Earlier this week F1 announced that shorter 100km sprint races will be introduced this year as part of a shake-up to the weekend format at three grands prix. 

At the selected rounds - starting with the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July - F1’s usual 60-minute qualifying session will be held in late Friday afternoon ahead of the new Sprint Qualifying race on Saturday that will determine the grid for Sunday’s main grand prix. 

Reduced points will be awarded to the top three finishes - three for first, two for second and one for third. 

Several drivers were asked for their opinions on the format as they faced the media for the first time since the announcement was made ahead of this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix. 

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton led the largely positive feedback and praised F1 for being “open-minded” to try new things. 

“I’ve always said that we need to have some sort of different format throughout the year at some tracks,” said Hamilton. “Particularly like Monaco, for example. It’s beautiful to be at but it’s not an exciting race necessarily. 

“So I like that they’re open-minded and making changes. I think from those experimental weekends, hopefully the sport will learn lots on how we can deploy better races moving forwards.” 

Fellow multiple world champion Sebastian Vettel, who has previously voiced his criticism of new formats, said he was now open to the idea and believes it will make race weekends “more intense”. 

“It will make the weekend, I think, a bit more intense,” the Aston Martin driver explained. “Obviously you have less time to prepare, you have to come up with your final set-up very quickly after you just hit the track but it will be the same for everyone. 

“We’ll soon find out how it feels, if we like it, if people like it, and what it might bring to the weekend.” 

Vettel’s former Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc said he was happy for the format to be tried out as long as the extra race does not devalue the main grand prix. 

Instead of the usual podium ceremony taking place, the winner of the Sprint Qualifying race will be presented a trophy in parc ferme to help distinguish between the two events. 

”I think the most important thing is that it won’t devalue the Sunday event which is the main race and should remain the main race,” said Leclerc. 

“But to have a sprint race might be interesting and we will also see the cars be pushed to the max from the first lap to the last lap, which will be nice for us drivers.”

Leclerc’s new Scuderia stablemate Carlos Sainz is also in favour of F1 experimenting before sweeping regulation changes come into force in 2022. 

“I think this is a year in-between a big rule change next year that it kind of allows you to experiment with this kind of stuff,” said Sainz. 

“The fact that we are going to have three races with a sprint qualifying is going to be interesting. I don’t think it’s going to change much for us - only one hour of practice before the quali. 

“We did that at Imola last year and you could see that F1 drivers don’t really care about how much practice you give them, they still put the cars on the limit when they have to put it. 

“I don’t think it’s going to change the order much. It’s not going to shake up things too much but it’s going to add an extra race to the weekend which might make things more interesting as at the end of the day, racing is what we want and what we enjoy the most.” 

Meanwhile, Williams driver George Russell described the incoming shake-up as “exciting”.

"I think the change would just bring a bit more excitement,” Russell explained. “Three days of proper action as obviously not a lot of people are interested in practice. 

“Quali Friday and sprint quali before the main event, I think it’s an interesting concept. We’ve got to give it a chance and see how we get on, but I’m excited for it and if it brings action and excitement it is in the best interests of everybody.” 

For F1 rookies Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Yuki Tsunoda, sprint races are not a new concept, with all three previously competing in a similar format in Formula 2 - although it featured a partially-reversed grid. 

“Obviously I think it’s something [we’re] used to from Formula 2, so it’s not too new,” said reigning F2 champion and Haas driver Schumacher. 

“But definitely I think it’s going to be very tough for the teams, especially if there are any reliability issues or even some accidents or something, so that’s going to be very tough.

“I’d say it’s going to be important to get to the end, go through it cleanly. For me, coming into this as a rookie, the [full] Grand Prix is quite valuable, quite special and new. 

“But I’m always open to new things and I think it’s going to be quite new to Formula 1, and I think it’s great we are trying out something different.”

While Tsunoda is also a fan of the idea, he warned that reduced Friday practice time would make learning new circuits even more of a challenge for F1’s rookie class. 

“I think it’s good to do something different and challenge it,” said the 20-year-old Japanese racer. “I think sprint races are a good idea. 

“I think a sprint race at Silverstone is good but at the beginning of the year the first plan was to do a sprint race in Brazil. It’s OK to do a sprint race but as a rookie, Brazil I’ve never driven at and for most of the rookies, they haven’t driven there yet. 

“If we have a sprint race, we don’t have free practice two [on Friday] or three [on Saturday]. We have only one free practice and go straight to qualifying so as a rookie it’s a little bit of a difficult situation. 

“For Silverstone, it’s good. I’ve driven there, I have experience there, so for me I support it. I am looking forward to it. 

“If it’s a track that I have never driven, I expect it will be a little bit more difficult. For me, a Silverstone sprint race, I definitely support and I am really looking forward to it.” 

And from the youngest driver on the grid to the oldest, what does Kimi Raikkonen make of Sprint Qualifying? 

The 2007 world champion replied in typically nonchalant fashion when asked that very question.

"I have no opinion,” said Raikkonen. “I don’t honestly know how the regulations for those races will be. 

“It’s still early days, we’ll have to do one and then I guess we’ll know a bit more. If it’s going to affect anything or nothing - let’s wait and see.”

 

Comments

Loading Comments...