Formula 1’s new Sprint Qualifying race weekends will produce more exciting action because teams will have less time to prepare, says race director Michael Masi.
The series approved the new format for introduction earlier this week. Silverstone will host the first of three Sprint Qualifying weekends at the British Grand Prix in July.
Under the new format, a normal qualifying session will be held on Friday in place of second practice. This will set the starting order for a 100 kilometre race on Saturday, which will take place after a second practice session. This Sprint Qualifying race will decide the grid for the grand prix.
In a year when practice has been reduced by an hour at every race, teams will lose a further hour of running during Sprint Qualifying weekends, and have just 60 minutes of practice before qualifying on Friday. Masi said this is one of the most important aspects of the new format.
“The new format will be something a little bit different because there will be less track time for the teams leading up to qualifying,” he said. “So that’s one element that will have an area of teams possibly not being as well prepared or refined as they would be normal qualifying.
“And then having that excitement of a Sprint Qualifying race start on Saturday, which is something we haven’t seen in Formula 1. And then the progression from there into the grand prix on Sunday, I think we’ll add just a different element strategically from the teams’ end in particular.”
Masi said the new format was an example of the FIA working successfully with Formula 1, the teams and drivers. “F1, the FIA, the teams and drivers all work together very much for the benefit of Formula 1,” he said. “That happens at each and every event.”
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“A prime example of that has been the collaboration in developing the sprint qualifying regulations,” Masi added. “It’s an exciting initiative for the sport to trial a different and new format and something that we’ve all worked together on to achieve the best outcome.
“I’m really looking forward to the first event where Sprint Qualifying takes place just to see a completely different format in an F1 world and how everyone adapts to that.”
However Lewis Hamilton was unfamiliar with the plans when asked about them yesterday. “Honestly, I don’t really know much about it,” he said. “I don’t really know anything about it.”
The seven-times champion has previously called on F1 to vary its event structure at different venues. “I’ve always said that we need to have some sort of different format at certain races through the year,” he said. “There are some tracks, particularly places like Monaco for example, which is beautiful to be at but it’s it’s not an exciting race necessarily.
“So I like that they’re being open-minded, they’re making changes, and I think from those experimental kind of weekends, I think hopefully the sport will learn lots on how we can deploy better races moving forwards.”
Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle praised F1’s innovation, which will also be used at the Italian Grand Prix and one further round this year.
“We are incredibly excited that Silverstone fans will be the first to experience the Formula 1 sprint qualifying format at this year’s British Grand Prix,” he said.
“We have not seen such a major timetable shake up in the sport for years and I appreciate the continued efforts being made by Formula 1 and the FIA to enhance the entertainment on track giving our spectators even more to look forward to this July.”