September 16, 2021

“Strong increase in fan engagement” behind F1’s desire to keep Saturday races | 2021 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 will persevere with its Saturday races despite yesterday’s poorly-received second sprint qualifying event.

The processional race prompted a dissatisfied reaction from fans and several drivers. Sergio Perez, one of few drivers who was able to overtake a rival in the 18-lap encounter, called it “boring”.

However F1 is keen to continue having some form of additional race on Saturdays as it has seen an increase in interest, on the two sprint qualifying weekends held so far. Replacing Friday afternoon practice with a qualifying session has increased the number of competitive sessions across an event.

“In a way we’ve given ourselves quite a big challenge because we can all see the potential of this event,” said Formula 1’s motorsport director Ross Brawn. “Now how do we marry that with a classic grand prix weekend and make sure that we don’t cannibalise the weekend?

“We’re getting much more engagement with fans on a Friday than we’ve had recently. The numbers I’ve seen that we were able to measure so far are stronger than they were at Silverstone. So everything’s positive, we don’t want to lose that, [but] we don’t want to go too far and turn people off.”

Brawn has proposed turning the sprint qualifying format in standalone races next year which award more points and start with drivers in the reverse of their championship order. He said F1 will also consider whether to increase the number of sprint events.

“I think that’s a big decision. Do we make this a ‘grand slam’ event over perhaps five or six races or do we do more of it?

“What we’re seeing is a strong increase in fan engagement. More people are watching a race weekend than we had before. Does that tail off if we do it all the time? Is it something we can maintain? So lots of decisions to balance, but it’s work to be done.”

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