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F1 Sprint still isn't perfect, but 2024 changes show Formula 1 is listening

F1 Sprint still isn't perfect, but 2024 changes show Formula 1 is listening

F1 Sprint still isn't perfect, but 2024 changes show Formula 1 is listening

F1 Sprint still isn't perfect, but 2024 changes show Formula 1 is listening

Formula 1 welcomes China back to the calendar this weekend and the first round of F1 Sprint in 2024 along with it.

Yet it's another new look for the short-form race that still hasn't won over many fans in its fourth season in the sport, despite it creating competitive action on every day of a grand prix event.

READ MORE: Mercedes driver announcement imminent as team 'offers contract' to F1 star

Two parc fermé periods, a renaming from Shooutout to Sprint qualifying, and an altered weekend structure await the teams and drivers in Shanghai.

Although these don't represent wholesale changes, it's an encouraging — and timely — sign that Formula 1 wants their Sprint experiment to work.

READ MORE: Here's where Hamilton will make his sensational Ferrari debut next year

F1 2021 was unforgettable

Sprinting through history

Sprint first appeared in the incredible 2021 season, where, after much speculation surrounding the format, the event was effectively an extension of the race.

Regular Qualifying dictated the starting order for Sprint, and the 100 km race determined the starting order for the Grand Prix.

Drivers who set the fastest time in Qualifying didn't take pole position, with that honour going to the driver who won Sprint.

With only three point-scoring positions available, most drivers wouldn't boost their championship tally during the race.

Worse still for the also-rans: parc fermé conditions began after Sprint's conclusion, so they couldn't even make setup changes based on any wheel-to-wheel learnings.

Thankfully, this first year would only trouble three grand prix weekends, and the points scored didn't play any part in the final championship standings.

Imperfect progress

Minor tweaks followed in 2022 as the top eight finishers would score points, and the pole position title returned to the driver who set the fastest qualifying lap.

It showed a willingness by the sport to adapt the format based on feedback after facing criticism over the race's pointlessness for midfield teams and complaints about the pole position moniker.

However, it still wasn't popular with fans and continued to affect drivers' Sundays if they had any issues, as they'd start the grand prix from the back.

Thankfully, 2023 changed all that. A sweeping change to Sprint saw FP2 disappear in favour of Shootout, a new qualifying session exclusively for Sprint.

Now unburdened from Sprint race consequences, drivers who drove daringly in the 100 km run to the line wouldn't suffer with a back-row starting position for the grand prix should an overtake go catastrophically wrong.

Keeping Sprint and Shootout, the short-lived name for Sprint's new qualifying format, wholly on Saturday had Sprint self-contained and separate from the traditional Qualifying and Grand Prix.

With F1 expanding the format from three weekends to six in '23, having it make minimal effect on the season kept traditionalists' grumbles quieter while still creating more entertainment for the open-minded fan.

READ MORE: Repair work carried out as FIA inspection raises concerns over Chinese GP

China will host Sprint

2024 F1 Sprint improvements

Now, in 2024, Qualifying on a Sprint weekend will return to Saturday afternoon for the first time since the format's introduction, with Sprint qualifying (RIP Shootout) moving to Friday and the Sprint becoming the first session on a Saturday.

This minor change doesn't see any dropping of 2023's sessions; it just restructures them, and the updated times benefit fans who wish to watch live.

By having Qualifying on Saturday, far more people can tune into both of F1's two consistent competitive sessions, Qualifying and the Grand Prix.

That's a win for the TV audience, while Formula 1 still can boast three days of action that matters for on-site spectators thanks to Friday's sprint qualifying.

Furthermore, with parc fermé ending after Saturday's Sprint, teams and drivers can use in-race learnings to improve the car's setup for Qualifying and the Grand Prix, theoretically using any learned lessons to close in on their competitors.

Credit where it's due

These changes are more steps in the right direction from Formula 1 over the still-marmite Sprint format.

They demonstrate a rare willingness from the sport to acknowledge the problems with their ideas, make considered decisions that aren't knee-jerk, and seek to improve them for the future.

Fans, pundits, and, yes, the media are quick to lambast F1 for perceived wrong decisions – one look at the online discourse surrounding the proposed 10-team limit in the upcoming Concorde agreement shows that.

However, those who shout about the news they dislike should similarly acknowledge and applaud those moments of positivity.

Even if you remain unconvinced about Sprint, as many of us understandably still are, 2024's alterations should be a welcome sign that F1 is listening and, even better, is acting on what they hear.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Meet the Red Bull Academy sensation who's surpassing Verstappen in the juniors

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