The FIA is redrawing the contours of a format that is not unanimous within the paddock. Sprint weekends will change from this weekend in Azerbaijan in an attempt to reinvigorate F1 weekends and give Saturday races more independence. Qualifying is gaining ground on free practice.
“This will enhance the spectacle of the sprint weekends and improve the on-track action for supporters around the world,” the FIA said in a joint statement with promoter Formula One, days before the first sprint weekend of the season. season.
Besides Azerbaijan, the new format will also be raced in five other Grand Prix, in Austria (July 2), Belgium (July 30), Qatar (October 8), the United States (Austin, October 22) and Brazil (November 5).
Saturday without impact on Sunday
Concretely, the drivers will run only one free practice session during the weekend (on Friday), followed by the “classic” qualifying in the afternoon, which will determine the starting grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday. .
Saturday will be dedicated to the sprint. The drivers will take to the track for a second qualifying session (called the “Sprint Shootout”), similar to that on Friday but shorter, which will determine the starting order for the sprint race contested on the same day.
Until now, during the sprint weekends, the pilots competed in classic qualifications, that is to say against the clock, on Friday, which defined the starting order of a 100km race on Saturday, which itself defined the starting grid of the GP on Sunday.
The distribution of points unchanged
According to the FIA, the new format “will give drivers more incentive to go hard on Saturdays” since they generally did not take all the risks during the sprint in order to secure their position on the grid for the main race.
The allocation of points at the end of the sprint remains unchanged: only the first eight drivers will score points in the championship.
This change comes two years after the arrival of sprint races on certain GPs and which aim to provide entertainment over three days.