Formula 1’s sporting director Steve Nielsen says any major format shake-ups for 2021 will be introduced to increase “sudden-death situations” in the sport as it looks to engage a wider audience.

Nielsen, who joined Ross Brawn’s F1 motorsport department in August last year after leaving his team manager post at Williams, is heading up the intensive research into the sport’s future options as is looks to appeal to a younger audience which he fears if it is not made a priority it will leave F1 “in trouble”.

Amongst Nielsen’s key points of research into new sporting regulations for 2021 is looking into race weekend formats. Since Liberty’s F1 takeover the idea sprint-style qualifying races have frequently been discussed as well as shortening free practice in order to condense race weekends to maximise track action for fans both at the circuit and on watching on television.

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While Nielsen hasn’t ruled out any options being introduced for 2021, he sees more “sudden-death situations” as vital to inject interest and uncertainty into race weekends.

“We need to retain the core values of the sport, while at the same time appealing to a younger audience,” Nielsen said in an F1 release ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix. “If we neglect that the sport will be in trouble.

“It is a difficult line to walk but that is what we have to do. Perhaps that does mean shorter race, or slightly less free practice, more sudden-death situations. People engage with sport in a lot of different ways and they don’t necessarily want to give up a Sunday afternoon or a Saturday afternoon to do it. So every idea has to be on the table.

“Viewing figures were declining. There has been an improvement but Formula 1 needs to change to engage with a wider audience. There are many people under the age of 30 for whom Formula 1 is of little interest.”

Formula 1’s support series, Formula 2 and GP3, currently run a two races in its weekend format with a longer feature race on Saturday before a shorter sprint race with a partially reversed grid on Sunday.

 

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