The FIA Formula 1 World Championship introduced Saturday sprint races in 2021, originally called “Sprint Qualifying” to distinguish it from the main race on Sunday. The new format was divisive and confusing for fans. Traditional qualifying was still held to determine the starting order for the sprint race, but the sprint’s results would then set the Sunday starting grid and the sprint race winner was credited with a pole position. So, F1 has now decided to make the sprint race a standalone event within a Grand Prix weekend.
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Formula 1’s new Sprint format will see Saturday’s practice session scrapped for a second qualifying session specifically for the sprint race. Friday will still include a free practice session and qualifying for Sunday’s race. Saturday will be solely devoted to the Sprint. The day will open with the Sprint Shootout, the sprint race’s qualifying session, and the Sprint itself. The new qualifying session replaces Saturday’s free practice session. Sunday will be unchanged.
The Sprint Shootout is an abbreviated version of the existing three-round knockout qualifying session. The session will be a half-hour long, compared to an hour long for traditional qualifying. The rules state SQ1 is set to run for 12 minutes, SQ2 for 10 minutes and SQ3 for eight minutes. There will also be a mandate for tire compound usage. Teams will be required to used medium compound tires in Q1 and Q2, and soft compound tires in Q3.
The format changes mirror the sprint race format used in MotoGP and intend to encourage aggressiveness on Saturday. Drivers only longer have their Sunday starting position on the line during the sprint race. Though, grid penalties received during the sprint race will be applied on Sunday. The new format will see its debut at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.