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Why F1 has to get sprint-race decision right

Why F1 has to get sprint-race decision right


Why F1 has to get sprint-race decision right

Why F1 has to get sprint-race decision right

A proposal to introduce sprint races for this season is to be discussed further after teams showed an interest at a recent F1 Commission meeting.

The initial suggestion to trial the Saturday 33%-distance events at the Candian, Italian and Brazilian Grands Prix generated positive feedback during initial talks.

Specific details, however, need ironing out, with F1 and the FIA promising a firm decision is to be taken before the season starts.

GPFans assesses the pros and cons of a move that could significantly alter the face of F1 for the foreseeable future.

The pros

Grid shake-up

The real aim of all of the different Saturday format ideas is to make the starting grid for the race on a Sunday more unpredictable. Past attempts saw the elimination and aggregate qualifying formats used in the last 20 years quickly dropped.

So with a third-distance sprint race, the opportunity for a collision or a mistake is amplified compared to that of a qualifying session where, at the most, six full-speed laps are required.

If any driver in the top three teams were to be involved in an accident of the sprint then their Sunday prospects would be all the more eye-catching from the back of the grid.

Less tyre management?

F1 races are now mostly managed via a one-stop strategy given the drivers can coax extra mileage out of their Pirelli rubber.

Knowing such long stints are doable, it is not unreasonable to think drivers could fit a set of tyres on for a Saturday race and be close to flat out from lights-to-flag, or at least not trundling around some four or five seconds a lap off the pace of a standard qualifying session.

It could also be seen as a direct comparison between what the drivers want - durable tyres on which to drive flat out - and the more common tyre management that will no doubt be a big part of the main races this season.

More entertainment for fans = more revenue

Ask any motorsport fan and they will tell you a race is more exciting than qualifying and practice.

Factor in that racing will be highly-charged as drivers fight for the best track position possible and it seems like F1 is on to a winner.

There is no doubt a sprint race will get bottoms on seats on a Saturday afternoon and with qualifying to take place on a Friday, this would help the traditional practice day numbers as well.

All-in-all, it feels like a win-win for the sport and the fans alike. What could stop this from happening?

The cons


As F1 enters the budget cap era, it seems like financial suicide for the sport to add in races.

More races mean more spare parts and in this sport, every manufactured item comes with a cost. Add in the increased likelihood for accidents in racing conditions rather than qualifying and it does not seem to make sense for teams to want this.

Taking the most extreme example, Romain Grosjean's Bahrain crash was on the first lap. There is nothing to say that accident could not happen in a sprint race. You then have one less car starting, with the financial implications far reaching.

Then there are the engine regulations. Teams may only use three complete power units each year, with some components - the control electronics and energy store - limited to two per season.

A race will cause more wear and tear to such components, surely resulting in the limits altering should the sprint races be ratified. Again, this comes with a cost.

Dilluting the main event

The most nerve-wracking moment for all involved in F1 is the start of the race. The tension builds on the formation lap as everyone waits for lights out.

Would this drama be lost if it is lived through the day before? Fair enough, this proposal is not the most gimmicky of gimmicks ever dreamt up but you could say the traditional aspect of the sport is lost if the grid is decided by a race.

And what of championship points? Should a sprint race count as a win, which it likely will, the championship could be swayed by what should essentially be a qualifying session and not a points-scoring event. There is some suggestion, however, of points being awarded for the sprint events. This needs to be decided.

Record books will also go out of the window as, with a full season, there would be 46 race wins up for grabs. It is important to ensure the focus of the spectacle is left firmly on Sunday's full-distance race.

Better tyre data for teams

Some of the best races across the past decade have come when teams have lost track time, usually for inclement weather on a Friday, and taken to the circuit for a race with no data.

So, this curveball would surely be lost should sprint races become a part of the sport. Instead of having enough time to maybe do a 10-lap run in practice, the teams could use the sprint as a simulation session and get perfectly accurate stint data from the race ahead of Sunday's proceedings.

Would this provide a better spectacle during the main event? Most likely not.

Hampering immense qualifying performances

George Russell and Charles Leclerc were perhaps the two brightest stars of Saturday afternoons last year, with both outqualifying the capabilities of their Williams and Ferrari cars on multiple occasions.

If these stellar performances only counted for the Saturday race, then all of a sudden qualifying and the driver's skill set is rendered almost completely obsolete as, in cars that perform like the Williams relative to other competitors, Russell would likely start Sunday's race from the back four spaces down the grid.

Is this the image F1 wants to portray?

There are definitely a lot of plus and minus points to mull over with one of the most far-reaching format proposals the sport has suggested.

Should it be implemented? For added drama, intrigue and likely unpredictability, the early indication is, yes.

For all involved in the decision making, though, they will have to ensure that every minute detail is sifted through with a fine-tooth comb because there is a great deal at stake.


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