Formula One to adopt trio of sprint qualifying races in 2021 season
Teams understood to have come to agreement on potential financial implications of move
The F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 28th. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Formula One is expected to soon confirm it will adopt three sprint qualifying races this season as a test for the format. The teams are understood to have come to an agreement on the potential financial implications of the move and an announcement is expected shortly, once the remaining technical details are ironed out. The decision could be confirmed as early as the next round at Imola next weekend.
The proposal of hosting a sprint race to replace qualifying on a Saturday has been under discussion for some time. F1’s owners, Liberty Media, were keen to try the new format as a way on providing greater spectacle for fans and with the finishing order deciding the grid for the grand prix on Sunday potentially mixing up the pecking order of the teams.
There had been considerable debate on the subject, with the teams willing to give it a try but intent on ensuring that its implementation was acceptable. The format adopted and intended to be trialled this season at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos, would consist of a race of approximately one-third race distance, about 100km. The grid for the sprint will be decided by a qualifying session on Friday. A small number of points will be awarded but principally it will decide the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.
One of the major concerns for the teams was that it would have serious financial implications, especially in the first year that a budget cap has been imposed. The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, made clear his concerns at the season-opener in Bahrain.
“What we can’t ignore is that to run and operate these cars is extremely expensive,” he said. “We need to find a solution how to combat that, in particular in a season where the budget cap is having a significant impact on how we operate.”
Those financial concerns have now been resolved. Agreement has been reached on meeting the extra costs and to cover potential damage incurred. Details on tyre usage and the adjustment to the DRS usage to increase overtaking remain under discussion. A formal agreement is expected within weeks, either at Imola or the following Portuguese Grand Prix.
F1 and the teams have been in agreement that the races, to be known as “spring qualifying” do not detract from the grand prix on a Sunday. F1’s new chief executive, Stefano Domenicali, insisted that: “We do not want to take away the prestige of the grand prix itself. That will remain the climax of the weekend.” There will be no podium ceremony and it will not count as a “grand prix” win.
With the Australian and Chinese GPs postponed already this year, Imola was drafted in to host its second GP in two years next week for the rather ungainly-named Gran Premio Del Made In Italy E Dell’emilia Romagna. The circuit returned to the calendar in 2020 after an absence of 13 years.