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F1 SPRINT RACES: WHAT ARE THEY?

Posted by Matt Bell on 27th April 2021

F1 sprint races will be introduced at three different grands prix in 2021, including the Silverstone GP in July, and will determine grid positions for Sunday’s main race. 

The shorter sprint races will comprise of a total distance of 100km (62 miles), around one-third of the distance of a grand prix, which has a maximum distance of 305km (190 miles).

The sprint race will be completed on the Saturday and will not only determine grid positions for the GP but also offers championship points for first, second and third (three, two and one respectively). Grid positions for the shorter sprint on the Saturday will be determined by a regular qualifying session that takes place on the Friday after the first practice session. A second practice session will take place before the sprint race.

While the idea was approved back in February, there have been ongoing talks between F1 and the FIA to iron out details relating to financial arrangements. Initially, F1 proposed an extra payment of £54,000 for each qualifying race, however, teams highlighted that the potential for damage running into the hundreds of thousands would seriously impact each team’s budget caps. As a result, F1 agreed on a payment of $450,000 (£324k) to each team per qualifying race, with an insurance scheme for compensations should teams get accidental damage to expensive parts during that sprint race.

Why are F1 introducing sprint races?

The idea is to increase Formula One’s appeal by making it more competitive. Original plans included a reverse order format during a qualifying sprint, which Mercedes blocked. This would have seen cars starting in the reverse championship standings.

According to F1, by moving regular qualifying to a day earlier adds a competitive edge to the Friday, with the hope that spectator interest will be higher across the whole weekend and not just the Saturday and Sunday.

F1 sprint races

What will a race weekend look like now?

Friday: Free practice one & qualifying – free practice runs as usual except teams will only be allowed to use two of the three different tyre compounds (hard, medium, soft). During Friday’s qualifying, teams will only be able to use the soft tyre compound.

Saturday: Free practice two & sprint race – teams have a choice which of which tyre they want to use, but can only use one type of compound. Two sets of tyres become available for the sprint race, and unlike in the GP, drivers will not have to make a pit stop during that qualifying sprint.

Sunday: GP – teams have the choice of two new sets of tyres and can choose which compound to start the race on.

What F1 rounds will include a qualifying sprint race?

The qualifying sprint race will be trialled at three grands prix across the year, with the first taking place at the Silverstone GP on 16-18 July. The second takes place at the Italian race on 10-12 September with the final one unconfirmed but expected to take place during the Brazilian GP in November should Covid cases decrease.