F1 to host standalone sprint races in 2022
By Mat Coch
Wednesday 15th September, 2021 - 1:37pm
Formula 1 looks set to shake up the Sprint format for the 2022 season with the concept set to become a standalone event.
Currently, the Sprint concept is used as part of qualifying, with a hot-lapping session feeding into a 30-minute encounter on Saturday afternoons.
It’s the outcome of that, as was seen in Monza last weekend, which determines the final grid.
First seen at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the concept has been met with mixed receptions.
While feedback around the entertainment value it offers has been largely positive, the complication to qualifying has not been welcomed.
That it looks and feels like a race, but is not referred to or recognised as such, has also jarred.
Formula 1 officials however are keen to retain the concept, which adds the drama of an additional race start.
Promoters are also keen on the idea as it generates greater interest in Friday’s track running, given qualifying gets moved to the opening day.
It’s therefore been suggested that the Sprint session be divorced from the rest of the weekend, and the 30-minute encounter regarded as a race in its own right.
With no impact on Sunday’s grand prix, the concept of reverse grids has also reared its head once again.
“I like it,” Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said of the concept of standalone reverse grid sprint races.
“I like it, because I think that will, for the show and the spectacle, can be of interest.
“At the very start of the discussion of the mini race format, us, Ferrari, were the one proposing it.
“I think whatever is your position on the classification, somehow that’s bringing some extra spectacle, and that’s important for our fans, it’s important for the entertainment that F1 may offer.”
The reverse grid concept met with heavy criticism when first floated as rivals voiced concerns around the sporting integrity issues it generated.
Formula 1 has always operated as a meritocracy, without the need for sporting measures to level the playing field.
Staying true to that heritage has, for many teams, been important.
However, should the sprint concept not have an impact on the race itself, and be little more than an entertainment session, the reverse grid format has some support.
McLaren, once vehemently against the notion of a reverse grid concept, failed to dismiss the concept outright.
“To be honest, not ready to put any [concept] out at the moment, didn’t think about it yet,” said Andreas Seidl when asked about the concept of standalone sprint races last weekend.
“I have to say the weekend in Silverstone, the reactions we got from fans after to the weekend, it looked like it was definitely a good event with a lot of positive feedback.
“I think it was definitely worth trying it.
“Even within the team, even with some very traditional racers within the team, we got some positive feedback after the race weekend.
“I think it’s definitely good to try stuff like this and then just need to see what we learn from this year and then see what we put in place from next year onwards.”
The Sprint Qualifying format was criticised last weekend after a processional encounter was produced on Saturday afternoon.
Shy of Lewis Hamilton making a poor start and falling behind the two McLarens, little of consequence came from the session, though F1’s motorsport boss Ross Brawn remained keen to sing its praises.
“There have been many comments made about the F1 Sprint after we ran it for the second time in Italy,” he wrote in his column for the sport’s official website.
“In my opinion, there were plenty of positives to take.
“It shook up the order and led to a slightly evolved grid, which in turn created a different dynamic in the race.
“It was an amazing race – and I think it shows how special Formula 1 can be. There were so many storylines throughout up and down the field.
“It’s also important that we look at F1 Sprint in the context of the whole event, which incidentally delivered the strongest ever weekend streaming numbers we’ve ever seen on our OTT platform F1TV.
“We had three days of excitement and tension. Ordinarily, you only get two days,” he added.
“I firmly believe the whole event was improved – and, as I said, effectively shook up the order for the Grand Prix.
“Formula 1 has been brave enough to carry out this experiment and give an opportunity to review this format.
“Let’s not forget, the format hasn’t changed in F1 for decades.
“I think it offers a lot – and we still have a track to try it on. Then we’ll make an objective assessment and work out a way forward.”
The Sao Paulo Grand Prix in November is slated to host the third and final Sprint Qualifying session of the season.