Will a Saturday 'Sprint Qualifying' work for Formula 1?
Can this new format work in F1?
There is always a lot of talk and discussions in F1 about how the sport is going to move forward and what is the best way to make the sport more exciting in the future. One of the main discussions at the minutes is of course the new 'Sprint Qualifying' format which, this week, was agreed to be possibly going ahead at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos, with some points awarded for this 30-minute race. However, will a deviation from the traditional qualifying format do more harm than good?
Let's take a look at what this new format is proposing. As Sky Sports F1 reports, the new format at these three Grands Prix will see traditional qualifying now take place on a Friday, deciding the grid for Saturday's 'sprint qualifying' race. This will be a short 100km race which will then decide the starting grid for Sunday's main Grand Prix. I can understand why it is being looked at as a means to get more racing in on the overall weekend but I fear that this will pull away from what was always the main attraction in Formula 1, the Sunday, the main race.
It is only something the sport is trying for now, but it is believed that if such a format is successful this year, that it could be implemented into further race weekends within the next few seasons. It's worth trying but I am unconvinced that it will be as successful as proposed. I remember when the elimination qualifying was introduced in 2016. It initially sounded great on paper, but was a disaster come the opening qualifying session in Melbourne, and by the time the second session was held in Bahrain, the format was scrapped.
There is also the concern for the teams, who are worried about what two races over one weekend could do in terms of needing to increase spending. Multiple sources have confirmed that teams have agreed to a financial package in order to cover for these races, but a final vote on the matter could take a number of weeks before the decision is official. Teams were also concerned about any incidents or accidents on a Saturday that could enforce more work on teams to be fully ready for Sunday's race but honestly, traditional qualifying holds just as many risks in terms of a major breakdown or accident, so there isn't really much to lose there.
I am a person who doesn't exactly like change in F1, but I'm just not sure about this new format. Sure, an extra race over a weekend sounds great, but I do agree with drivers such as Daniel Ricciardo, where a possible sprint race win for a driver or team could be seen as less of an achievement than a traditional Grand Prix win. Should a driver or team who are usually not in contention somehow take a sprint race win over a given weekend, will it be seen as good as a full-length race win?
Thinking back to Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez's respective wins at Monza and Sakhir last year, they were very special wins. They were special because these two drivers, who had never won a Grand Prix before, drove their hearts out and took the opportunities presented to them in what was, two exceptionally brilliant races. If the length is shortened and somehow such a result happens again, it won't be seen as special as these two wins or any other amazing wins that we have had in recent years of F1.
The reason why sprint races or even reverse grids work in lower categories such as F2 and F3 is that the cars are basically identical. It is really up to the driver to make a difference and if even a championship contender takes the win, you know they worked hard to get into that position. In F1 it is quite different given how the overall performance varies between the teams, so you have to ask will a Saturday sprint race even make a difference when it comes to a Mercedes or Red Bull coming home ahead?
Of course, it is worth giving it a go, I just can't help being a little apprehensive about it. If it provides more excitement and gives us some good racing over the course of a race weekend then sure, go for it. If it starts becoming a bit engineered and maybe thought less of Sunday's Grand Prix race, then is it the way to go forward?
What do you think about F1's new 'Sprint Qualifying' format? Let us know in the comments below!