September 16, 2021

F1 considering standalone sprint race plan for 2022

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Ahead of the second sprint qualifying experiment at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, F1’s chiefs have been hugely encouraged by how the first trial went at Silverstone in July.

While minor complaints have been aired by fans, drivers and teams – including the designation of pole position – one proposal now being looked at if they continue next year is to move the events away from being an element of qualifying.

At the moment, a normal qualifying session on Friday decides the grid for the 100km sprint qualifying event on Saturday. The result of that event then decides the grid for the grand prix on Sunday.

However, amid concerns about the way that a poor result on Saturday can wreck hopes for Sunday and ruin chances in the main event, F1 has taken on board suggestions of overhauling the format.

A tweak could involve Friday qualifying deciding the grid for both a Saturday sprint race and then the grand prix itself on Sunday.

The Saturday sprint race could then offer drivers the chance to chase for potentially more championship points rather than the current 3-2-1 available.

It would also open the door for sprint races to be held at venues that would be unsuitable for the current qualifying concept, like Monaco. 

F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn has said that beyond some minor tweaks for 2022, the main decision that needed to be made over the winter was whether sprint races become standalone.

“I think that will be probably the key issue, whether we make another step and make it standalone,” Brawn told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview.

“I think that we’ll have to look at the number of points awarded, and how do we determine the starting grid. So should it just be what was done on Friday?

“As you know, [Sergio] Perez dropped out at Silverstone [in the sprint] and then obviously his Sunday race was heavily compromised. So should we determine the starting order on Friday for both Saturday and Sunday?

“There’s a number of things we can do, and number of ways we could do it. So I think that’s being studied at the moment. There are some ideas, and we’ll present them to the FIA and the teams and go from there.”

Brawn said that feedback from drivers after the British GP was encouraging, and that a number of them had mentioned the standalone idea.

“We had a chat with the drivers after Silverstone, and they were broadly positive with lots of constructive comments,” said Brawn.

“I think, as a number of people have raised, they raised the issue of pole position. They raised the issue of perhaps the event being more standalone, rather than being a sequential event with qualifying and then the race.”

F1 wants to wait until after the next two sprint trials in Monza and Brazil before deciding if the idea will definitely go ahead in 2022.

Brawn is clear, however, that if F1 pushes on, it will stick to just one format – and there would not be some events running as qualifying and some as standalone races.

“I don’t think it will be a mixture,” he said. “I think if we start varying things too much it can be a little bit confusing for our fans. So I imagine it’s going to be one format.”

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Celebration tweak

In a bid to properly understand the pros and the cons of the current sprint qualifying concept, F1 has elected against making any changes to the rules for this weekend’s Italian GP.

However, it is understood that some tweaks will be made to the post sprint celebrations.

This is as a result of the combination of the mixed reviews over how they were handled at Silverstone, plus the layout of Monza which means fans are concentrated in a much smaller area.

Instead of a victory lap on the back of a truck as happened at the British GP, it is likely that the revised celebrations will be focused around the grid.

Brawn said: ”We’re trying to strike a balance between not cannibalising the main event, the race.

“The race is the big event, but we want to have something which is a bit of fun, and relevant and respectful. So we will modify it, and there will be a trimmed down version.

“I think also one thing that caught the teams slightly on the hop, and it’s difficult in these COVID times, but I don’t think most was made of the grid opportunity.

“The grid was a bit quiet. We do have our COVID protocols to follow so it’s not easy, but there’s things there that can be done.

“Then behind the scenes, obviously having parc ferme on a Friday evening took a bit of time. So there’s some operational things that we would like to improve upon.”

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