F1’s sprint weekend format returned for the first time in 2022 at last weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The format sees qualifying moved to Friday in place of practice in the afternoon, while a shorter, 100km sprint race takes place on Saturday with the result determining the grid for Sunday’s grand prix. 

The format will be run at three grands prix this season (Imola, Austria and Brazil) but there are plans for this to be doubled to six race weekends for 2023. 

With the sprint being used to determine the grid for the grand prix, there’s an argument that drivers aren’t taking as many risks and thus reducing the spectacle for fans.

In the latest episode of Crash.net’s F1 podcast, Brundle explained why making the sprint a standalone event would improve the show.

“The drivers are calling for those events to be more standalone rather than actually setting the grid for grand prix Sunday and that’s a very interesting concept,” Brundle said. “What we basically end up with then is a more of an F2 event. They clearly like the concept, they want to go racing. 

“From a drivers’ perspective and I think we saw this over that battle at the front of the field, drivers must be driving with the race on Sunday in the back of their minds and that can’t be that enjoyable from inside the cockpit to want to make the move, to want to go charging through, to want to defend hard and show the Tifosi what you’re made of if you’re Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari but always knowing that if you overstep, you’ve got a long grand prix Sunday to think about it starting at the back of the field. 

“I would really be supportive of the sprint race becoming its own thing, becoming its own entity delivering points, perhaps all the way down the field. That would be exciting for me.”

Legendary F1 commentator Ben Edwards feels F1 will be put under pressure to introduce further sprint weekends due to the likely benefits they would have on TV viewing figures.

“That might be an interesting option to go down that route and separating the two pieces might work very well,” Edwards added. “The trouble is, I just imagine the TV viewing numbers are going to go up with people watching both Saturday and Sunday because they’re watching races on two days and that’s going to put pressure on F1 to carry on that sort of thing rather than back off, although some of the teams will be against it. 

“This is going to be an ongoing discussion going forward.”

Does the sprint race detract from the F1 Grand Prix?

A wet-affected qualifying on Friday at Imola left Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz out of position on the grid. 

The sprint on Saturday allowed the pair to cut their way through the field, giving us some great wheel-to-wheel action.

Similarly, Charles Leclerc’s good start from second on the grid handed him the lead into Turn 1.

Leclerc and Max Verstappen duelled for the sprint race victory with the reigning F1 champion coming out on top.

Edwards questioned whether having a sprint race made for a less dramatic grand prix.

“Well it did, of course, actually the sprint race was more entertaining in some ways than the grand prix because you had people moving up, Edwards explained. “The danger is when you have a qualifying like you had on Friday afternoon as we did, a bit predictable and a few people out of position, particularly Carlos, Sergio. 

“So that made the sprint race quite exciting because those guys had to fight their way up and we had a battle for the lead. The trouble was that everyone was in position and so we didn’t quite end up with that same battle that we might have enjoyed in the grand prix in the early stages. Mind you, of course, we had some dramas, we lost Sainz, we lost Ricciardo in the grand prix itself and I think that was a bit of a downer. 

“There are a lot of positives by having a sprint race but there are some negatives as well. We did lose out I think a little bit in the grand prix itself in terms of some of the excitement.”

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