Teams discuss Baku F1 format change

The Baku weekend format will be discussed by F1 team bosses in Melbourne today

The Baku weekend format has been discussed by F1 team bosses in Melbourne today

Formula 1 team bosses have met in Albert Park to discuss a range of topics, including the format of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku.

A suggestion has been put forward for a revised weekend format for the opening Sprint event of the year.

That proposal would see Baku feature a single 60-minute practice session ahead of qualifying, as is standard with F1 Sprint format events.

However, rather than a second practice session following on Saturday, another qualifying session would be held ahead of the Sprint.

The grand prix itself would then remain unchanged on Sunday.

To this point, Saturday practice on a Sprint weekend is of little value as cars are in parc ferme conditions.

There have also been criticisms of the competitive impact the Sprint has on the race.

The Sprint events have typically been subdued as those are the front are disincentivised from taking risks given the impact a mistake has the following day.

Currently, the finishing order on Saturday determines the grid for the grand prix.

Under the proposed format, both Sprint and grand prix would have their own qualifying sessions.

It’s a concept that has been met with mixed reactions from drivers, though the weight of numbers seems to support the switch.

“We can take a bit more risk in sprint qualifying without putting your complete weekend away, so that is good,” said Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff broadly agreed in that improving the spectacle is the priority.

“We all share the same objective that we want the sport to continue to develop well and grow its audiences,” he said.

“We just need to find a common denominator what the base principle is.

“I’m on the conservative side in that I like qualifying, I like the grand prix – the great prize – but you have to also be open-minded about where the sport’s going to go.

“Some of the Sprint races have been fantastic, so whatever Stefano [Domenicali, F1 CEO] decides is good.

“He will have all the data on the table, what is good for the audiences, what is good for the brand, and then we just got to maybe try and tweak things.”

While today’s meeting will offer some indication as to what teams and the sport prefers when it gets to Baku later this month, no decision has been made.

To be implemented, there is a formal governance process that needs to be followed, which includes sign-off from the FIA President.

That will take some time, though the sport has a three-week break between today’s Australian Grand Prix and the race in Azerbaijan at the end of the month.

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