The Pros And Cons Of Sprint Races: What We've Learned So Far
Do I have permission to call it a race?
Now that we have officially completed the first Sprint Race weekend and format in Formula 1, it is time we revise and analyze the positives taken away, as well as the controversial negatives that came with it. This is going to be very interesting... interesting isn't even the correct word for this uncanny situation. This past weekend, Formula has introduced and debuted the well-known concept of Sprint Races at the well-waited and iconic British Grand Prix, held at no other than Silverstone. The idea of bringing Sprint Races into the pinnacle of motorsport that is Formula 1, has been a major talking point and arguing topic for the past year or so. With a Friday Qualifying, and a Sprint Race Saturday, the back and forth opinionated fans finally got the chance to see what these Sprint Races were all about, and the reactions are surprisingly mixed...
Lewis Hamilton gained his fightback on Friday qualifying for the Sprint Race, being the fastest time and driver overall, starting from first position on Saturday. We all expected Red Bull to blast past the silver arrows and take so-called "pole", but Hamilton was able to capture P1 in front of his screaming and enthusiastic home crowd in Britan. The drivers felt the presence of qualifying on Friday, explaining their positive feelings after the third session that they actually enjoy this format on Friday, instead of practice sessions all day. A lot of drivers saw the Sprint Race as a second chance to their qualifying performance, where they could hopefully do better the next day.
"Extending" or bringing more excitement to the traditional weekend format has always been in the back of Formula 1's head, even though it may seem like Formula 1 already has that "wow" factor, Formula 1's managing director, Ross Brawn, thinks it needed a bit more pazazz. And now, after the 17-lap race, Ross has divulged his feelings that haven't changed. Brawn has described the opening lap of Formula 1's first sprint race at Silverstone "nail-biting" and "sensational" and that the response from the fans was positive. This is the first time Formula 1 has tried out a Sprint Race, and it looks like they are happy with how the 17-lap race played out.
"We won't be changing the fundamental format this year. And I think after the three races, we can sit down and decide where we go from here. But so far, very positive."
However, Ross still takes into consideration that they have to read and see what the fans feedback is about the Sprint Race, whether it’s positive or not. "But there will be fans who make some comments, and maybe there's bits they didn't understand, or they didn't appreciate. We'll take that into account as well.
"I think we've got to look at the weekend overall. We need to view the weekend overall to see, because I don't see anything we've done which takes away from a normal weekend. I think it's all additive.” Brawn told Motorsport.com
Giving the drivers a second chance to redeem themselves is also a massive positive to Sprint Races. Drivers like Fernando Alonso, who didn't just do good, but absolutely annihilated all the drivers in front of him during the start, gained 6 places in only the first half of the lap. Yes, he went from 11th to 5th in one lap, if that isn't the old passionate Alonso then I dont know what is. Daniel Ricciardo gained one place, as Carlos Sainz fell back the grid with great speed after a spin, but was able to lash out his inner beast and gain places like no other. Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel also proved himself that day, gaining a couple of places as well. Lewis Hamilton might have started first, but at the end of the race, it was Max who was Formula 1's first Sprint Race pole sitter.
For people who don't qualify as well, or for drivers where qualifying isn't their strong suit, Sprint Races are great because those drivers are able to work their way up the grid by doing the stuff they are good at, which are race starts and races themselves. Drivers this season such as Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, and so on, are able to make up a couple of places due to sprints. This opportunity gives these drivers the chance to redeem themselves, and make up for their performance on Friday. The Australian was able to make a huge step in qualifying and doubled that with the Sprint Race. However, nothing is guaranteed in Sprint Races, which brings me to my next point.
There are a lot of strong opinions out there about Sprint Races, but there is no doubt that there are also quite a few negatives that come with it. Starting off with the most obvious which is if spun, crashed, or collided with at a Sprint Race, you will ruin your qualifying position and start last for the race. We saw this with two drivers during the Sprint Race, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz. Sainz had contact with another car, falling down the grid, even though the Spaniard was able to gain a lot of places, for Checo Perez that was a completely different story. The Mexican spun his car and caressed the barrier, and since there was no mandatory pit stop, the 2-time race winner didn't have time and fell back. Checo then came in to retire his car before the Sprint Race ended, since there was no point in pushing his damaged car while sitting in 20th position. Sprint qualifying can be unfortunate for many drivers and teams because it can make or ruin their race on Sunday.
Another con of Sprint Races is changing the sports DNA and traditional qualifying schedule for no reason at all. There has always been a constant back and forth fight about this topic, that Sprint Races are changing the DNA of Formula 1 when it didn't have to be changed in the first place. And it's not just fans that are arguing against this, Sebastian Vettel claimed it unnecessary as well, while expanding his dislike alongside Nico Rosberg last weekend. Formula 1 World Champions Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel have condemned the decision to award pole position at the British Grand Prix to the winner of the Sprint Race. Instead of pole position being awarded to the fastest driver during qualifying like it's always been, pole position is now awarded to the first-place finisher in the Sprint Race. This doesn't sit well with Vettel and Rosberg.
"Pole is the fastest lap time achieved, or the fastest lap time in qualifying," Vettel, a big lover of Formula 1's history said.
"It's a new discipline, so they didn't have it 50 years ago, and now we have it. So then we just add a new column to the statistics," closed off the Aston Martin driver who has 57 poles in his career so far.
Now-retired 1-time Formula 1 World Champion, Nico Rosberg, also added his feelings about these new Sprint Races. "This is not the right decision. Pole 100% has to go to the fastest guy in qualifying. The sprint race winner should not be awarded pole position. That will totally cannibalise the historic F1 statistics," Nico said.