F1 confirms major race weekend shake-up at three 2021 rounds
- Qualifying sprint races to be held at three events this year
- Points to be awarded to top three drivers in qualifying sprints
- FIA President Jean Todt applauds collaboration between major stakeholders
Formula One has announced major weekend format changes at three rounds of this year’s championship, including the much talked about Saturday ‘sprint races’.
The changes will come into effect at the British, Italian and potentially the Brazilian Grands Prix, though the staging of the latter may potentially be affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
All Formula One teams and championship bosses have approved the new format, a requirement when large alterations such as these are considered.
Sprint races to form the grid for the main Grand Prix have long been touted, and with Liberty Media (F1’s owners) keen to expand audience reach and increase excitement levels, changes were always likely.
The new format for the three rounds will see qualifying moved to Friday afternoon, taking place after the opening practice session of the weekend. Qualifying will be in the usual knockout format, but will instead decide the grid for the new 100 kilometre sprint race to be held on Saturday afternoon, after a second hour-long practice session.
The results of the sprint race, designated ‘Sprint Qualifying’ will decide the grid for the main event, Sunday’s Grand Prix. Championship points will also be awarded in sprint qualifying, with first place claiming three points, second earning two points and third place a single point.
The Grand Prix on Sunday will retain its usual distance and full points allocation.
F1 has traditionally used a qualifying session as a means to deciding the starting grid for Grands Prix since its creation in 1950, though free practice results have occasionally decided grids on occasions where qualifying was unable to be held, due to bad weather for example.
Changes to the Parc Ferne regulations used in F1 after qualifying will be made for the three events. This regulation stops teams from creating special qualifying cars, and limits the number of hours required for preparing cars.
A basic Parc Ferme will come into effect after qualifying on Friday at these events, though a full Parc Ferme will only apply after Saturday’s sprint qualifying race. This will allow minor changes to be made to the cars before the Saturday action commences, for example weight distribution can be changed and cooling elements can be altered should ambient temperatures change considerably.
Jean Todt, President of the FIA (F1’s governing body), approves of the changes and applauded the collaboration between the sport’s key figures.
I am pleased to see that Formula 1 is seeking new ways to engage with its fans and enlarge the spectacle of a race weekend through the concept of Sprint Qualifying. It was made possible thanks to the continued collaboration between the FIA, Formula 1, and all of the teams.
F1 is showing itself to be stronger than ever with all stakeholders working together in this way, and much has been done to ensure that the Sporting, Technical and Financial aspects of the format are fair.
Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1, added:
We are excited by this new opportunity that will bring our fans an even more engaging race weekend in 2021. 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.
Silverstone is optimistic of a considerable crowd at this year’s event, meaning that British fans could be the first to see these sweeping changes.
A sprint race winner will not be classified in the record books as a Grand Prix race winner, though any points earned will go towards each driver’s end of year total in the championship standings.
Richard Randle is a motorsport PR professional working with the UK’s top racing circuits and the UK’s premier single-seater category, the BRDC British F3 Championship.