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F1 ponders standalone Sprint events

NEWS STORY
11/09/2021

F1 MD, Ross Brawn has revealed that the sport is pondering making Sprint races standalone events that would no longer decide the grid for the Grand Prix.

Ahead of the second trial of the new format, the proposed revised format would see more points on offer while pole for Sunday's Grand Prix would be decided by Friday's qualifying session.

While fans, drivers and teams remain unsure of the whole Sprint concept, the move comes as no surprise as F1 bosses seek to monetise almost every aspect of the sport.

While the current format is still being trialled, the fact is that other than the opportunities that were opened up at Silverstone by drivers given a free choice of tyres, not to mention Max Verstappen getting a valuable insight into Hamilton's start tactics, the format didn't make much difference to the overall order come Sunday afternoon.

Furthermore, whilst carefully avoiding use of the word 'race' in terms of the Sprint, a standalone event would surely eat into the 'purity' of the Grand Prix, not only in terms of points, but essentially going for quantity over quality.

"I think that will be probably the key issue, whether we make another step and make it standalone," Brawn told Motorsport.com. "I think that we'll have to look at the number of points awarded, and how do we determine the starting grid. So should it just be what was done on Friday?

"As you know, Perez dropped out at Silverstone," he continued, referring to the Sprint, "and then obviously his Sunday race was heavily compromised. So should we determine the starting order on Friday for both Saturday and Sunday?

"There's a number of things we can do, and number of ways we could do it," he added. "I think that's being studied at the moment.

"There are some ideas, and we'll present them to the FIA and the teams and go from there."

Interestingly, Brawn suggests that it was the drivers - many of whom have previously raised concerns about the Sprint (race) diluting the 'value' of the Grand Prix - who suggested a standalone race.

"We had a chat with the drivers after Silverstone, and they were broadly positive with lots of constructive comments," said the Briton. "I think, as a number of people have raised, they raised the issue of pole position. They raised the issue of perhaps the event being more standalone, rather than being a sequential event with qualifying and then the race."

With the jury still out on the whole Sprint concept - though F1 appears determined to press ahead with it - Brawn insists that once decided there will be just one format.

"I don't think it will be a mixture," he said. "I think if we start varying things too much it can be a little bit confusing for our fans. So I imagine it's going to be one format."

While, in a further bid to differentiate from the Grand Prix, the Silverstone post-Sprint celebrations were fairly muted, consisting of a victory on a flat-bed truck - replete with sponsors logos - a standalone event could involve a more traditional celebration.

"We're trying to strike a balance between not cannibalising the main event, the race," he said. "The race is the big event, but we want to have something which is a bit of fun, and relevant and respectful. So we will modify it, and there will be a trimmed down version.

"I think also one thing that caught the teams slightly on the hop - and it's difficult in these COVID times - but I don't think most was made of the grid opportunity. The grid was a bit quiet. We do have our COVID protocols to follow so it's not easy, but there's things there that can be done.

"Then behind the scenes, obviously having parc ferme on a Friday evening took a bit of time. So there's some operational things that we would like to improve upon."

"After the very first time we had the sprint qualifying race this season we were all positive," said Ferrari boss, Mattia Binotto, "and I think that as a first attempt it was certainly interesting.

"We said at first we should try to conclude the experiment before to have a final judgement," he added. "Obviously here in Monza is the second attempt and we will have a third one this season.

"I think honestly it is too early to decide," he admitted. "I think that certainly having the qualifying on a Friday, having only one hour for the drivers to be prepared for it and turning then into a parc ferme is something that is interesting because it jeopardises somehow the overall balance between the teams. So in favour generally speaking and I'm pretty sure we can address it in terms of details, there are things that can be improved.

"But I think those ones... again, we can be open-minded to discuss with F1, FIA and the other teams but I think we can only do it when the three races and the full experiment will be concluded.

"I am very happy to hear that there are different proposals, like for example from drivers, that the qualifying on Friday is setting the grid on Sunday and having a mini race on Saturday with the inverse grid based compared the he championship, whatever ideas can be interesting but I think it is too early to judge and decide."

Asked if he favoured the concept of a reverse grid for the Sprint, he replied: "I like it. I like it because I think for the show and spectacle it can be of interest.

"At the very start of the discussion of the mini race format as Ferrari we were the one proposing it. Because I think whatever is your position in the classification somehow that's bringing some extra spectacle and that's important for our fans and it's important for the entertainment that F1 may offer."

"I think the new format is a good idea because we now have on Friday a highlight with the qualifying and Saturday is sprint qualifying and on Sunday the race," added Franz Tost, "but of course we always must do everything that the highlight of the weekend must be the race on Sunday and I think the current format which we have, this is the sprint qualifying, is a good possibility of cover all this.

"I don't think it's a good solution for every race track but... because in Monaco or Budapest it would become difficult because of the overtaking situation but generally I'm in favour of this new format.

"How we do it, in detail, with the sprint... yeah, something we have to discuss but once more, the race on Sunday must stay there, absolutely the highlight."

"We all agreed, a couple of months ago, when the FOM proposed the sprint race, to do the test on three different tracks, to do a live experiment," said Alfa Romeo's Frederic Vasseur, "and I think it makes sense to go until the end of the test because it went pretty well in Silverstone.

"We need to have a look at what could happen in Monza and then on another track in Sao Paulo and then we will see if we have to change it or not, but I think that it will make sense to have a look at what we are doing, how it's working and then to decide to change after."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Monza, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by elsiebc, 15/09/2021 15:10

"The sprint itself finds favor because it's unencumbered by rules, as kenji points out. You know, like how F1 used to be."

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2. Posted by TokyoAussie, 15/09/2021 4:39

"I am not a fan of the "sprint." But I accept, regrettably, that it will be introduced. They want to have a 3rd high-profile TV session in addition to qualifying and the race. Nothing to do with the racing, mind you, only the TV pitch. They're still trying to squeeze more blood from a stone."

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3. Posted by kenji, 12/09/2021 2:00

"From a personal POV I really enjoy the sprint racing. I like the fact that there are some freedoms as well...such a free tyre choice which is a good start. No enforced pit stops are great as well. It's a bit like it's a great entre/starter dish..to be followed by a very satisfactory main meal. I have no problem ATM with making this standard fare for a substantial number of races in the future. Afterall it's our favourite drivers doing what they do best ...race. How can anyone not be happy with this...."

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