F1 weekend format under fire again

Formula One has forever been an evolving sport since its inception in 1950. Back then the car design regulations were minimal and capable of being written on a post card. Today we have a 52 page FIA tome regulating the new F1 financial regulations alone. Yet F1 is in rude health at present though there’s plenty for those running the sport to consider improving.

The F1 calendar is currently under the microscope given the FIA’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon footprint in less than a decade. This weekend F1’s governing body has revealed it will try to better regionalise the races and reduce the criss crossing of the planet with a fleet of jumbo jets and hundred’s of tonnes of cargo.



Sprint format under fire

This weekends event in Brazil sees a return of the sprint format, where qualifying takes place on Friday followed by a 1/3rd distance sprint race on Saturday before the full GP as usual on Sunday.

Given the poor quality of the support races in Brazil, the sprint weekend format affords the promoter an opportunity to sell tickets to fans for competitive F1 action on each the 3 days across the weekend.

However, the format is not universally liked across the paddock with Max Verstappen leading the criticism this weekend from interviews he gave on Thursday.

The sprint was introduced in 2021 and scheduled for 3 weekends during the season. Yet with just 3 points on offer to the winner together with 2nd and third receiving 2 and 1 point respectively there was little incentive for the top drivers to risk much in the short form Saturday race given the big points were handed out on Sunday.



Format tweaks required

The FIA sought to rectify this for 2022 by awarding 8 points for the win and 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for the minor placings. However even this does not appear to have enticed the front of the grid drivers to take the sprint seriously.

For 2023., the FIA has slated in double the number of sprint weekends from 3 to 6, however F1 pundits believe more needs to be done.

One suggestion is to make the sprint events a stand alone competition where the points do not count towards the drivers’ or constructors’ championship. Martin Brundle believes this won’t change much, “Yeah exactly, if there are only the first few getting points.”

“We need to establish what the sprint is for. Is it a stepping stone for the weekend, is it a standalone event, a championship, or what have you?”



F1 evolution required

Brundle recognises F1 at times needs to evolve as it did with it’s qualifying format over a number of years.

“Those discussions need to take place. I am not against change. I currently think the qualifying format we have now is perfect and we got there because we were prepared to make some changes.”

“We can finesse the sprint.”

As already suggested, there is a significant raison d’etre for the sprint which is to aid the F1 promoters to sell Friday tickets at events which don’t sell out. Yet there is something about the F1 weekends where each day includes competitive on track action from the F1 drivers and cars.

“I personally quite like it being a Friday qualifying, Saturday sprint and Sunday grand prix on some of the events, a different format,” adds Brundle.



A third F1 weekend format

Suggesting further initiatives could be introduced, Brundle added: “Maybe we can have a third format through the season as well and keep one as the classic or traditional.

“We have to be open-minded but we can’t just keep changing things without structure and establishing what it is actually there for.”

The reason for the sprint is in fact established and a number of drivers this weekend have expressed the opinion that three practice sessions is excessive.

The problem with the short form Saturday race is the processional nature of the event where overtaking is limited and just one set of tyres are used from start to finish.

More jeopardy could be introduced into the sprint by forcing the teams to make a mandatory pit stop as in the full GP together with increasing the points awarded to around 50% given for the Sunday race.

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