Formula One will debut a new Sprint Qualifying format at three Grands Prix in 2021 after a unanimous agreement between the teams, FIA and F1 it has been confirmed.
Formula 1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali confirmed the changes to qualifying (although it had already been widely expected) and is the latest in a string of exciting announcements from F1 after the confirmation of a new contract to keep the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka as well as the addition of Miami to the calendar.
“We are excited by this new opportunity that will bring our fans an even more engaging race weekend in 2021,” Domenicali said. “Seeing the drivers battling it out over three days will be an amazing experience and I am sure the drivers will relish the fight.
“I am delighted that all the teams supported this plan, and it is a testament to our united efforts to continue to engage our fans in new ways while ensuring we remain committed to the heritage and meritocracy of our sport.”
The changes still have to be formally approved by the World Motor Sport Council but that should be a formality.
How will it work?
Sprint Qualifying races will be held at three Grands Prix weekends over a distance of 100km on Saturday afternoon with the final results being used to for the grid for the ‘main’ race on the Sunday.
The grid for the Saturday Sprint Qualifying race will be determined on Friday afternoon using the current qualifying format with teams also having a single practice session on Friday morning.
Once the grid for the Sprint Qualifying race is set, teams will have a further practice session on Saturday morning before the Sprint Qualifying race itself in the afternoon.
Teams will race over 100km and set the final grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Tyres will be restricted depending on the session with qualy for the Sprint Qualifying race seeing all teams only having the option of using softs.
Which circuits will host Sprint Qualifying?
The FIA and Formula One haven’t confirmed which three circuits will be used for Sprint Qualifying yet but two European venues and one non-European one set to host the format.
Brazil has long been rumoured as a potential host of trial Sprint Qualifying Races while Monza and Silverstone have been suggested as other possible candidates.
Sprint races at Monza? Yes, please.
Can drivers win points?
Yes they can.
As well as setting the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix, Sprint Qualifying races will also receive World Championship points with three points for first place, two points for second and one point for third.
After the addition of an extra point for the fastest lap added a new variable to the final laps of races, points for podiums in Sprint Qualifying could have huge consequences on the outcome of both World Championships.