The plan to trial three sprint races in 2021 has finally been confirmed following a meeting of the Formula 1 Commission on Monday.
F1 investigated the idea of reverse-grid sprint races but landed on the compromise of a shorter Saturday qualifying race, with the result determining the grid for the main grand prix on a Sunday. The sprint race – known as Sprint Qualifying – would not be reverse grid, but instead have its order set by a session on the Friday.
That idea has now been unanimously approved by the F1 Commission, with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and Italian Grand Prix at Monza confirmed as hosts, and Interlagos also likely to be used towards the end of the season.
The top three finishers in the sprint qualifying race will score points, with three points for the winner, two points for second place and one point for third.
In order to accommodate Sprint Qualifying, there have been changes to the race weekend schedule at those specific events. FP1 will be a 60-minute practice session on Friday morning, followed by a normal qualifying session where all drivers have five sets of soft tires to set the grid for Sprint Qualifying.
On Saturday morning, there will a one-hour FP2 session using just one set of tires before the 100km Sprint Qualifying on Saturday afternoon featuring two sets of tires. The result of Sprint Qualifying then sets the grid for the full grand prix on Sunday, using two remaining sets of tires.
F1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali said it is important the trial format – designed to provide more sporting action for fans during a race weekend – does not negatively impact the historical importance of the grand prix itself.
“We are excited by this new opportunity that will bring our fans an even more engaging race weekend in 2021,” Domenicali said. “Seeing the drivers battling it out over three days will be an amazing experience, and I am sure the drivers will relish the fight. I am delighted that all the teams supported this plan, and it is a testament to our united efforts to continue to engage our fans in new ways while ensuring we remain committed to the heritage and meritocracy of our sport.”
🚫 No compulsory pit stops
🚦 DRS in action
🏃 100km of pure sprint action
🏆 Points to top three: 3-2-1
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 26, 2021
FIA president Jean Todt highlighted the success of getting all of the teams and stakeholders aligned to approve the new format, given its impact on the cost cap and championship standings.
“I am pleased to see that Formula 1 is seeking new ways to engage with its fans and enlarge the spectacle of a race weekend through the concept of Sprint Qualifying,” Todt said. “It was made possible thanks to the continued collaboration between the FIA, Formula 1, and all of the teams. F1 is showing itself to be stronger than ever with all stakeholders working together in this way, and much has been done to ensure that the Sporting, Technical and Financial aspects of the format are fair.”
Parc ferme regulations will kick in at the beginning of qualifying on the Friday of the three events, with enough reconfiguration allowed to ensure FP2 on Saturday is a meaningful practice session.