Sprint qualifying returns this weekend as F1 heads to Spielberg for the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix. 

As per last year, a shorter sprint race will take place on Saturday afternoon to determine the grid for the main grand prix. 

The format itself remains similar, however, there have been a number of changes made by F1 bosses to make the sprint race more rewarding for drivers. 

How does F1 sprint work?

F1’s sprint qualifying is a 100km race on Saturday afternoon which is used to decide the grid for the grand prix. 

Its introduction sees practice reduced and drivers thrown straight into qualifying on Friday afternoon.

Friday will begin with one practice session followed by the conventional qualifying format (Q1, Q2, Q3). 

The result of qualifying will determine the sprint race grid, while the result of that will shape up the order for the main event on Sunday. 

Practice has been reduced to two sessions (One session before qualifying and one session before the sprint).

Where will we see F1 sprint in 2022?

Originally, F1 bosses hoped to run the sprint races at six grands prix this year but the teams didn’t agree on the basis that costs could be too high in the cost cap era.

So like in 2021, F1 sprint will take place at three race weekends.

Imola hosts the first sprint weekend, followed by the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Finally, Interlagos will once again host a sprint race with the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

What changes have been made to the format?

Unlike last year, the accolade for pole position will be awarded to the driver who is fastest in qualifying.

In its first year, the driver who won the sprint was officially awarded pole position, leading to some confusion and criticism from fans.

The points system has also been adjusted for this year.

In 2021, points were only handed out to the top three finishes (3-2-1), but for this year, points will be awarded to the top eight (8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1), giving drivers more incentive to go for overtakes rather than settle for their grid position. 

Will the drama continue?

The introduction of sprint races last year did add some drama to the three race weekends.

In its first-ever weekend at Silverstone, F1 title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton went head-to-head on the opening lap, giving us a taste of what was to come on the Sunday when the pair ultimately collided at Copse on Lap 1.

Fernando Alonso caught the headlines though, going from 11th on the grid to fifth on the opening lap of the sprint. 

The drama continued at Monza as Valtteri Bottas finished first ahead of Verstappen, while Hamilton dropped from second on the grid to finish behind McLaren duo Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris.

Sao Paulo was the most entertaining sprint weekend to date with Hamilton recovering from 20th - after being disqualified from qualifying due to a technical infringement - to finish fifth, keeping his title hopes alive. 

Hamilton went onto the win the grand prix after a dramatic duel with Verstappen.

The format hasn’t won everyone over just yet - me included - but having qualifying on Friday followed by an additional race is only a positive thing.

With F1’s new regulations for 2022 allowing for better racing and overtaking, we might see a more action-packed weekend.