Formula One has received many complaints over the years that the racing hasn’t been very exciting, especially in the hybrid era with the dominance of Mercedes. While the 2021 season may have gotten off to a better start with Red Bull leading the standings, F1 continues to experiment with the way a Grand Prix weekend plays out in the hope to find the correct recipe for drama and excitement at the highest level of motorsport. The British Grand Prix will see a new weekend format put on trial as Silverstone will see the first-ever F1 Sprint qualifying race.
The weekend format will see Practice 1 being held on Friday, later followed by Qualifying. The qualifying format will remain the same with Q1, Q2, and Q3 as always. However, Practice 2 will be held on Saturday morning. But Saturday afternoon will see a shortened Sprint Race which will see a few extra points up for grabs but will also decide the grid for the race on Sunday.
At the 2021 Brtish Grand Prix, Friday Qualifying will decide the grid for the Saturday Sprint Race. On Saturday afternoon, a shortened race of 100kms will be held (usual GP Distance: 300kms). The finishing order of this sprint race will decide the grid for the main Grand Prix race on Sunday. The Silverstone race track measures 5.9 kilometres in length. The Saturday Sprint will be a 17 lap race which is expected to last 25-30 minutes.
As the name suggests, the race will see a shortened flat out sprint race to the finish line. There will be no mandatory pit stops during the sprint race. Only if a driver faces a puncture or repairable damage like a front wing or its rains, only then would we see anyone making a pit stop.
Should a driver win the Sprint race, they will be awarded Pole position for the race on Sunday and also in the record books as pole-sitter. The position a driver finishes in the sprint race is the one they will start from on Sunday’s main race. However, should they crash or face technical issues on Saturday, they will be starting from the back of the grid on Sunday.
Additionally, the winner of the sprint race will be awarded three points, second place will be awarded two points and third will get one point added to their championship tally. This means that a maximum of 29 points will be up for grabs this weekend should a driver win the Sprint race, the main race and claim the fastest lap to go home after a perfect weekend.
The drivers will have a free choice of any of the three tyre compounds (Soft, Medium or Hard) for the sprint race. However, Friday qualifying will be limited to using the soft compound tyres for all drivers for all three sessions. That is expected to make an impact on tyre choice and strategy for the sprint race on Saturday.
The race on Sunday will see no change in format. Championship points being awarded to the top 10 finishers will be identical as before as well as the additional point for the fastest lap. However, only one change will be made. During a usual race weekend, the top 10 qualifiers are mandated to start the race on the same set of tyres they used in Q2 in order to qualify into Q3. That will not be the case with the experimental Sprint Race weekend.
It is great to see that Formula One is experimenting and thinking outside the box. F1 looks to be committed to helping elevate the excitement for spectators at the track as well as for the viewers watching from home. However, the current format being experimented may not yield result as a huge breakthrough. The sprint race format is one that is used in lower categories or Formulas of racing. However, in those series of racing, the Grand Prix starting grid flips around the top-10 finishers of the Sprint Race for a reverse grid. The winner starts from 10th, while 10th place starts from pole, 2nd finisher starts from 9th, while 9th starts from 2nd one the grid… and so on. Without a major caveat in place, it may be a processional race on Saturday which will seem like just an extension of the Grand Prix itself.
However, as we applaud the move by Formula One, with a hint of scepticism, we will have to wait and see how the weekend format performs to make our final inferences and impressions. The British Grand Prix will be the first of three race weekends where this format will experiment with this season. So we have two more chances to gauge its viability in the future.
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