17 laps of flat-out racing around Silverstone were used to decide the grid for Sunday’s main event, leading to an overhaul to the weekend schedule.

Max Verstappen overtook main title rival Lewis Hamilton off the line to be crowned F1’s first-ever sprint race winner and claim pole position for the British GP, with the new format dividing opinion amongst fans.

Here’s what we felt worked well, and what is in need of improvement going forward…

The best bits

Three days of meaningful action

What the new format did achieve was ensuring F1 fans had three meaningful days of track action to enjoy. While FP2’s inclusion may have been somewhat baffling and pointless, staging qualifying on Friday was a particularly refreshing change.

Traditional Fridays consisting of two practice sessions have become a tedious exercise in modern-day F1. While it’s always great to see cars circulating on track, it’s even better when there’s something at stake.

Moving qualifying to Friday evening proved a decision that was welcomed by the drivers and fans alike, providing extra entertainment to thrill a raucous crowd of 86,000 on day one.

Saturday’s sprint qualifying, while having some flaws, was overall an entertaining precursor to Sunday’s main spectacle, the British GP.

Less practice = more qualifying intrigue

One element of the weekend that worked really well was having just one hour of practice running before qualifying.

Less track time to perfect set-ups and dial in soft-tyre running meant the drivers headed into qualifying facing more uncertainty and having less preparation.

This created additional jeopardy as some drivers got their set-ups spot on and others struggled with confidence.

It resulted in a thrilling qualifying spectacle that left the fans on the edge of their seats as Hamilton and Verstappen diced it out for pole - sorry first place on the grid - for the sprint.

Free tyre choice

Without doubt, the most excitement dynamic of the sprint qualifying race was the fact the drivers were not obliged to start on the tyres with which they set their fastest times in qualifying. There will also be free tyre choice for the entire grid for Sunday’s British GP, rather than the top-10 being locked in to the compound they used in Q2.

Tyre variance among the teams was a fascinating addition, with Alpine pair Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon among the biggest winners of the qualifying sprint as they made up places after gambling on soft tyres.

Alonso’s sensational start - making up six places on the first lap alone - was wonderful entertainment as he favoured early performance over durability. He may have slipped back to seventh at the chequered flag as his tyres faded, but the two-time world champion was still able to secure his highest starting position for a grand prix so far this year.

F1 managing director Ross Brawn indicated that free tyre choice is something the championship could consider adopting for normal races, underlying exactly why the sport was keen to try out new things in the first place.

“There’s some very appealing parts, everyone runs the same tyre in qualifying and we still have variety in the race as there were two tyres we can use,” he said. “There’s no handicap in terms of what tyres we can use, so possibly we can take that forward.”

Retro celebrations

In a bid not to detract from the grand prix itself, F1 replaced its usual post-race podium ceremony with a special celebration procedure for the sprint event.

Reviving the old-school winners wreaths for the top-three finishers in Saturday’s race was a nice touch and a marked a nostalgic nod to F1’s history.

The classic tradition has not featured in grand prix racing since 1985 but its re-introduction at Silverstone - which hosted the first-ever grand prix - was a welcome addition.

The top three were then paraded around the circuit for a victory lap in front of the 100,000-strong Silverstone crowd.

Lewis Larkam


The worst bits

Pole being awarded to the sprint winner

One strange aspect of the sprint qualifying format was that the pole position accolade is handed to the winner of sprint qualifying - Verstappen - rather than the fastest man in qualifying - Hamilton. Admittedly, F1 does need to move on with the times and adapt to a modern viewing, however, traditions and records need to be upheld.

Whether it’s Hamilton or Michael Schumacher’s pole position statistics, we know what they mean - if you secured pole position, you were the fastest man that weekend over one lap - full stop.

Hamilton’s 100 pole positions in F1 make him the sport’s greatest ever qualifier, and infecting the pole position record books with sprint qualifying is an indefensible move that ruins this specific statistic.

A pointless FP2 session

While the structure of the weekend has generally been positive with three days of competitive action, the decision to run a practice session in between qualifying and the sprint race didn’t make too much sense given that teams are forced to put their cars into parc ferme conditions. This meant that everyone had just one practice session to set up their cars ahead of qualifying and any changes couldn’t be made.

Even though he claimed pole position, Verstappen urged F1 management to reassess the parc ferme rules for FP2

“I think we have to look a little bit at the schedule because to do an FP2 session and you’re not allowed to change the car, I think it’s a bit wrong in my opinion,” Verstappen said after sprint qualifying. “It’s a bit of luck sometimes right now, if we keep this format going for sprint races that you only have one free practice to nail the setup.”

The decision to cut practice is a welcome move but perhaps running two practice sessions before qualifying would be better suited rather than a session that was reminiscent of a pre-season test where no one knew what was going on in terms of tyres and fuel loads.

A potential solution is to rename this second practice session as a warm-up. Stemming back to pre-2003, there used to be a warm-up session before the main grand prix where teams could use it to refine their setups and be prepared for the main event.

As F1 has done with the celebratory retro wreaths, simply renaming FP2 as a warm-up would be a nice throwback.

It didn’t spice up the show

It’s fair to say without an exciting start and the brilliance of Alonso, F1’s first-ever sprint race would have been a complete snoozefest. Granted, this current generation of F1 cars don’t play into a close, exciting race.

The whole premise behind introducing this new format was to ‘spice up the show’, which it didn’t. Tomorrow’s grand prix will give us a clearer picture of whether having a 17-lap race potentially ruins the main race given that drivers perhaps are in the position they should have been or teams now have genuine data of how the tyres react in race trim, pushed to the limit.

Of course, we can only judge this after tomorrow’s 52-lap race.

More points for the top three

Points were awarded to the top three finishers - 3, 2, 1 respectively. While some added motivation should be given to drivers, surely grid position is enough of an incentive in itself?

The decision to hand points out to the top three raises two other issues. Firstly, every round in the F1 championship should have equal weighting, the introduction of sprint qualifying in its current rules mean you can score a maximum of 29 points at Silverstone, but only 26 for Monaco, as an example.

Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas are the most common top three in F1 history so it was no surprise to see this trio qualified inside the top three again. Had there been no points on offer, I have no doubt the action - or lack of - would have been similar.

However, had there been points awarded from 1st to 10th, perhaps we’d have seen more action in the midfield and the potential for other storylines such as George Russell scoring his first points for Williams that could have hyped up the weekend even further.

Connor McDonagh