Is F1’s latest sprint race format a change worth making?

Debates and Polls

Posted on

| Written by

Formula 1 plans to introduce a new version of its sprint race format for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this weekend.

It follows F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali’s comments earlier this year about his desire to cut the amount of practice sessions to one per weekend, and ensure every other time the cars appear on track they have something to compete for. The revised sprint format moves closer towards that idea.

Instead of using a Friday qualifying session to set the grid for Saturday’s sprint race, Friday would decide the grand prix grid. A second round of qualifying on Saturday, replacing the second practice session, would set the sprint race grid.

Does the latest revision to the format look like an improvement to you? Would you rather stick with the original sprint schedule – or a return to the regular race weekend?

Join in this weekend’s debate below.

New sprint format

First practice, grand prix qualifying, sprint race qualifying, sprint race, grand prix

The current sprint format has been criticised for a number of reasons, two of which these changes would address.

The contradiction of using the Saturday sprint race to decide the grand prix grid, yet referring to the quickest driver in Friday qualifying as the pole-winner, would be resolved. The second practice session, which has always seemed a pointless affair under the original sprint format, would be replaced by a more competitive qualifying format giving drivers more to fight for.

Original sprint format

First practice, grand prix qualifying, second practice, sprint race, grand prix

This is the format which was planned before the season began. Changing it after the teams have already designed their cars and made their preparations may advantage some competitors over others.

As they have had so little pre-season testing, the extra practice time offered by the normal sprint weekend will be valuable.

Regular grand prix format

First practice, second practice, third practice, grand prix qualifying, grand prix

The sprint race format is an experiment F1 should drop instead of persisting with. It creates inconsistency by varying the format from weekend to weekend. It devalues the importance of the grand prix and will make it possible later in the year for the world championship to be decided outside of the main event. And the races tend to be processional as drivers know they have a longer race with far more points available still to come.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

I say

My greatest objection to the sprint race format has always been the inconsistency of having a different format from one weekend to the next. It reflects poorly on the sport that those covering it constantly have to explain arbitrary rules changes.

The new proposal does look like an improvement over the current one, but as far as I’m concerned that’s the definition of damning with faint praise. Having an extra race on a Saturday diminishes what makes a grand prix special. Sprint races are little more than filler content.

Moreover, it looks unprofessional for F1 to start messing around with its sporting regulations for no good reasons only a month after the season has begun. Could it not have sorted this during its long winter break?

Still, if change there must be, I’d leap at the chance to chuck the sprint races for good. Then, perhaps once those running the show have given up on fiddling with the format they can get around to producing the closer competition and better racing which were promised for so long, and about which they have been curiously quiet of late.

You say

Would you introduce the new sprint format, stick with the current one or drop sprint races entirely? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Which race format would you most like to see at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix?

  • No opinion (2%)
  • Another format (8%)
  • Standard grand prix format (68%)
  • Original sprint race format (0%)
  • New sprint race format (22%)

Total Voters: 171

Loading ... Loading ...

A RaceFans account is required in order to vote. If you do not have one, register an account here or read more about registering here. When this poll is closed the result will be displayed instead of the voting form.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Debates and polls

Browse all debates and polls

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

Posted on Categories 2023 F1 season articles, Debates and Polls, F1 news, Formula 1Tags

Promoted content from around the web | Become a RaceFans Supporter to hide this ad and others

  • 63 comments on “Is F1’s latest sprint race format a change worth making?”

    1. So as of typing this I am the only person that has voted for the new Sprint race format. My reasoning is simple really – there is something on the line each day for the fans in attendance. We will have a competitive Qualy session on the Friday and another with a race on the Saturday building to the race on Sunday.

      I realise that this is the unpopular view, but we are pretty much stuck with sprints – no going back – so we may as well at least give people something worthwhile to watch.

      I’ll get my coat.

      1. You’re not wrong at all. Having competitive sessions is more fun for fans at the track.

        Two challenges with that: getting a TV audience on three consecutive days is hard. Very hard if those require upwards of two full hours of watching. And while the trackside spectators are good for the, well, tracks – the TV audience is what makes the money go round. The second problem i that having ‘competitive’ sessions is largely moot if those sessions don’t actually end up being competitive.

        Sprint Qualifying was supposed to engineer a more chaotic race by shaking up the grid order. That failed. But even if it had worked, we’ve seen that qualifying doesn’t really matter when one (or two) teams are far superior to all others. Right after Verstappen’s Red Bull failed in Saudi Arabian qualifying people were already discussing if he could beat Pérez for the win. That he would be 2nd sooner rather than later was already a given.

        1. The experience watching on screen is my issue. I don’t mind watching 3 hours a weekend but that’s plenty. If there’s too much to keep up with I simply won’t tune in at all. Maybe the next gen of F1 fans doesn’t do anything else with their weekends other than watch sport but that’s not me. Imo the new sprint format simply makes F1 harder to follow.

          There’s plenty of action for people at the venues with entertainment and support races. I’ve never been bored at a circuit running the traditional format.

          I’m not against format changes. The new sprint format just doesn’t add to the championship for me.

          1. @antznz I feel exactly the same, given the volume of races this year there will be several weekends where we don’t organise Sundays around watching the race. Add in a revised Sprint weekend format and I will end up watching Qualifying over brekky on Saturday morning (after following live timing on Friday) skip TV coverage of the ‘Sprint Day’ completely and just follow live timing / commentary as I the day allows.

            Having attended well over 20 live GPs at many different circuits I have never felt deprived of action (apart from when a session is rained off!) during a weekend. Instead the Friday and the. Saturday morning provide an opportunity to get around and explore the circuit, we always aim to fully walk around each track we visit where possible to enjoy the experience and viewing perspective.

            The flow of a weekend is spoilt by the sprint format too the detriment of the crescendo of the Sunday Grand Prix.

      2. I’m an old school fan and I like it too, but couldn’t vote cause my login never works. It also leads to a lot less noah’s ark and predictability because even mediocre drivers can extract most of a car’s performance with that absurd amount of practice time.

      3. Agreed. Ivlike this sprint weekend format. And the important thing is that it’s just for sprint weekends not for all weekends.

    2. I think you kind of “poisoned” the poll by making it about “do you want a sprint race?” Yes/No. Rather than just focusing on the format of the sprint race.

      Eliminating that answer, I see no real issue with changing the format to be more interesting. Right now it’s just extra race time with no strategy other than maybe starting tire choice, adding in a separate qualifying at least makes the time wasted on a useless FP2 worth watching. The one thing that does really make sprint weekends somewhat worthwhile is the lack of practice sessions.

    3. Still, if change there must be, I’d leap at the chance to chuck the sprint races for good.

      My take on the whole thing is that if they want “filler content” then they can give the opportunity for upcoming drivers to practice their craft.
      A sprint race, featuring said upcoming drivers in last years car.

      From my view that solves many problems in one.
      Potential F1 drivers get to practice their craft in a race
      Teams get to assess their potential F1 driver in race conditions with (slightly out of date) F1 machinery.
      Domenicali gets his short race
      The Netflix-DTS soshul-meja generation get the race that fits their attention span better
      We grumble less.

      1. Totally 👍, I voted ‘another’ format without being able to find the words and you have totally nailed it, cheers!

      2. SteveP I absolutely agree with this. It really does seem to answer ALL of the problems in one go.

        Only issue with it being that you’d need to schedule it around the GP2 GP3 races on the same weekends (when applicable). And even then it would mean a fair bit more work for those young drivers that were contesting those series AND having a punt at an F1 sprint race.

        Ideal situation for that, would be only to run them at events that don’t have feeder series on the same weekends. But again, it brings up the inconsistency I supppose.

    4. It looks to me like trying to “fix” a problem that shouldn’t have existed in the first place and ultimately never can be “fixed”.

    5. We can assume that we’re not getting rid of the sprint format, so can definitely get off that high horse.

      While I respect that there’s a need to separate the sprint result from the race grid, another knockout qualifying session leaves me a bit cold. It doesn’t really give us anything new for a sprint weekend, retains the issues with the format (lots of filler, doesn’t punish mistakes) and is another session I’ll feel obligated to watch.

      My preference for the sprint is a reverse championship grid order. Before you say that it’s not sporting, etc, consider how easy it is for a driver with a car advantage to go through a season without racing wheel to wheel with another driver. I thought we wanted the drivers to be the stars. Reverse championship sprints would showcase these skills. In a close championship I’d much rather it be decided on who is the best all round racer, not just who can qualify on pole and check out. Remember that the W Series reverse championship race did separate the wheat from the chaff.

      If a reverse championship race is a no-go, I don’t get why the sprint couldn’t just use the Q1 results? Or even better, make all the drivers set a flying lap in the first half of Q1 and that’s the sprint grid. Everyone has one shot with enough time to set their laps. If you make a mistake, tough. We hear of drivers that build themselves up during the session and others that are on it straight away. Shouldn’t the most adaptable be rewarded?

      Bottom line, having the same procedure to set the grid for the sprint as the race won’t give us anything new. And we want to see the drivers tested and showcasing the range of their skills

      1. Before you say that it’s not sporting, etc, consider how easy it is for a driver with a car advantage to go through a season without racing wheel to wheel with another driver.

        Fairly sure most drivers even with big car advantages go wheel to wheel fairly often (don’t forget teammates a thing). Max just did it last weekend with Hamiton despite having a far superior car.

        And even if they don’t, the reason why it is not sporting is because performance is more than just by by driver, it’s the work and creativity the team puts in a car (obvious example would be RB nailing the 2022 rules shakeup whereas most didn’t) and money division is mostly solved by the cost cap, even if imperfect. Don’t forget F1 is a team sport where the work/performance you put into the team on non race days matter and it is represented by performance on track.

        Admitedly, F1 has become “less” sporting with things that claw back performance like reduced aero time based on reverse championahip order but a reverse spring race would be a bridge too far IMO.

        Besides, reverse sprint format was the initial suggestion given to the teams fee years back and most of them hated that idea. Liberty had to change it to a normal sprint race to get enough teams to even vote for the sprint race measure to pass ij the first place.

      2. I strongly agree that reverse championship order would be better. Not only for the reasons you say, but also because it would likely get the big teams’ engineers working on ways to make overtaking easier. I can’t see any particular down sides.

    6. Sprint races are just investors trying to make more money. If they could fill our entire 7 day week with payment opportunities, they would. And for some fans, 7 days of F1 would be great! But for me, a big event on the Sunday, with some casual viewing on Friday and a tense qualy on Saturday is perfect. I have other stuff to do as well as F1, and a short extra race is just a dilution, with hardly any strategy so it’s mostly a procession.

      But now making it two entirely separate races is better than one depending on the other, at least.

      1. Investors yes, but also the teams. They voted for it precisely cos they get more money.

    7. I’ve always detested the sprint race idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, it dilutes the point of getting pole which means drivers are less likely to go all out – which is a shame for the spectacle. Secondly, another race in the weekend diminishes the excitement for Grand Prix for me.

      But lastly, it’s because I’m an F1 Fanatic – I’ve watched every race live for the last 30 years and I’ve watched every season review and read most of the available books. But I also have a life; and I’m not delighted by having Friday night, Saturday and Sunday totally full of F1 action so I can’t do other things around it for 23/4/5/6 weeks of the year.

      Having 20 races I could occasionally miss the odd quali session live but it feels the sport want 6 or 7 hours of my time every other weekend. And that’s before I watch the F2 and F3 races. I like to dabble into MotoGP from time to time too. F1 should respect it’s diehard fanbase more in my opinion.

      1. Neil (@neilosjames)
        9th April 2023, 12:12

        But lastly, it’s because I’m an F1 Fanatic – I’ve watched every race live for the last 30 years and I’ve watched every season review and read most of the available books. But I also have a life; and I’m not delighted by having Friday night, Saturday and Sunday totally full of F1 action so I can’t do other things around it for 23/4/5/6 weeks of the year.

        Having 20 races I could occasionally miss the odd quali session live but it feels the sport want 6 or 7 hours of my time every other weekend.

        Agreed on this, @rbalonso

        I’m in the same position and part of my dislike for sprints and extra competitive sessions is for the same reason. I just don’t have the available free time to commit so much of it F1, but for me part of my ‘addiction’ is not missing anything at all. I feel that once I do start missing competitive sessions, I might decide to just stop caring so much and transition to being a casual fan.

        But maybe that’s what Liberty wants. A billion casual fans and no diehards…

        1. I don’t think not watching every session and reading every book makes you a casual fan. Certainly there is a line somewhere but it sure ain’t that.

        2. This theory is ridiculous.

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            10th April 2023, 13:39

            It’s not ridiculous at all – it’s completely accurate. Adding too many races (often at rubbish tracks) has already done it for me. I stopped watching every race because I couldn’t commit to the amount of weekends it required and once I started missing some of them, I didn’t feel as involved as a fan and quickly started missing more.

            I’d say I’m a “casual+“ fan in that I have a pretty good understanding of the sport and will spent hours talking about it on here and other forums but I often only watch highlights after I already know the result.

            I didn’t watch any of the Australian weekend and having heard how it went, I’m happy I didn’t waste my time!

    8. It’s funny how everyone calls them sprint races when the initial conceit was that this was the real qualifying; thus Sprint Qualifying. Sprint “Qualifying” was to more unpredictable than simple time trial, and thus a more varied grid would set things up for a more exciting Sunday Grand Prix, i.e. the race.

      In reality the opposite happened. Obviously. Every little variety introduced by qualifying was ironed out in the Sprint Qualifying. When guys like Sainz or Pérez messed up their qualifying, or Hamilton had an engine penalty… they were sure to start the actual Grand Prix right up there from the second or third row of the grid.

      If F1 wants to do two races, just do two races. Indycar does it all the time, it’s really not that special.

      1. IndyCar does it about twice per season.

    9. Having less practice sessions is the way to go. We know that from experience, when practice has been cancelled due to rain. Even as a fan, who has watched every minute of F1 for decades, I mostly just listen to practice sessions, while doing some work.

      For me, qualifying is more interesting than practice. A race is more interesting than qualifying. I prefer sprint race weekends, because they deliver just that.

    10. Voted new sprint race format for this one race. There’s only one way to find out.
      However, in the long run, I agree with Keith that Sprint Races are an unnecessary gimmick.

    11. It was close but I voted for another format. Only because I don’t really think F1 needs sprints at all, but I think the current standard weekend format is a bit drawn out.

      I really don’t see the need for three practice sessions. This could be cut to two. This would have implications for the length of a standard F1 weekend though and there is no easy answer to this. Unless there was more opportunities for ticket holders to get closer to the pits/teams on the Friday. Maybe make FP1 longer and FP2 shorter? I don’t know.

      Overall I think the proposed new sprint race weekend format is better than the old one though.

      1. I was thinking similar. There is no need for 3 hours of practice for a 90-minute race. In times when they prepare for the whole season in 3*8 (ish) hours of pre-season.

        Friday could be shortened. FP1 could be scrapped. Friday morning could be about press conferences, they could start the whole weekend half a day later. With the ever growing number of races it would help the teams.

        They manage Sprint (I am constantly typoing it to Spring) weekend with a single FP session already.

    12. The sprint in whatever form is simply another way for Liberty to monetise its franchise further. Greed. And nothing to do with F1 or the fan ‘experience’ as such.

      If the target was to improve the commitment of fans then achieving the vaunted equalisation of cars by not changing the rules every couple of years would be most helpful. The field was closing up towards the end of 2020/21. Now with these radical new regulations it is spread out again with one team miles ahead. What in competitive terms has changed from the pattern of 2014/15? The names are different the pattern is the same.

      1. The field was closing up towards the end of 2020/21.

        But not because of regulatory stability – it was entirely because teams were putting less development into their current cars.
        That development time/effort was going into the 2022 cars.

        So by your logic, the rules should drastically change every year. The year before a major rule change is usually the most competitive, after all….

      2. What do you mean by the field closing up in 2020/2021? Mercedes scored almost twice as many points in 2021 as the third placed team. They scored almost three times as many points in 2020 as the third placed team.

        Red Bull closed up on Mercedes from 2020 to 2021 due to a regulation change.

        1. The regulation change did have a big effect but tbf the Honda engine also improved tremendously in 2021.

    13. Sameer Cader (@)
      9th April 2023, 13:22

      It’s high time F1 moved to two day weekends. It’s come to the point where they are simply trying to justify the reason for having 3 days because nobody likes free practice. It’s a waste of time and makes the racing more boring. 1 free practice session on Saturday morning followed by Qualifying and the GP on Sunday. There is no need for these gimmicks like Sprints and whatever. Also it reduces the no of days and will allow F1 to expand the calendar without over straining the teams

      1. Sprints are here to stay, and they are people who love them. I’m not one of them but it makes more money for F1 and the teams do get that extra money (which is why the teams voted for them in the first place).

    14. Another format:
      Friday: first – normal qualifying; second – qualifying for sprint races.
      Saturday: first – normal sprint race; second – reverse grid sprint race. Results combined to decide winning team.
      Winning team: wins an extra 50,000 for their catering budget (to be verified by Red Bull’s accountancy team).
      Sunday: a GP race.

    15. I will never understand why there are weekends where more points are distributed than others. Or why a short race deserves fewer points than a long one. A race is a race. Or why there are weekends with two races and others with one.

      1. Shorter race having less points makes sense to me. Especially when it’s not the main race.

      2. Or why a short race deserves fewer points than a long one.

        Because Domenicali and co are confused and forgot to mention that it’s supposed to feature up and coming F1 drivers not the current one.
        They may recall what they really meant, eventually. We can but hope.

    16. The only change to the rules that my wife wants to see is a rule stating that the rules can’t be changed during the season. As for me, I just try to enjoy whatever crap-show is presented as racing.

      1. At least F1 doesn’t have ovals…….yet.

    17. This discussion is useless. Putting out polls asking fans what they think.. F1 doesn’t care. They will make you *feel* like the fans are engaged with decision-making, but in the end, it will go down the route that makes the most money.

      1. By that logic might as well not discuss F1 at all then. Hell why even read F1 news and post a comment cos it’s all meaningless anyways…..

    18. The ‘new’ proposed Sprint format or rather the same with only a single session being different, but eliminating a useless practice session under parc ferme restrictions is wise.

    19. I feel like there should be two polls. One that’s “No Sprint Race” / “Sprint Race” and the other saying ‘we are going to have sprint races, live with it’ and the choices are “New Format” / “Old Format” .

      Personally I’d vote “No” and “New”. I can happily live without sprint races, because I think there is enough going on in a weekend, but since we are going to be stuck with them the new format looks like an improvement.

      Also, Baku seems like a bad place for a sprint. I’d prefer to see the sprints on proper race tracks, not street circuits because I think drivers can take more risks.

    20. Typo in the first sentence 🙄

      F1 have already made their decision (with in their ears). No debates, polls etc will ever change that.

      This is the Budweiser “Soccertainment” ad campaign in F1 form. The Budweiser ad campaign was only that though, not reality…

      1. Popular opposition from fans and media to new formats/ideas have seen them scrapped or not implemented before. Personally, I support the new sprint format, but it’s just inaccurate to say that fan/media backlashes don’t have an influence.

        1. Personally, I support the new sprint format,

          Heresy. Burning or stoning? ;)

    21. It’s an improvement but I agree entirely with Keith. They can’t make it up as we go through the calendar. The championship result is probably going to be affected by this change and it’s not fair to change the format partway into the season. If they want to dump practice so bad make the races a two day event. It’s Grand Prix racing not Grand et Petit Prix.

      1. Yes but keep in mind the teams are voting for this change and the support is seemingly unanimous.

    22. It is hard to make a call without knowing the precise detail of the format. Will the qualifying session for the sprint race be the same Q1/Q2/Q3 format as the main event, or will another format be used?

      I have seen it suggested that the sprint grid might be set by a one-shot format, which would be a step back to the bad old days of 2003-5, except even worse since the proposed order (WDC leader goes first) would constitute an obvious success penalty.

      I agree with the principle of decoupling the sprint race from the main event, but in my view the sprint races should be extended to 300km or so and held at a different circuit on a different weekend.

      1. Standard beats New Sprint, but New Sprint beats current Sprint for me.

    23. Standard beats New Sprint, but New Sprint beats current Sprint for me.

    24. Has anybody announced (or thought about) what form qualifying for the sprint race will take?

      Friday feels wrong for deciding pole and the grid. So does a qualifying session that takes longer than the sprint race itself.

      Just get the gimmicks done first on Friday (or save them for the following year’s Drivel to Swivel) and let the competition get more serious with Saturday qualifying and the race on Sunday.

      1. Just feels wrong? What feels wrong is being able to predict exactly what will happen on Sunday based on the exhaust testing feels even more wrong. It also allows mediocre drivers or drivers who struggle on certain types of track so many laps and all their teammate’s data that most talent based gaps are wiped out.

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          10th April 2023, 13:51

          so what you’re saying is the new rules will guarantee the better drivers will qualify ahead of the weaker ones? Fair enough. I don’t entirely understand how that’s going to make things more unpredictable – surely it’ll do the opposite?

    25. I vote for new sprint race format, but only at boring tracks. Not in Baku or Jeddah or any tracks that already had bigger risk before new format. Having sprint races there is just insane. Horner was right. Some teams might create nonexistence troubles just to avoid Saturday event and saving cash.

    26. If we must have sprint races forced upon us, I prefer the new format since it now has no effect on the Sunday race (unless you destroy your car)

    27. Sprint racing will become the undoing of the sport. It’s already begun. It’s about making money. Money ruins everything

    28. How about running sprints only at tracks that can be reconfigured? Tracks like Bahrain, Silverstone, Abu Dhabi, Paul Ricard etc – these all can run sprints on shorter circuits.

    29. For me, having more than one race session on a Grand Prix weekend is like having multi-ball in the World Cup final. It’s a pointless effort to grab more attention, while diluting the appeal of the sporting event.

    30. BW (@deliberator)
      11th April 2023, 2:48

      My biggest objection is changing/redefining the rules once the season has begun. I am happy to see new ideas introduced for new seasons (and subsequently removed for later seasons if they are a failure), but once a set of rules has been defined, it should be left alone for the entire season.
      Short of something seriously dangerous which requires actual attention (no, not Merc’s bouncing), rules should be left untouched.
      At the moment, it seems like we have new set of regulations at every race, just about.

    31. Through fueling and reliability rules the main race has turned into an endurance race. Whereas actual endurance racing has turned into a long sprint race.

      You aren’t going to change this by adding sprint races. The only thing sprint racing gives is the excitement of a starting procedure and the first laps after that and then the race reverts to its F1 endurance format, probably even worse since the car needs to be saved for the actual race the day after.

      1. Max himself explained well. In sprints all he wants is to survive for the actual race. It’s not about racing.

        My biggest issue with F1, apart from the attempts to artificially spice up the sport, is that it has become a tyre science sport. Tyres should just work and allow drivers to push every lap. Nobody wants to watch a marathon where some runners do well because they got their shoes to work, while others couldn’t run to their capability because their shoes were not gripping properly.

    32. To FIA and FOM: leave the format alone! It has worked well for over a decade. This is motor racing, not a circus! We have now a crazy amount of races per year, so there’s even less need to artificially spicy up the weekends. The sport has done well enough since DtS started. Saturday is about qualifying, who’s the fastest over a single lap. Sunday is about who’s fastest over the race distance with all the strategic and unpredictable variables. Simple. Don’t water down the race weekends with pointless events.

    Comments are closed.