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F1 Announce New Sprint Saturday Format

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

Credits - Aziz Karimov/Getty Images

The Formula 1 sprint format sees yet more tweaking, with an extra qualifying session added on the Saturday to ensure more flat-out racing across the weekend.

The sprint format, introduced in 2021, is a 100 km dash that sets the grid for the main race on Sunday. The format was initially trialled on three race weekends. Qualifying for the Saturday sprint took place on Friday evening, and the sprint race took place on Saturday evening, around the time slot for qualifying sessions on a regular race weekend.

With pit stops taken out of the equation, and lighter fuel loads in the cars, the concept behind the sprint race was to go all-out, in an attempt to get a better starting position for the grand event on Sunday. With points initially being awarded to the top three finishers, it also added as an incentive for those starting in higher positions to earn some extra points, which could prove to be crucial later in the season.

For 2022, points were awarded to the top eight, the winner getting eight points, while eighth place would receive one point. No point was awarded for the fastest lap. With new regulations coming into play, the sprint events saw more racing action than from the year before, with cars being able to follow closer for longer.

However, there was still a major issue to be sorted out: As the sprint race results decided the grid order for Sunday’s race, drivers were keen to play it cautious, as they preferred not to risk a big shunt into the barriers just for a better starting position. Add on to this the fact that a setback in the sprint race could come to bite you on race day, as was the case for Sergio Perez at Silverstone in the inaugural sprint event, and drivers were keen to hold position for the duration of the race.

However, that is set to change for this season; sprint races in 2023 will see an additional Sprint Shootout session on Saturday decide the order for the Sprint race later in the day. This will be a shortened qualifying session. SQ1 is set to run for 12 minutes, all drivers mandated to use the medium tyres for the session. SQ2 will run for 10 minutes, all drivers mandated to use the medium tyre compound for this session as well. And finally, the top ten will progress to SQ3, and all drivers must use the soft tyre compound for the session. This order will be for the sprint, while Friday’s qualifying session will set the grid order for Sunday’s race.

This change will make the sprint a standalone event within the race weekend format, points being awarded to the top eight, as was the case in 2022. The rest of the weekend remains the same, with FP1 kicking off proceedings on the track, followed by the qualifying session for Sunday’s race. Sprint events will take place on Saturday, while the main race is on Sunday.

Furthermore, any penalties taken in the Sprint Shootout apply only to the Sprint race. Penalties taken during qualifying or FP1 will apply to Sunday’s race, while penalties from the sprint race will apply to Sunday’s race.

The F1 Commission Meeting approved the format on Tuesday, while also increasing the number of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), Turbochargers, MGU-H, and MGU-K components from three to four for the 2023 season.

As announced prior to the season’s commencement, the sprint events confirmed for the 2023 F1 season are at Azerbaijan, Austria, Spa-Francorchamps, Qatar, Austin, and Brazil.

What are your thoughts on the new sprint weekend format? Do let us know in the comments section below.


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