F1 sprint qualifying to debut in 2021

The start of the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

Formula 1’s highly anticipated sprint qualifying concept will debut this year after being unanimously voted in by the world championship’s 10 teams.

The initiative will see more action spread across a three-day race weekend, with qualifying moving to Friday to set the grid for a short Saturday afternoon race.

The finishing order of that 100km outing in turn will become the starting order for the Sunday main event, which will retain its prestige as the primary points-paying leg plus having the podium and national anthem conventions solely reserved for it.

The revolutionary format will be seen at three events in 2021; Formula 1 has yet to confirm which exact grands prix, besides two being in Europe.

Bonus points will be up for grabs in the Saturday leg, with three awarded to the winner, two for second place, and one for third place.

No compulsory pit stops will be required.

“We are excited by this new opportunity that will bring our fans an even more engaging race weekend in 2021,” said Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.

“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.”

FIA president Jean Todt likewise hailed the opportunity to attract fans and thanked the F1 community for working together to deliver it.

“It was made possible thanks to the continued collaboration between the FIA, Formula 1, and all of the teams,” said Todt.

“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.”

F1 managing director, motorsports Ross Brawn meanwhile noted a conscious effort had been made to not detract from the grand prix on Sundays.

“The thing to remember about Sprint Qualifying is that it’s intention is to expand the whole weekend,” he explained.

“It is not intended to impact the race event. The Grand Prix is still the vital event of the weekend.

“We want to give fans engagement throughout the whole weekend.

“Sunday’s Grand Prix is fantastic, and we don’t want to cannibalise that, but we want to lift up the engagement on a Friday and a Saturday.

“Friday is really for the aficionados at the moment. Watching practice session on Friday is fun but there is no conclusion to it.

“But on a Friday now [at these selected events], we’ll have the excitement of the qualifying format.

“We want to see how fans engage with it and if the short format is appealing, it’s complimentary and if it works with the main race. We feel it will. We feel it’s going to be very exciting,” he added.

The next round of the season at Portimao this weekend will run to the conventional weekend format.

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