F1’s new Sprint Qualifying format explained

F1’s new Sprint Qualifying format explained

Experimental system designed to increase entertainment for fans — but the teams and supporters will decide if it stays for good

THIS WEEKEND’S Italian Grand Prix at Monza will see Sprint Qualifying return following its debut at Silverstone’s British GP. The experimental format involves a short race taking place on Saturday to determine the grid of the grand prix on Sunday.

The test format from Liberty Media, Formula One’s commercial rights holder, is designed to add another layer of excitement for fans and increase F1 track action over the race weekend.

Lewis Hamilton was skeptical ahead of the first Sprint Qualifying at Silverstone, saying: “It’s going to be a train, probably. Hopefully, there will be some overtaking but it most likely won’t be too exciting. We’ll wait and see, there’s no point judging it before we even get into it.”

However, after the inaugural Sprint Qualifying took place the British ace seemed more positive about the new structure: “I don’t know whether that was the most exciting race or not but we should do more like that,” he said. “Maybe a different version of it in future because this makes the weekend more enjoyable, I think.”

What is Sprint Qualifying?

Sprint Qualifying is actually a race that determines the starting grid for Sunday’s grand prix, lasting 60 miles instead of the usual 190 miles. That equates to 18 laps at Monza, lasting around 25-30 minutes. It follows the same rules and regulations as the longer race on a Sunday.

How will F1’s Sprint Qualifying race work, exactly?

The starting grid for Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying is determined on Friday afternoon, after Practice 1, by the usual three-session knockout Qualifying, whereby the slowest five drivers are eliminated in Q3, followed by five more drivers in Q2, leaving the final ten to battle for pole position in Q3. This all takes place over a one hour period.

Once the fastest times have all been set, the starting grid for the Sprint Race is determined. Teams will then get one further practice session ahead of the Sprint Qualifying race on Saturday.

Grid formation and start procedures are identical to the full-length grand prix, though drivers do not have to pit for tyres during the Qualifying Sprint race.

The final result of the Sprint Qualifying race then determines the starting grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

There is no podium ceremony for the Sprint Qualifying race, and only the top three finishing drivers score points: three points for a win, two points for second place and one point for third. In a tight drivers’ championship battle, such as we’re seeing in 2021, these could become invaluable.

When will the F1 Sprint race happen?

The Sprint Qualifying race will take place on Saturday afternoon, after Practice 2.

What happens if it rains?

If first practice or Qualifying on Friday is wet, the teams will receive an additional set of intermediate tyres. However, they must return a set of used intermediates ahead of Sprint Qualifying on Saturday.

If Sprint Qualifying takes place in wet conditions then the F1 teams will be able to return a set of used intermediate tyres to be replaced with a new set ahead of Sunday’s grand prix.

Will there be Sprint Qualifying races in 2022?

No decision has been made yet as to whether Sprint Qualifying races will take place during the 2022 season, either as a permanent fixture or at certain tracks.

They are being tried out at three races this season, after which Formula 1’s management and the teams will examine how the format works and gauge fans’ feedback.

It is thought that if Sprint Qualifying races do get the green light for the 2022 season, they will only appear at selected races. Ross Brawn, F1 managing director, said: “I’m not sure this format would be as successful at Monaco. We’re considering these weekends being Grand Slam events, spread through the season, so it is something different. I don’t think it’ll go to the whole season, I think it’ll be a limited number of races, but that is to be decided.”

Will there be any more F1 Sprint Qualifying races this season?

A total of three Sprint Qualifying races are taking place this season. The first was at the British Grand Prix, the second this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix and the final Sprint Qualifying race is scheduled for the Brazilian Grand Prix in November.