All F1 teams back plan to change sprint format for Azerbaijan GP – Vasseur

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Changes to Formula 1’s sprint race format are likely to go ahead for the next round of the championship in Azerbaijan as all teams are behind the plan, according to Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur.

Six of this year’s F1 rounds will feature the additional sprint races, which were introduced three years ago. The Baku City Circuit is due to hold this year’s first sprint event at the end of this month, but plans are afoot to alter the format again.

Sprint race events already feature two practice sessions instead of the usual three, as the extra race takes up one of the practice slots. F1 intends to reduce that to a single hour for the first sprint event in Azerbaijan, turning second practice into a dedicated qualifying session for the sprint race later that afternoon. This would mean Friday’s qualifying session sets the starting order for Sunday’s grand prix.

The exact details of the plan are yet to be announced, including the format of the extra qualifying session. However Vasseur says the scheme enjoys the support of F1’s teams.

Race start, Baku Street Circuit, 2022
Baku will hold a sprint race for the first time
“For once I think all the teams were aligned,” he told media including RaceFans. “It’s not very often that it’s the case, [so] we have to jump on it.”

Replacing another practice session with qualifying makes the format “more dynamic”, said Vasseur. “You can discuss about why you had to do it so late, but at the end of the day, I think that we are all aligned that we have to push for it.”

One criticism of the sprint format following its introduction in 2021 was the lack of interest in Saturday’s practice session, due to qualifying having already taken place by that stage in the weekend and the teams having finalised their car set-ups. Vasseur said he likes the proposed new format.

“I’m not a big fan of the of the usual FP2. Sometimes it’s a bit boring, not for us because we have a lot of data, but I can imagine for the spectators, even for you if you don’t know about the level of fuel, the engine mode and so that you have, it is a bit boring.

“To try to have something more dynamic during the weekends is a good decision. And then, on the other hand, I think it’s also it’s true that if you watch football, you are not watching the session on Wednesday when they are training in the stadium. We are probably the only sport where we are putting on TV the training session.”

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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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45 comments on “All F1 teams back plan to change sprint format for Azerbaijan GP – Vasseur”

  1. I’m inclined to agree that it’s better than the current sprint race weekend format. Not that I like sprint race weekends particularly.

    1. Not sure I agree, but then, since the sprint format doesn’t do anything good for me, there is nothing much wrong with changing this @cairnsfella

      I do think that having a seperate qualifying session for the race and for the sprint, so that the sprint doesn’t cancel out any surprises in qualifying for the race, is worth trying. At least it will mean that the race is can still start with an interesting grid.

      1. Perhaps it’s me, but your disagreement sounds very much like agreement.

  2. Anthony Blears
    8th April 2023, 10:02

    @gtracer was bang on in the comments a few days ago with this prediction. Good stuff!

    1. Or just a lucky guess?

  3. Well if we’re going to have a second quali in a single weekend, then they might as well mix it up a bit.
    Try a full hour of qualifying (no Q1, Q2, Q3) with all the cars or try single lap qualifying as it was some years ago.
    I know the current format is the best one we have and I still like it very much, but it doesn’t hurt to have something different for the 6 sprints this year, maybe it can produce some intresting results…

    1. They could mix up the whole Sprint thing with this format change. A very different Sprint quali and a very different Sprint race would be a bit interesting. They could even change it from weekend to weekend. This way teams would have a harder time optimizing they tactics.

      Bring some of the gimmicks to the sprint. (and leave the GP alone)

    2. I also feel like having a regular qualifying session would make the difference between sprint and GP quite small. I’d love to see something new for sprint qualifying.

    3. Yellow Barron
      8th April 2023, 18:55

      They should reverse the top 10 for the sprint race. That will make things interesting

      1. I still think a reverse grid would be good, whether that’s the reverse of the GP qualifying or (IMHO better*) reverse championship order. Make those driving for the top teams actually overtake to gain positions, and give those at the back/midfield a better chance to pick up some decent points. It would also encourage the top teams to make their cars batter at overtaking, something that is an afterthought at best right now**.

        * Reverse of the race grid would leave the door open to gaming the system. Some would consider they had more chance of a better points haul by starting at the front for the sprint and back for the race, which wouldn’t be great for qualifying.

        ** The top teams, especially, optimise their designs for running in clean air. If they know they will have to fight for overtakes regularly, without the benefit of strategy etc, they’d be more inclined to both work on improving their own cars for overtaking and push for regulations which make overtaking easier. Getting the top engineers from the teams working on such things could be a great boon for the sport.

  4. Well, let’s see.

    In 2021, it was incredibly important to call it “Sprint Qualifying”, not a race, because a weekend should have only one race. We stated that the sprint would be boring if it decides the grid, so it was going to fail.

    In 2022, no more “Sprint qualifying”: just “Sprint”, and it gives more points. If you don’t want it to be considered a race, you were moving in the wrong direction.

    In 2023, you give the Sprint a separate qualifying session and it no longer decides the grid for the main race.

    How the hell did we move from “it’s not a race” to “it’s a race” after just 6 sprint events?

    Besides, making this change when it is the very next race is a bad move. It shows lack of planning, like if removing free practices and revamping the sprint was a last-minute decision.

    Last but not least: do you remember back in 2016-2019 when teams had to send Pirelli their tyre choices for logistical reasons? If the sprint changes as suddenly as it appears, is Pirelli ready to react? I mean, rules state 12 sets per driver in a sprint weekend: that doesn’t bode well with 2 Q1, 2 Q2 and 2 Q3. In fact, that would be a farce of drivers doing just one lap in each session. Is that even in consideration?

    At least this implies we the sprint skepticalsbwere right: if all these format changes were needed, it is because the sprint was a very poor idea in the beginning.

    1. @diezcilindros I think the fact that the teams unanimously agreed negates a lot of the practical issues you outlined. If any of the teams disagreed, then I would concur that it isn’t fair to change the format in the middle of a season.

      I actually like this change. Disconnecting the sprint from the race is something i was advocating for from the start. I think the only reason they didn’t do that from the start, is they didn’t want to hand out many points for the sprint and needed some reward for it. Now that they are awarding decent points for it, it makes sense to give the sprint its own qualifying session. I still don’t love the format, but it’s a step in the right direction and at least shows they aren’t completely satisfied with the very mediocre format they decided 3 years ago and are willing to experiment to try to improve it.

      1. @keithedin it depends on what alternative options the team were given, assuming that they were even given any alternatives – the comments made by Domenicali in the run up to this announcement suggests the teams were probably not going to be given an alternative option to choose from.

    2. @diezcilindros

      You asked ‘How the hell did we move from “it’s not a race” to “it’s a race” after just 6 sprint events?’

      The answer? As with previous changes to the Sprint,

  5. I think the text in this article is jumbled up a bit with the timing for practices, qualy and races. Read the 3rd paragraph again and see for yourselves.

    1. They don’t care. They’ve never had anybody editing these articles. Ever. It’s better to just read the comments and get what you need here. At least that grammar mangling German guy is gone.

  6. still think the best thing for them to do was as was reported earlier this week have a practice and sprint qualifying on a Friday then have the sprint on Saturday morning with GP qualifying in the afternoon/evening and the GP on Sunday
    This would then allow the F1 to present a sprint championship maybe

  7. Once again highlighting how bad the sprint race concept is

  8. I don’t mind sprints but I don’t miss them either when its a normal weekend. I wouldn’t like the proposed idea of single lap qualifying with championship leader going first, but I could live with it (not enough to cancel Sky over anyway).

    I do prefer scrapping the waste of time FP2 for a qualifying session for the Sprint. It ticks all of Liberty Media’s ‘having something meaningful every day’ boxes and doesn’t mess too much with the sport to make me want to switch off.

    What I’d like to see is keeping the sprints to a maximum of 10 per season and with this new proposed weekend format. For normal weekends I’d prefer a 2 hour practice session on Saturday morning then qualifying in the afternoon. This gives everyone a day off, including the viewers which isn’t a bad thing.

  9. I don’t like the sprint races but I’ll say this new format is better than the previous one.

  10. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    8th April 2023, 15:09

    Doesn’t matter to me if they make 100 changes to the Sprint thing, I’ve only ever seen one sprint race and haven’t tuned into anymore since. Sunday is all I’m interested in.

  11. petebaldwin (@)
    8th April 2023, 16:05

    I’m pretty happy with this change overall as I can now happily ignore sprint races completely without that feeling that I’m missing something that matters.

    Maybe that’s the way forward – they can have DRS, SRFs (showbiz red flags), silly tyre rules, sprinklers and whatever other nonsense they can think of in the sprint race and then on Sunday, it’s time for the grown-ups to watch a proper race without gimmicks?

  12. How will this affect Parc Fermé? Will Parc Fermé be in effect from Friday qualifying until Sunday? @keithcollantine @clairecottingham

    This is also not too logical. They would be stuck with the same setup for 4 competitive sessions.

  13. Given how messy practice in Baku tends to be with mistakes and red flags I don’t even think there even going to end up getting the full 60 minutes (Or maybe it will be longer) of practice in. And since practice/Qualifying at Baku tends to be a bit chaotic with the usual 3 hours of practice before qualifying i am not sure giving them so little track time at this track is a sensible idea.

    And if they do single lap qualifying for the sprint qualifying session….. We tried that in 2003-2005 and it was quite boring to watch so not sure why they want to try that again.

    Single car/lap qualifying is something that always sounds great on paper but in practice I just don’t think it ever really works as you never get the same level of excitement at multiple parts of the session as you do with the other formats, You don’t get the same build on tension & there is the inherent problem with track evolution & changing weather giving advantages/disadvantages depending on when you do your run. And I recall at the time fans at the circuits always complained about how dull it was seeing so little action over the hour.

    I also recall a few years ago when changing qualifying was been discussed I think it was Ted Kravitz, Martin Brundle or James Allen who spoke about how broadcasters couldn’t stand the format partly because it was difficult to find something interesting to talk about, Partly as they found it just as boring as many fans seemed to & also because ratings plummeted with some other data showing most who tuned in tended to only tune in for the last 15 minutes or so to see the top drivers.

    IF they do use that format i’ll watch Baku too see if anything’s changed but if it’s the same as it was last time i’ll be skipping those sessions going forward as I just tend to find that format dull to watch regardless of if it’s the entire grid or just the top 10 or something.

  14. petebaldwin (@)
    8th April 2023, 18:02

    The trick with single lap quali is doing what Indycar have done previously – move the start/finish line to before the pits (you can move it back for the race). One out lap and then straight in to the pits after your quick lap. Once the first driver passes the pits at the start of his quick lap, the 2nd driver goes straight out to start his warm-up lap and so on meaning there are normally 2 cars on track at a time but only 1 doing a timed lap.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      8th April 2023, 18:03

      Was meant to be a response to @stefmeister

    2. @petebaldwin If i remember rightly when F1 did it last time once a car started a timed lap the next car would leave the pits i think 15 seconds later so like with Indycar there was 2 cars on track with one on a hot lap and the other on a slow in or out lap.

      I remember back to 2003 been really excited for the format as the obvious plus point was been able to see every lap. However once i saw it for a few races i just found the format really boring to watch compared to what we had before and what we ended up with after.

      With the old 1 hour format or current knock-out format you have multiple points of excitement and the end of the segment/session sort of builds the tension and excitement and once the flag drops the times can still change multiple times so again you have that period of excitement.

      With the single car/lap formats you just never really get that and more often than not the end tended to fall a bit flat. It just always felt less exciting and i felt always tended to produce a lesser spectacle. And it’s not just when F1 did it, I feel the same about when I’ve seen similar formats used elsewhere including Indycar.

  15. I think the format for the weekend described needs two more changes:
    1. Put rookies in all the cars
    2. Use last years car to save expense of the rookie breaking this years car.

    1. Formula 2 will be racing in Baku so your wishes are about granted.

  16. In short, they are trying to fix problems caused by the introduction of the sprint qualifying/race that nobody really wanted in the first place.

  17. Can someone break this down, it’s worded so poorly in this article.

    So we get quali on Friday. This sets the sprint race grid and the race grid?? So all that happens on a Friday is the sprint race and nothing else? That doesn’t sound right and is pretty crap.

    1. I meant all that happens on the Saturday is the one sprint race and nothing else..??

      1. I had to look elsewhere to figure this out, I believe it is:

        Friday, Practice + GP Qualify
        Saturday, Sprint Qualfy, Sprint
        Sunday, GP

        So the sprint is entirely self contained on the Saturday. It’s a bit weird to me, to have the GP Qualy on a different day.

        Interested to see how it plays out, I never watch any FP. I tend to watch the YT highlights just to get a flavour and continue the build up over the weekend.

        1. I think is correct and it’s what picked up from the article!

    2. It looks like
      Friday Practice One
      Friday Qualifying – sets Sunday’s grid
      Saturday – Practice Two (why?)
      Saturday Sprint – which just gives points but doesn’t affect Sunday
      Sunday Race, using Friday’s Qually

      Sooooooo where does the Sprint Grid get set?

      1. 2nd practice becomes sprint qualifying. So I guess Saturday becomes ‘Super Sprint Saturday!’

        1. I guess? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          I’m not convinced, but then again my voice counts for nothing I guess. We’ll see

  18. It seems that these days all teams are reluctant to disagree with any proposals that come from the owners of F1.

    It’ll be interesting to see if they still agree after they end up paying out a heap for damage on their cars if there’s the sort of carnage a lot are expecting to see.

  19. It seems a step in the right direction. What I would do though is swap Friday and Saturday proceedings so all the sprint fluff is out of the way and the weekend can continue as normal for Saturday and Sunday. Also, just make the Friday sessions an independent championship. Perhaps even use it to give rookies and reserve drivers some experience.

  20. Wait. Hang on– I thought one of the reasons for the sprint was to shake up the qualifying order for the main race?

  21. Qualifying on Friday for Sunday is dumb…

    Why not do qualifying for Saturday on Friday, then do the qualifying for the main race after the sprint.

    Makes too much sense I guess.

    1. This would make more sense. I still think the plan is an improvement though.

    2. Because they want more people to watch on Friday.
      Saturday and Sunday audiences are a given.

  22. I always like the format they hade in Superleague Formula (great series by the way).
    The overall weekend format was pretty interesting, but as we are talking qualy-formats here that especially was very exciting in SF.

    Don’t wanna spam the long description here, so do check the Superleague Formula qualy format on wikipedia.

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