The world championship’s first Saturday sprint race will be held later this afternoon to set the grid for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

With no obligatory pit stops, it is hoped F1’s 100km sprint race will produce exciting action and flat-out, relentless racing lasting around 30 minutes as the drivers dice it out for position over 17 laps of the Silverstone circuit

But there are some concerns that it could be a potentially dull affair, with drivers electing to adopt a more cautious approach given that only the top three finishers will receive points (3-2-1) ahead of the main spectacle on Sunday, where full points will be awarded to the top-10.

Naturally, drivers running at the front of the grid have a lot more to lose; get knocked off at the first corner and you will start the grand prix from last. Conversely, there is more to gain you are in the midfield or towards the back.

Max Verstappen, who holds a 32-point advantage over main title rival Lewis Hamilton in the championship, was clear before the weekend’s action got underway that he would be going for the win and extra points on offer, but not at the expense of compromising his Sunday.

“For the race, you try to win it,” said Verstappen, who missed out on ‘pole’ by 0.075s to Hamilton in Friday evening qualifying. “It’s three points extra you can gain so you definitely try to win it even though you know that on a Sunday, that’s the most important race.

“We always have to work on trying to put the car in the best possible state on the track in terms of setup and with the change of format, it will be a bit more difficult to nail that.”

After topping qualifying, Hamilton said he was confident he had got his car in a “good place” for sprint qualifying, while Mercedes stablemate Valtteri Bottas feels there is “all to play for” starting from third on the grid.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who qualified an excellent fourth, admitted he “doesn’t really know” how best to approach the sprint race, adding "we are all going into an unknown." 

Carlos Sainz will start five places behind his Ferrari teammate in ninth and stressed he would be pushing to make up ground having been out qualified by both McLarens and George Russell’s Williams.

“I think we have a good opportunity to push,” the Spaniard said. “We have to see what we can do to recover some positions, because I feel the car could have, at least, been in the top six - so we need to find our way through.”

Having turned in another strong qualifying performance to take sixth on the grid, McLaren’s Lando Norris is expecting the sprint race to settle down quickly.

“It’s not a long race is it, it’s just pushing as much as possible really,” he explained. “I don’t think it will be too chaotic, maybe a little the first few laps. I think things will settle down and it’ll be quite straightforward.

“It’ll be about not taking too many risks and choosing your battles wisely because the points are still on Sunday, not Saturday.”

Daniel Ricciardo, who was just 0.002s off his teammate in seventh, also suggested he would be favouring a more cautious approach.

“You’ve got to be a little bit smart about it, the points are on Sunday so you don’t want to ruin yourself for Sunday and do something silly. But no, I see it as an opportunity to start further up the grid on Sunday so we’ll do that.”

Following his qualifying heroics to secure a sensational eighth place on the grid, Russell vowed to go all out in the sprint race as he bids to set himself up in the best possible position to score his first points for Williams on Sunday.

“I think a lot of guys will be playing it a bit easy because they want to get a good starting position for Sunday but we’re going for it,” he explained.

“It’s another race for me and I want to go forward, I want to fight with these guys around me and get the best possible starting position for Sunday. I’m treating it like any normal race and just going for it.”

Drivers had just one hour of practice time on Friday before qualifying took place and with parc ferme regulations enforced as soon as qualifying began, teams are now prevented from making major changes to their cars.

There will be another 60-minute practice session ahead of sprint qualifying on Saturday afternoon but with drivers already locked-in and committed to their respective set-ups, there is little wiggle room for improvement, rendering FP2 fairly useless.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was left lamenting the lack of practice time to fine-tune car set-up after he endured his “worst qualifying of the year” with a lap only good enough for 12th.

“I think it’s going to be hard,” conceded the Frenchman. “Honestly it’s not going to be an easy one as we can’t touch the car any more. We have only FP2 to understand the car, so it’s not going to be easy but we’ll fight as always.

“With a different format, lots of things can happen, the sprint, hopefully the race pace is better. I don’t want to be negative but it’s our worst qualifying of the year and it’s a bit of shame when we don’t have much practice to change it.”

Lance Stroll reported confidence issues in opening practice and his struggles continued in qualifying, with the Aston Martin driver only just squeezing through to Q2 on his way to a disappointing 15th. In contrast, his teammate Sebastian Vettel will start 10th.

Explaining how he planned to approach the sprint race ahead of the weekend on Thursday, Stroll said:“I always try and make the right decisions and take calculated risks that I think are necessary. 

“I’m going to try and do what I can in the sprint qualifying but at the same time recognise that the race is on Sunday. I think it’s a balance between risk and reward.”