprint races and all..

  2. Hopefully they keep going in this direction until they just don’t have sprint races. Good move.

  3. Have them all race in single make vehicles/karts in a non-championship series.
    Invite ex F1 or other leading drivers into the mix and let the fun begin.

    This would be far more action packed and exciting than the current pointless trundling around trying not to crash.

    1. Few would watch it.

      1. @f1mre
        Really? That promotional race with the Mercedes 190 was legendary because a certain youngster showed what he could do. Also there are not many who think bad of the M1 pro car series… And then there were the series in Bercy where we could see Alesi, Senna, Prost and Schumacher mix it up with big names from other series… We have the ROC, which is nice.. okay.. But I’d pay extra to see a revival of the kart series in Bercy with current stars really

    2. No one watches single-make racing series though. The only reason people will watch, and generally it’s for one off races, is because of the notoriety F1, and race series like it, give drivers in the first place.

  4. If you have some sprints, why you forgot to add some formats like say marathons – what about Paris-Dakar F1 caravan?

    1. Could make some 900 km race, 159 laps in monza example.

      1. I would much prefer three endurance F1 races, lasting say four hours each, than sprints.

    2. We’d likely have 8-9 stop races!

  5. Make the sprint race reverse grid- and give out 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points for top 8. This makes it worth fighting for, less predictable, without completely subverting the championship.

    Overtaking/Defending skills over pure pace – essentially the anti-qualifying.

  6. how about reverse-grid standalone races?

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if representatives from F1 were sent to bang that drum at the meeting. I wouldn’t even be opposed to it if Sprints were on Friday and didn’t impact qualifying and limited the points to podium finishers.

      1. Sprints were on Friday

        With a prospective driver for next year doing the sprint in last year’s car…
        I wonder if the not-quite-a-rookie-yet drivers would complain about the gimmicks Liberty/Domenicali were throwing at them?

    2. They originally proposed this but suddenly changed their minds. I can only imagine Merc/Red Bull were unsupportive of it (Ferrari publicly stated they supported it).

      I actually think it’d be great – Reverse Grid (Championship Order) Qualifying Sprint. You’d actually have the guys at the back pushing hard (like Hamilton, Brazil last year). Feels like an obvious ‘win’ to me.

  7. If it’s for entertainment then put the FIA bozos in the cars and have the drivers steward the race.

    Is the fixation with Mini-Prix a reflection on the men of F1?

  8. Glad to see F1 recognizes that there are problems with the sprint format. Now if they just follow that train of thought to getting rid of sprint races, I’ll be happy. Totally shocked. But happy.

  9. Currently the Formula1 is designed like FFA ( Free for all – All 20 drivers racing together ) competition. FIA should also think of something like head-to-head competitions ( like 2 constructors racing or 1 driver from 5 competitors each racing ) over some weekends. This would make it interesting and give some chances to lower teams to score. Williams/Haas always get 0 points, but they can score some if they compete sometime against each other.
    More than 20 drivers can get chance to race. An upper limit of 20 races/driver could also be good so that the teams need more drivers.

  10. Bernie Ecclestone’s inspiration will finally become a reality next season.

    Stand alone sprint races with random water sprinkler periods

    1. Bernie Ecclestone’s inspiration will finally become a reality next season.

      Stand alone sprint races with random water sprinkler periods

      That would be golden – oh, sorry, that’s politicians, isn’t it? :)

  11. Just stick em all in karts and do a sprint race like that.
    All drivers will revert to their youth. And you will have hyper agressive races, without alot of cost for the team.

  12. At this point we might as well go the whole hog and look at something a bit more radical.

    Let the promoters choose what kind of event they want. A “traditional” 300km Grand Prix, or a pair of shorter “sprint” events? There are plenty of examples of series that run races of differing lengths across their calendar – not least Indycar – and the points could be calibrated to make the longer races more valuable.

    It would solve the problem of sprint races diluting the main event by making them the main event, for part of the calendar at least. And it would be easier for viewers to skip the format they don’t prefer. Then you could either award a combined championship (as in Indycar for example) or separate sprint/Grand Prix championships (like the European GT3 series does).

    1. @red-andy that’s not even a joke.

      I’ve said all along that this is where it will go.

      Most weekends will end up being 2 short sprints on Saturday and a slightly longer “feature race” on Sundays.

      My guess is that they’ll reserve a few tracks (very few) for what they’ll describe as endurance events that will follow the traditional format.

      They’ll then mess around with tyre allocations much like they do in Australian Supercars.

      End result lots more so called “races” to fit the Liberty mantra of “more is better” (for our bottom line)

      Expect F1 2024 or 2025 to be nothing at all like F1 as we’ve known it.

      1. @dbradock Nobody is going to stop these sprints happening and when there is someone at charge who cares more about money than sport it is already a dead business. I wouldn’t be surprised if something that happened with FIFA will happen to FIA

      2. Some fans will love that, and fair play to them, but personally there is already too many F1 races for me. I only have limited times and there are other series that are also worth following. And if I skip half the races then I will ask why not skip them all if I cannot adequately follow the championship.

        And to be clear, I am not necessarily against sprint races. They might be worth having if we only had 16 main races a year.

  13. Severing the connection between the Sprint & the Grand Prix would only move the problem a bit.

    The drivers not wanting to take risks in the Sprint because they’d end up at the back of the grid would just end being them not taking risks because they don’t want to risk wrecking the car in a race that doesn’t matter the day before the Grand Prix.

    So unless the teams start bringing dedicated Sprint cars or there is a big incentive to take part, it won’t solve the problem.

    The Expectation Vs Reality in F1 has always been a problem – the switch to Pirelli tyres in 2011 is the perfect example of this:

    By 2010 the Bridgestone tyres were massively durable (largely caused by the 2005 “No Tyre Changes” rule) and tyre wear had stopped being an issue which is what led to the mandatory two-compounds in the race rule.

    Then the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix happened, with unexpected & unusually high tyre wear causing a lot of unpredictability.

    Great!! Let’s get new tyre supplier Pirelli to produce tyres that wear out more quickly and reproduce the effect!

    Expectation – Drivers go flat out until the tyres wear out & have to make more pitstops

    Reality – Drivers are instructed by teams to go as easy as possible on the tyres to make as few pit stops as possible & it looks silly that they’re hardly pushing.

    This happens over and over again – a regulation or rule change introduces unpredictability and as soon as the teams get used to it, the lowest risk strategy is preferable to them (for obvious reasons!)

    F1 want a high-risk (albeit safe) and unpredictable spectacle.

    Teams want the lowest possible risk and the most predictable way to achieve their “optimal” goal.

    These two things don’t often line up together. On those rare occasions they do – that’s when F1 is at it’s brilliant best.

  14. I was about to write something about risk/reward but @tayoma nailed it perfectly.

  15. Hear me out, what if we have a 300km event, and the teams can pit of tyres during the race.

  16. The Sprint format is fundamentally a bad idea (although de-linking the finishing order in the Sprint from the Grand Prix starting grid order would be a step in the right direction). The root of the problem is that the people that currently own the commercial rights to F1 don’t really appreciate the history of motor racing outside the US. They see F1 as a money making project and that is why they paid vast sums of money to acquire the rights – Bernie really did open Pandora’s Box! There is an ongoing, and increasing, tension between the American owners of the commercial rights, who, understandably, want to maximise the “entertainment”, and so their financial return, and those who want classical Grand Epreuve or Grand Prix motor racing. These two camps seem to be moving in opposite directions.

    The introduction of the Sprint race and the reduction of practice time appear to be part of a plan to draw in new spectators with “entertainment” over the weekend of the race. With the perceived need to provide some excitement for every day of the event, it is inevitable that more and more things will be introduced which will inevitably dilute the value of the Grand Prix race. As someone said, above, this has already happened with F2 an F3.

    Ultimately it will come down to a choice between serious motor racing in its purest and finest form and a DisneyLand/Universal Studios style entertainment weekend featuring racing cars. I know where vote goes.


  17. I have always said that they should separate the sprint races from their effects on the main GP race. So continue to hold them, if they must, but have them as standalone races that do not effect the qualifying position of the race.

    I don’t mind them having points which contribute to the WDC as long as there are not too many points. What they have now is fine.

    I am pretty old-school in my views but I would even consider a part reverse grid for the sprint races like they do in F2. I think anything would be an improvement over the current format which doesn’t deliver much excitement and is not even liked by most of the drivers.

  18. I wouldn’t mind such a tweak or Steiner’s suggestion.

  19. This is no improvement. What they should do is have one qualifying session to determine both the grid order for the sprint, as for the race. With the sprint race having a reversed grid for the top 8.

    1. That is probably the best solution I have seen so far (beyond getting rid of them).

    2. @spafrancorchamps A pretty good solution I think.

  20. Just add jumps to all the tracks, that’s what we all want really

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