New sprint rules must avoid spoiling the flow of race weekends - Vowles

Simon Galloway/Motorsport Images

New sprint rules must avoid spoiling the flow of race weekends - Vowles

Formula 1

New sprint rules must avoid spoiling the flow of race weekends - Vowles


Formula 1’s new sprint rules are still being finalized to make sure that changes don’t inadvertently destroy the rest of a race weekend, according to Williams team principal James Vowles (pictured middle, above).

Formula 1 teams have agreed to drop FP2 during a sprint weekend in favor of an extra qualifying session bespoke to the short Saturday race, essentially making that a standalone day with Friday qualifying setting the grid for the grand prix. Vowles says the collective approach between all team bosses shows a clear desire to try and improve the sport but that work is still required to make sure the final format is an overall step forward.

“On the new format, first and foremost there was a very good meeting where myself and other team principals sat down and discussed, ‘What would be good for the sport?’” Vowles told SiriusXM. “And it really was that level of discussion — a discussion that I don’t think could have been held that way five years ago, because it was all about individuals and what’s best for your team back then.

“We agreed that actually FP2 is probably not the right… It existed previously as a practice session; it was an hour, but we weren’t really doing anything. We were going around in circles because we enjoy doing that but we weren’t learning a tremendous amount, so the question was should we change that to a qualifying session? And there was very positive discussion around the table really that that’s probably a good direction of travel for the sport. But it has to be done in the right way.

“I think recent comments from Toto (Wolff, Mercedes team principal) and others around that sort of suggested we need to be careful that we don’t change too much that makes FP2 better but completely destroys the remainder of the race weekend. And it’s very easy to do — the rules are on a knife edge and there’s a limited amount of resource available to us.

“But I think globally the concept’s right. The sport will be more interesting if we had a second qualifying session there, we just need to carve the rules out. There’s meetings going on at the moment to do so to make sure that we have the right format. Then there will be a vote to make sure we’re all happy, we’ve got the right set of rules that move it forward. So the new format is in a proposal stage at the moment, moving hopefully to a complete stage later.”

The current proposal includes the Saturday qualifying session following the same format but with shorter time windows for running, resulting in less track time overall. A final vote is set to take place on April 25, and Vowles says regardless of any changes the sprint in Baku is going to be particularly challenging for rookies such as Logan Sargeant.

A lot to take on in a short time for newcomers like Williams rookie Logan Sargeant. Glenn Dunbar/Motorsport Images

“A normal race weekend, normally we get Friday where we do two hours of practice, and then again on Saturday morning a third hour. It may seem a little bit excessive but take the case of Logan for example — three hours, and you’re not running for all three hours, you’re probably running for about half an hour, 35 minutes. There’s a limited amount of tires, fuel, setup time, so that’s maybe an hour and a half of time full stop before he gets into the race. That’s it.

“Baku’s a tricky circuit as well. Go to a sprint race weekend, what happens now is we get just one hour, that’s all we get to basically get the car set up.

“We’ll try and fit in a little bit of a qualifying program, a little bit of a race program to make sure the car’s OK. That’s it. Once that’s done, that setup is on the car for the remainder of that race weekend and we’ll go straight into a qualifying session in the evening of Friday.

“So from a driver perspective it’s a little bit like you’re being shocked and dumped in ice water — you’ve got to immediately get on with the pace. Especially for someone like Logan where experience matters and laps matter, it’s not a lot of time to get into the flow of the weekend.”