This is the revolutionary sprint qualifying, the latest experiment to attract young people to F1, which opens at the British GP

Fernando Alonso, at the Austrian GP

Fernando Alonso, at the Austrian GP
Fernando Alonso
XPB / James Moy Photography Ltd.

Silverstone hosts this weekend the Grand Prix of Great Britain, the immovable test in the cradle of the Formula 1 whose edition this year will be more special than ever: an unprecedented race format will be released.

The tenth appointment of the 2021 season will mean the entry of a new classification format, the baptized sprint classification, which basically consists of introducing a half hour race on Saturday to set up the Sunday grid. The intention of the organizers is to have at least a competitive and interesting session every Grand Prix day, as the grid for that sprint race (although the official name is ‘sprint qualifying’) is set up on Friday.

Formula 1 fans will see their habits totally modified this weekend, with at least unusual schedules already from Friday itself. In order to fit the whole new system and that, in addition, support races such as the F2, all the activity on the track will start after noon.

Friday will begin with a session of free practice, the usual one that from this year is one hour. It will be the only preparation before the session qualifying, which will be played well into the afternoon (7:00 p.m.) and that maintains the format of Q1, Q2, Q3. This will not be the one that decides the order of Sunday’s race, but will serve to configure the grid of the sprint race Saturday, which is the big news.

Sprint qualification or sprint race?

Fernando Alonso, during the Bahrain GP race

The revolution of the new sprint races in Formula 1, the new format that will be tested this season

The introduction of a qualifying race to set up the grid order for the main race has been a serious headache from a formal point of view. The very name of this session is a problem: structurally it’s going to be a short race, but to avoid dulling Sunday’s main date, its official name is “sprint classification”.

The nomenclature is not a minor matter. Formula 1 does not want there to be doubts about who is the man who achieves pole, for statistical purposes the winner of this classification (or race) to the sprint will be the poleman of the race.

Its format is totally new. They will be given 17 laps (about 100 kilometers) in a race lasting between 25 and 30 minutes, no mandatory pit stop, with free tire choice and a determined grid in Friday’s qualifying.

Although it is a classification, since it will decide the starting order of Sunday’s race, they will be given points to the first three: 3, 2 and 1. There will be no podium ceremony, but a Laurel wreath (as was done in the old days) and a trophy in the closed park.

British GP Schedules (Spanish Peninsular Time)

Friday July 16:

  • Free practice 1: 15: 30-16: 30
  • Classification 1: 19: 00-20: 00

Saturday July 17:

  • Free 2: 13: 00-14: 00
  • Sprint race: 17: 30-18: 00

Sunday July 18:

  • Race: 16: 00-18: 00 * (maximum: two hours)

The umpteenth attempt to make the classification more attractive

Formula 1 has had various qualifying formats throughout its history. From the early years, who dedicated an hour on Friday and one on Saturday to go around non-stop until they managed to square a good lap (a format that is maintained in other competitions such as MotoGP), passing by strange experiments like the one that lasted six races in which pilots were eliminated every 30 seconds.

Since 2006 it was established which, until now, has been the most accepted format by all, although with some evolutions along the way. The current Q1, Q2 and Q3 allow a combination of emotion to see the fastest in each batch, open the door to surprises and give television minutes to practically all cars, something essential for the sponsors who pay for the party.

The problem is that this format, although it seems well established, begins to be less attractive to the public. Formula 1 is losing followers among the youngest, a serious problem in a very complex audiovisual scenario, and it also understands that it is difficult to maintain the peaks of interest for three days, of which Friday is practically irrelevant and Saturday is reasonably foreseeable .

This classification system (or race) to the sprint will repeat in the Italian GP and in the Brazilian GP, with the firm intention of establishing it in more races next season.

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