Last year wasn’t easy on anyone – there were delays, there were cancellations, there were cases due to you-know-what. However, it was also the perfect time for FIA, F1, and Liberty Media to come forward and provide the millions of viewers, the right amount of distraction, and boy, did we not like it!
Moving forward to this year, we are already witnessing a *very* close title battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen and now, to make matters more intriguing, all the F1 teams have unanimously decided to bring in ‘Sprint Qualifying’ to shake things up a bit. Now, don’t go bonkers, the new format isn’t as confusing as it may sound.
The soon-to-be-implemented format will be witnessed at Silverstone and Monza, with the third venue most likely being Brazil later in the year. On the Friday of a Grand Prix weekend, Free Practice would be the way it is currently, which is 60-minutes in duration, but the drivers would now have only two sets of tyres from the allocated twelve sets.
Later in the day, as opposed to Free Practice 2, the drivers would jump straight into the cars to maximize their full potential for Qualifying. The Quali is moved to Friday so that it decides the grid for the following day’s Sprint Race and the drivers would only have five sets of soft tyres permitted for the session.
“On a fine Saturday morning”, the FP2 now comes into play, but the drivers will only have one set of tyres to choose from. Now for the most-awaited part (almost) – Sprint Race/Qualifying. The new format will be a race run over 100km while lasting for around 25-30 minutes. There will no compulsory pit-stops, with the drivers racing flat-out from start to finish.
The points will be awarded to the top three, but not in a way they are awarded on a Sunday: P1 would get three points, P2 would get two points, and P3 would get a single point. The result of the Sprint Race/Qualifying would later determine the starting grid for Sunday’s main event.
Perhaps the biggest catch in the new format is the fact that contrary to the current system wherein drivers have to start the race on the same tyres they set their fastest times in Q2 on, the drivers would now have free choice of tyres but will have only two sets to pick from.
Stefano Domenicali, F1’s president, and CEO said: “We are excited by this new opportunity that will bring our fans an even more engaging race weekend in 2021. 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.”
The cars will be under Parc Ferme conditions both, before and after Sprint Qualifying. However, should a need be, one can change brake friction materials, along with brake ducts, too. A full-fledged list of what can be/cannot be done will be uploaded as soon as we get it.
The new format now means that throughout the 2021 World Championship, there will now be a total of nine additional points up for grabs. As mentioned above, Silverstone and Monza will become the first two venues to carry out this format before Brazil (most likely) jumps in, too.