Race start, Baku Street Circuit, 2022

Second qualifying session under consideration for F1’s Baku sprint round

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 is considering a change to the format of the first sprint race weekend of the year in Baku.

The series’ CEO Stefano Domenicali said earlier this week he wants more competitive sessions to take place during weekends. The sprint race format which was introduced at limited rounds in 2021 was one step towards achieving this.

Under its current sprint weekend structure, F1 holds a qualifying session on Friday which sets the starting order for Saturday’s short race, which in turn decides the grid for the grand prix. However F1 is considering a revised format under which a second qualifying session would be held to decide the starting order for the sprint race.

“In Baku we are talking about having a second qualifying in the moment,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner explained. “We don’t know how we do it and if we do it.”

One criticism of the sprint race format has been that it makes the second practice session on Saturday largely meaningless. Steiner indicated the extra qualifying session will replace that hour of running in Baku.

Some drivers said yesterday they would be happy to have just one practice session per weekend. However Steiner acknowledged F1 will have to ensure that allows enough running for teams to iron out any problems with their cars.

“Instead of FP2 on a sprint event on Saturday morning, we do our qualifying. Then we are in a situation to evaluate would one FP1 be enough to get out what we want and go from there?”

The sport can then “decide what is next in making the free practice session more interesting for the spectators, because that is what we need.”

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“I think we need to take it step by step, get over this hurdle of how we can do a second qualifying on the weekend in the sprint events and then maybe go the next step.”

The proposal was discussed in a recent meeting of the Formula 1 Commission. “Stefano had a little bit more his vision out there for the future because that is what he has to do for FOM, have a vision where are we going,” said Steiner.

“So I think let’s take it step-by-step, sort that one out and see how much practice we need to make the car safe, to get enough data that you can set them up and to give Pirelli enough data they have got something decent to work with.”

However Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer pointed out that cutting the number of practice sessions will make life more difficult for drivers who are new to F1.

“We need a good balance,” he said. “We still need a bit of practice to dial in the car to get the set-up right.

“I think it will favour drivers that are experienced if we do reduce the practice. It might hurt some of the rookies.

“So I understand what Stefano was saying in the Formula 1 Commission that we should look at every session that we’re out on track to make it interesting for the fans. I think a practice session or two would still be interesting, even though we may do some other things.”

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2023 Australian Grand Prix

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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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27 comments on “Second qualifying session under consideration for F1’s Baku sprint round”

  1. What kind of a sport changes its major rules and even the complete format during the season? We don’t do it in amateur leagues… Do you really think you show much you work and how useful you are, by constantly coming up with new ideas, reshaping everything from top to bottom whenever you please? At least finish the season with the format you started it with, this is not “Covid era” anymore, we can be organized again.

    1. If it can be ‘improved’ immediately, why wouldn’t that be the best option?
      You don’t leave a safety concern for later – why a sporting one?

    2. +100

      Once again F1 Dictators like Nero do as what fancy they have at the moment.

    3. If there’s a season for such experiments it’s right this one, are you afraid to advantage someone in the battle for 2nd, 3rd and 4th?

  2. Replacing the largely pointless Saturday practice under parc ferme restrictions with another qualifying session would be good. However, four weeks before the relevant event is relatively little for format change considerations.

    1. Eh, given it’s a relatively minor change of having one session replaced by another that requires no effort from anyone involved and it replaces a useless practice session, I think this is not a case of “you need to stop and think about this first.”

      Like it’s not a new qualifying format. It’s not replacing anything important. It adds some value to that timeslot for both TV and track promoters. It’s fine.

      1. @sjaakfoo Valid point.

        1. @jerejj @sjaakfoo

          “In Baku we are talking about having a second qualifying in the moment. … We don’t know how we do it…”

          That sounds like they are talking about a new qualifying format, presumably to distinguish it from the current one. I wouldn’t mind seeing an old format revived, like one-lap qualifying or even just an open session that also serves as a practice session. You could spice up the latter by restricting tyre availability — say, the soft is only available during that session, so teams have an incentive to do some longer runs early in the session to collect data.

          Somehow, though, I suspect the words “reverse grid” have been uttered in these meetings. It was deemed too sacrilegious to have a reverse-grid qualifying race to set the grid for a grand prix, but maybe, Domenicali thinks, he can get away with having a reverse-grid qualifying race to set the grid for the sprint race.

          1. In which case, let’s say the fastest drivers\car combos will be disadvantaged initially and will have to recover to not start too far behind in the sprint race, to then be able to win the race. Not a problem with this year’s red bull, but in a more challenging season you might be seriously disadvantaged by that, however if you think about 2021, hamilton and verstappen would be in the same camp, starting the first sprint in the back next to each other, and that would bring potential for interesting fights.

  3. F1 undervalues its viewers. They put words in our mouth which are not true. I get it now its a business rather than sport. So in the end why not call it a Formula 1 Corporation. It’s number 1 mission is to make money. No.2 is to entertain. No3 is the sport itself. So why not go all in and turn the sledge all the way to the other direction and maximise the revenue. If I want to enjoy F1 as a business not a sport I need to change my point of view. I’m not sure can I do it but I’m pretty happy I grew up watching sport and not business. I bet many kids love F1 as it is now but I’m not sure what will they think when they are older. As a kid you only try to focus on the good sides not the bad ones. Maybe I’m writing this because I’m not a kid anymore but the road Liberty and F1 are taking will draw away some of its fans but as in anything in this world it has to move on. New generation is already a old generation when they are on the frame that’s why everything is futurebased and not historybased. Otherwise we would be watching Verstappen winning his 3rd title in chariot racing. I’m sad but there are other things which can make me happy too. F1 has chosen its direction and I think I’m not going to follow that path. I’m not sure yet but I’m very close to that intersection.

    1. It’s actually called “Formula One World Championship Limited”.

    2. I’m pretty happy I grew up watching sport and not business.

      F1 has been business over sport for a very long time… Since it’s inception, arguably – but certainly since Bernie took over. He formally organised F1 in order to maximise profit, not to make it a ‘better’ or more authentic sporting activity.
      Further to that – at no point has F1 stopped evolving further in that direction.

      F1 has chosen its direction and I think I’m not going to follow that path. I’m not sure yet but I’m very close to that intersection.

      Many of us who’ve been watching for decades have learned to compartmentalise – it’s an important skill to learn with F1.
      Enjoy and maximise the bits you like, and try to ignore or minimise attention on those you don’t.
      Oh, and don’t forget to watch other racing series too. F1 by itself isn’t enough for a real motorsports enthusiast.

      1. I can only speak from the year 2000- onwards. Bernie changed a lot. More than anyone else has done for F1. I just feel like Liberty Media took it to another level.

    3. The thing is, FE is farcical and driving standards in Indycar are mostly subpar. If Indycar attracted more talent from all over the World I’d be more tempted to leave F1 for it entirely if F1 carries on in this unnecessary complicated direction.

      Just remembered when they changed the qualifying format for like 2 or 3 races a few years ago, oh dear…

  4. Just make FP2 a young drivers test for Sprint weekend

    1. I kind of like this. I was just thinking that only having one practice session would mean less chances for young drivers to gain mileage. However, turning the otherwise “meaningless” 2nd session into a young drivers test would solve that.

  5. I am confused. Is the sprint qualifying to be on the Friday or Saturday? What decides the order for the main race? The sprint result or a second qualifying?

  6. I don’t understand why they don’t have FP1 and FP2 as normal and then do Qualifying in place of FP3.

    If they’re going to have sprints, and it seems that nothing is going to stop that regardless of feedback, then at least make FP2 relevant in terms of getting cars set up for qualifying and the race.

  7. Well, just when you thought it couldn’t get any more ridiculous…

  8. Abies de Wet
    31st March 2023, 10:37

    Domenicali Is Bad News for F1… Get Rid of the Idiot !!!!!!!

  9. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think it’s actually a good idea. FP2 is absolutely meaningless in parc fermé conditions and I’d prefer to have the grid for the race decided by a (proper) qualifying.

  10. petebaldwin (@)
    31st March 2023, 11:59

    If they’re going to do sprint races, I guess this is an improvement on the current sprint race format at least. I’ve only watched a couple of sprint races as I don’t find them interesting – there are lots of short races taking place every weekend that absolutely blow F1 out of the water in terms of close racing, excitement, better circuits and so on so I watch that instead.

    It’s obviously still not ideal but it seems like a reasonable solution whereby those of us who have no interest in the gimmick races can tune out and not miss anything of importance – we can watch proper qualifying, the proper race and it’ll be like a normal F1 weekend….

  11. I won’t be watching any of the sprint gimmick weekends anyway.

    Pretty obvious that F1 is no longer a sport & that Liberty media don’t care about the dedicated, knowledgable fans. There doing everything to quickly push us off the cliff so they can go full gimmick for the casual netflix, nascar, american audience.

    Liberty can have GP1, I’ll just watch the real Sport of Formula 1 via the archives.

  12. So there’ll be a Sprint Qualifying Qualifying, a Sprint Qualifying and then a Grand Prix Qualifying? Does anyone at Liberty remember that they sold this Sprint gimmick on the pretense that Sprint Qualifying would be more exciting than Qualifying and produce mixed results? Never mind that in reality it’s, you know, the exact opposite (thanks DRS).

    Fix the cars! The rest will take care of itself. No other series cares so much about the “weekend format”. This endless messing with the format is the proverbial arranging of deckchairs on the Titanic.

    1. This is correct.

      The problem with cars in recent years is that they are largely separated. The result of which is that cars are less frequently out of position, especially the longer distance you go. Sometimes cars are out of position in qualifying, but rarely by the end of the race. So all that happens with a sprint weekend is, they qualify and if we are lucky a few are out of position. They do the sprint and that generally clears up any out of position. The full race gets them lined up back in order.

      I am not trying to push F1 to be a spec series, but as it is, it’s a procession. Either find a way to make the cars run closer–both in terms of following but also closer in terms of overall performance–(the new system put in place where it limits some development time for higher-level finishers may get us there over time).

      Or, barring that, scrap stupid sprint races, scrap all but one practice, and have a separate and fun spec-series race to spice up the weekend. You’d get some car company to pay F1 sponsorship money to get their ridiculous cars on the grid (Toyota Yaris GR or Ford Transit or even a 911 cup car), you’d get proper racing because the drivers would want to prove who is best, and you’d pull in viewers because it would be the best racing all weekend. I used to think this was an impossible idea but if the new logic is that we can just throw anything at an F1 weekend, then why not throw something actually good at it?

  13. Reverse grids. No, seriously, hear me out!

    Friday – morning FP1 and afternoon qualifying; this sets the grid for the “main” race on Sunday; cars go into Parc Ferme.

    Saturday – 11 am Sprint Race with reverse grid from Friday’s qualifying, everyone starts on tires they set their fastest qualifying times with. Points awarded according to the old 10-6-4-3-2-1 system; no point for fastest lap, but the lap is carried over to the “main” race. After this, Parc Ferme is lifted, and an afternoon FP2 is run to set up cars for Sunday.

    Sunday – Grand Prix race with the grid from Friday qualy, 25-18-15-etc full points on offer, including the bonus for fastest lap (including the one from the Sprint, unless bested in the Grand Prix) if the holder finishes in points in the Grand Prix. Free choice of tires for all, and scrap the rule that requires using different compounds in the race.

    The idea is to have sprint races with cars set up for all-out attack while making the leaders having to fight their way through traffic (the only good sprint races we’ve seen so far were the ones where the leaders were out of place at the start). With relatively short race distance and few points paying positions it would be interesting to watch if some of the back-markers would be capable of hanging onto a points paying finish. Then set up the cars for the proper race and run that as usual. This might even offer some variety with some cars favoring long runs on harder rubber (possibly even a no-stopper race) with others working best in “sprint” conditions with softer tires but with doing multiple stops.

    And do this at every race, or don’t do Sprints at all. It makes no sense to have some races pay more points than others.

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