All Formula 1 teams have agreed an updated Sprint format that will see two races from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend onwards, with Saturdays becoming a standalone event with a separate qualifying session.
To address concerns that the FP2 session on a Saturday morning was largely pointless during a Sprint weekend — taking place after Friday’s qualifying so cars were under parc ferme conditions — the format change has been discussed to replace FP2 with a competitive session.
Now, FP1 will be followed by Friday qualifying to set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix, with Saturday becoming solely about the Sprint. A morning qualifying session will follow a similar format to the usual Q1/Q2/Q3 schedule but with shorter timings so that only one lap is possible in Q3, and that will set the grid for the Sprint that same day that will carry the same points as previously.
The intention is to encourage drivers and teams to be more aggressive in the Sprint race as there are no starting order repercussions for the grand prix, and Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur says it was a rare occasion where all teams wanted the change.
“For once I think all the teams were aligned — it’s not very often that it’s the case so we have to jump on it!” Vasseur said when asked about the new format by RACER. “For sure the format is more dynamic and you can discuss about doing it so late but at the end of the day I think if we’re all aligned, then we have to push for it.
“I like the format. I’m not a big fan of the usual FP2 — sometimes it’s a bit boring. Not for us, because we have a lot of data but I can imagine for the spectators and even for you (media) if you don’t know about the level of fuel, the engine mode and so on it’s probably a bit boring — and to try to have something more dynamic during the weekend is a good decision.
“On the other end it’s true that if you watch football you’re not watching the session on Wednesday when they are training in the stadium. We are probably the only sport where we are putting the training session on TV…”
The changes have to be approved by the World Motor Sport Council and a Formula 1 Commission vote on April 25, three days before the race weekend in Baku gets underway.