Formula One will introduce sprint qualifying for the first time in the sport’s history at this week’s British Grand Prix, which may not be good news for Valtteri Bottas or Sergio Perez.
Silverstone will be the first of three circuits to use a sprint race to determine the grid for the Sunday’s Grand Prix this year. The traditional qualifying format instead moves to Friday, with the results setting the starting order for a 17-lap dash on the Saturday.
Points will be awarded to the drivers who finish first, second and third in the sprint race. But there will not be a podium ceremony, instead they will be awarded a wreath, per Autosport. The drivers will then take a victory parade of the circuit to celebrate.
Some racers will secure more favourable starting position’s for this Sunday’s British Grand Prix through F1’s new sprint qualifying format. But for Mercedes’ Bottas and Red Bull’s Perez, they may face a more daunting afternoon.
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Perez and Bottas struggle on opening laps
While driving for Racing Point during the 2020 season, Perez lost more places on the first lap of Grands Prix than any other pilot. The Mexican lost a total of 31 positions from lights out to the end of the first tour of the 17 circuits visited, via data collected by RaceFans.net.
Perez’s former teammate, Lance Stroll, meanwhile made up six positions on the opening lap over the course of the season. While the 31-year-old’s current stablemate at Red Bull and 2021 Drivers’ Championship leader, Max Verstappen, gained a combined two spots.
Gaining and maintaining positions will be increasingly vital during a sprint race, when drivers have less time to make up for any errors. Perez has also been inconsistent in qualifying this year, finishing P2 at Mugello, but only P11 in Bahrain, P8 in Spain and P9 in Monaco.
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Sprint qualifying hits at bad time for Bottas
The introduction of a sprint qualifying set-up hits at a bad time for Mercedes driver Bottas. The Finn has turned a corner with his form in recent weeks, claiming P4 in France before back-to-back podiums at the Styrian and Austrian Grand Prix.
Before that, the 31-year-old – who is out of contract at the end of the season – was going nowhere fast. He followed a retirement in Monaco with a disastrous Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Bottas lacked any real pace, and finished outside the points in P12.
Now, Bottas must contend with a sprint race to determine the grid for Sunday’s British GP. But the Finn lost the second-most places on the opening laps throughout 2020, with the nine-time Grand Prix winner dropping 21 spots, per RaceFans.net.
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Giovinazzi to relish sprint qualifying at British GP
But while drivers like Perez and Bottas may fear sprint qualifying, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi should relish the opportunity. No driver gained more places on the opening laps during 2020 than the Italian. He made up a whopping 48 spots, according to RaceFans.net.
Former Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who is no longer competing in F1, gained the second-most places in 2020 with 38. The Danish pilot was followed by Williams’ Nicolas Latifi (+22) and Alfa’s Kimi Raikkonen (+19).
Raikkonen gained a staggering 10 spots on the first lap of the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix alone. The Finn stormed from P16 to sixth-place and claimed, via Formula1.com after the race: “I don’t think the start itself was very good – I lost a place – but then after that, honestly, I thought at one point: ‘What are the others doing?’”
Alfa Romeo will hope Raikkonen starts as strongly on Saturday and maintains his position during the British Grand Prix. The 41-year-old has only scored one point so far in 2021 with tenth-place at the Azerbaijan GP. Teammate Giovinazzi also has one point to his name, claimed with a P10 result in Monaco.
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