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MOTORSPORTS | May 15, 2023

A New Era for F1: What to Expect from Sprint Weekends

Exploring the Ins and Outs of F1 Sprint Qualifying

Formula 1 purists aren’t in support, but the latest F1 news regarding Sprint Qualifying is here to stay, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

But Dave, what the f*ck is F1 Sprint Qualifying? You may ask. Fear not; I’m here to dig a little deeper as we uncover the reality of sprint qualifying and the latest changes while evaluating whether it’s a positive decision for the sport overall.

A New Era for F1: What to Expect from Sprint Weekends
Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen | Natalia kolesnikova / afp

How We Got Here

The F1 Sprint isn’t new. In fact, 2023 will mark the third consecutive year we’ll witness the adrenaline-fueled format. However, altercations have been made and said adjustments address the key concerns drivers, teams, and fans have previously had.

Qualifying F1 news today hasn’t been as relevant since 2016’s Elimination format, but we know that shi* didn’t last long.

Unlike the elimination style, Sprint actually has some fans. But before you determine which side of the fence you’re on, let’s get to grips with what it is.

Ok, Dave, Get to the Point: What Is F1 Sprint?

The OG F1 Sprint format introduced a second, shorter race, thus providing less work for everyone involved ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix – hoping to deliver significant action for the GP itself. Qualifying was moved from Saturday to Friday, as the hour-long session would determine the grid for the Sprint.

The Sprint results would then dictate Sunday’s starting positions – the Sprint’s winning driver takes pole – and if drivers crashed or retired, they’d start at the back. In addition, drivers who finished within the top eight of the Sprint would score points.

Practice one occurred on Friday before qualifying, with Practice Two on Saturday morning before the Sprint. I know! If there was a simple explanation, trust me, I’d give it to you. We’re nearly there…

What’s Different From Last Year’s F1 Sprint?

The key difference in this year’s F1 Sprint is that Saturday’s shorter race will no longer decide the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Instead, Sunday’s grid will be determined by Friday’s qualifying session.

If the words are hurting your brain, as they did mine, here’s a simplistic overview:

  • Friday’s qualifiers determine the final grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix
  • The Sprint Shootout on Saturday has been added, mainly for entertainment purposes
  • Saturday is self-contained and resembles a full race weekend but scaled-down

And What About Pole Position?

Whichever driver owns the fastest time on Friday will take pole position on Sunday. A brand new, even shorter qualifying session – the Sprint Shootout – has been added to Saturday’s schedule, and Practice Two has been removed entirely. As a result, the Sprint and its qualifying Shootout is a separate entity from the main Grand Prix.

Why Though?

If we tear it back to the bare bones, it’s nothing more than an attempt at enhancing the overall spectacle of a Sprint weekend. As the Sprint is no longer attached to the Grand Prix grid, it should encourage drivers to take more risks during the 100km race because accidents won’t affect them on Sunday.

What Does the Champ Think?

F1 rumors aren’t as joyous unless the champ is giving his opinion. Ahead of the debut of the newly formatted Sprint Weekend, Max Verstappen gave his opinion: “This track is normally quite chaotic, and this will only make it more chaotic.”

Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso said it was “more challenging and stressful.” As for Lewis Hamilton, “It feels like the most exciting weekend so far this year.” A mixed bag of reviews, which is pretty much identical across the board. Whether it’s the opinion of teams or fans, it’s either loved or hated.

Azerbaijan Sprint: How Did It Go?

If drama was the goal, F1 is undoubtedly achieving this via the Sprint Shootout so far. The newly applied format debuted in Baku last weekend. And for those sports betting on the current champion in the Saturday Sprint, you’ll also hold a little hate in your heart for George Russell as Max Verstappen did when left with a hole in his Red Bull.

Who said Red Bull gives you wings?

They lied. Verstappen had no wings with his Red Bull; otherwise, this wouldn’t have happened. He did call George Russell a dic*head, though. Sounds like the perfect start to a Sprint Shootout to me.

Are you not entertained!? The Sprint Shootout and Sprint qualifying as a whole may provide little value in the Championship, but if we continue being fed the drama-filled moments such as the Verstappen/Russel moment in Baku, I’m here for it.

F*ck it; when these situations arise, let’s remove the helmets and see who gets dropped first – NHL style. The Sprint Shootout can become the Sprint Knockout; what do you think?

2023 F1 Sprint Qualifying Schedule in 2023

  • Azerbaijan Grand Prix – April 29
  • Austrian Grand Prix – July 1
  • Belgian Grand Prix – July 29
  • Qatar Grand Prix – October 7
  • US Grand Prix – October 21
  • Sao Paulo Grand Prix – November 4

See ya later… I’m out!

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