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F1’s New Weekend Format to be Introduced at Azerbaijan Grand Prix

The Sprint Shootout is a new weekend format that will see the removal of a practice session for another qualifying segment to be introduced at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix....

We’ve heard from F1 higher-ups that they are looking to make Grand Prix weekends more exciting. The introduction of sprint races was a controversial addition in 2021, especially amongst some in the paddock, to up the ante on the weekend but it looks like things are being taken a step further with the removal of the Saturday free practice session with another round of qualifying set to replace it.

The previous format for sprint races involved a qualifying session on Friday to determine the grid of the sprint on Saturday, the results of the sprint then determined grid positions for Sunday’s race. The problem teams found with this is that they felt they couldn’t risk overtakes during the sprint for fear of hurting their position in the race. The new format aims to solve that. 

Now, Saturday has been labelled “Sprint Saturday.” Qualifying on Friday (dubbed the “Sprint Shootout”) will now determine the starting grid on Sunday, whilst both the qualifying for the sprint and the sprint itself will be held on Saturday and will not affect the race on Sunday. The idea is that Sprint Saturday is a mini-event in itself. 

The sprint race will be contested over 100km (one-third the distance of a Grand Prix) and qualifying will be much shorter. Q1, Q2, and Q3 will run for 12, 10, and 8 minutes respectively with dedicated tyre compounds for each segment (mediums for Q1 and Q2, softs for Q3).

Points will be distributed the same as before with the top 8 drivers receiving 8 points for P1, down to 1 point for P8.

Reportedly, all the teams mutually agreed upon this format prior to the Australian Grand Prix race.

Previously, the Saturday free practice session during a sprint weekend was considered fairly meaningless as the important set-up decisions had been made ahead of qualifying on Friday (per parc ferme rules). Often drivers didn’t appear much during this session for fear of harming the car just before the sprint, which set the grid for Sunday’s race.

This new format will make the Friday practice sessions far more important, giving the teams only one hour to gather data, tweak set-ups, and understand the car before the race.

Baku will host the first Sprint Shootout, followed by Austria in June, Belgium, Qatar, the United States, and Brazil.

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