Logan Sargeant, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

FIA prepared to cancel sprint sessions to ensure grand prix qualifying happens

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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The FIA is prepared to cancel tomorrow’s sprint race sessions at Spa-Francorchamps in order to ensure it can hold a qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Heavy rain has been forecast on Friday and Saturday at Spa. The sole practice session of the weekend began in wet conditions and further rain is expected when qualifying for the grand prix takes place at 4pm local time today.

Saturday’s action at Spa is supposed to be exclusively focused on the sprint race. Its qualifying session is scheduled for 11am and the sprint race at 3:30pm.

F1’s rules allow for practice sessions to be used to set the starting grid for a grand prix in the event qualifying cannot take place. However the FIA advised teams before running began today that would not happen at Spa, in order to ensure they did not treat the sole hour of practice as a competitive session.

Instead the FIA is prepared to cancel either or both of tomorrow’s sprint race sessions in order to maximise the chance of qualifying for the grand prix to go ahead. As a last resort, the championship standings could be used to set a grid if no further running is possible between first practice and Sunday’s race.

“Teams have been informed that free practice will not be used to set the grid for either the sprint [race] or the grand prix this weekend,” an FIA spokesperson told RaceFans. “This has been done to ensure that teams do not treat the first session of the weekend as a competitive session.

“While the situation regarding the weather is constantly evolving, the priority will be to run a qualifying session for the grand prix. Other sessions may be cancelled or rescheduled to facilitate this, and if it is impossible to run a qualifying then the grid will be set by championship order.”

The official FIA weather forecast currently indicates an 80% chance of rain during grand prix qualifying today. For tomorrow’s track action the risk of rain during the sprint race qualifying session is 40%, which rises to 60% for the sprint race.

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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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18 comments on “FIA prepared to cancel sprint sessions to ensure grand prix qualifying happens”

  1. If tomorrow’s wet weather conditions are extreme, standard qualifying would be equally undoable.

    1. Constantijn Blondel
      28th July 2023, 13:29

      Don’t lose hope, they can always qualify behind the safety car ;)

    2. No… really?

  2. Assuming tomorrow is doable, why can’t they run “Sprint” Qualifying and the Sprint Race, and either the Sprint Qualy/Race set the grid for Sunday?

    1. It seems that qualifying is considered to be more important that the sprint race.
      I hope that it is a sign that sprint races will eventually be dropped.

      1. @exeviolthor

        But looking at things from a purely logical point of view (ignoring people’s dislike for Sprint), if the options were to either:
        – base race qualifying off of championship points and keep the sprint
        – Drop sprint qualifying to do… normal qualifying
        – Keep sprint qualifying and sprint race, and use the qualifying for both race

        Surely the third option makes most sense as:
        1) You keep the sprints
        2) You have “a qualifying” dictate starting positions for the main race

  3. The BBC has just reported that if there is no qualifying session today, Sunday’s grid will be set in Championship position order! Seems to be in contradiction of this story.

    1. Second to last paragraph in this article – a direct quote from the FIA spokesperson – seems to support the headline. Championship order will only be used to set a grid if it isn’t possible to run a qualifying session at all, but other sessions may be rescheduled or cancelled in order to prioritise qualifying.

      Personally I hope the sprint sessions are cancelled. Not because of the weather, but just generally.

      1. @red-andy

        I too would rather they have a proper qualifying session than a sprint qualifying or race. I am not sure the sponsors/organisers will be so keen though.

  4. Conditions are fine. We have wet tyres for a reason. Use them. It wasn’t a problem for the legends of the past either to drive under these conditions.

    1. @spafrancorchamps you seem to underestimate what downforce and specially ground effect does to spray.

    2. I was in Adelaide back in 1991 and the “legends” could not drive in the wet conditions.


      1. Senna was driving just fine, it looks to me, and I’m not a senna fan.

    3. 1 problem we have atm though: these wet tyres are terrible speed wise: even in the practice, which had far worse conditions than quali, and it was raining quite heavily, intermediates were 4 sec faster than full wets: 2.03 vs 2.07, so if you give drivers a choice on taking the safer but slower tyres or the faster tyres with more risk to go off the track, they will take the latter.

      Spray problems aside, they need better wet weather tyres, intermediates are better in all conditions where the fia would let them race: any more rain than that and they would stop the session anyway.

  5. I used to love the Belgian Grand Prix because it was synonimous with rain and good races.

    But now if it rains there they won’t even race anymore, 2021 is still one of the lowest moments ever on F1 history.
    They should look for a date change for this race then, if there is one, in a time with less chances of rain disturbing the proceedings.

    1. ICYF, date change already happened for this season, but late-July versus late-August, zero difference in rain likelihood & the same throughout the summer, so nothing to do on this front.

    2. I’d rather have spa off the calendar if it becomes another bahrain\abu dhabi, where it will never ever rain.

      Rain is part of spa legends and 2021 is a low moment to me not because we didn’t have a race, but because we could’ve had a full wet spa race from start to end after 23 years and they gave up on that.

  6. someone or something
    28th July 2023, 14:05

    Interesting choice of priorities, and don’t take this as veiled criticism. I simply find it interesting.
    On the one hand, there’s Stefano Domenicali saying things to the effect of there being too many sessions that “don’t count”, and that they’re looking for ways to make every single session count in some way.
    On the other hand, they’ve decided against the opportunity to turn one of only two non-competitive sessions of this weekend into a competitive one, and now they want to prioritise regular qualifying over the sprint race, whose whole raison d’être was adding more competitive sessions to the race weekend?
    Yeah, I’m surprised by these decisions, as they seem to go against all current trends.

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