Why F1 Could Be Heading for Disappointment With the Sprint Race Format?

Published 04/27/2021, 6:17 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy – April 18, 2021 A picture of Ayrton Senna is seen in the stands during the race REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini


After a year-long discussion amongst the panel, F1 finally made the announcement that the 2021 season will witness significant tweaks to three of the race weekends, which are yet to be decided.

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While Saturday’s qualifying session will see itself pushed back to Friday, the sprint race is set to squeeze into the first day of the weekend following a 60-minute practice session in the morning.

The cars will run over the course of 100 km, and the final results of the race will set up the grid for the subsequent main race on Sunday.

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From the standpoint of considering the hybrid era, this could look like a much-needed changeover, as F1 has lacked substantial on-track battles until this point. Instead, strategies turned out to be a much bigger priority. However, what’s concerning is that there could be more cons haunting the sprint race.

Potential end to standard F1 procedure

F1 has been following the process of qualifying on Saturday and ultimately the main race on Sunday for decades now. And there is always a reason why this particular procedure has always received a thumbs-up amongst the entire F1 community.

Friday’s practice sessions provide a tinge of clue on what to expect from the respective teams over the rest of the weekend. Eventually, the qualifying session arrives, where the target has always remained in the pole position, with no room for error.

Formula One F1 – Bahrain Grand Prix – Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain – March 28, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the race Pool via REUTERS/Lars Baron TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Ultimately, it is race day. One can never describe the excitement and emotions that run through an F1 fan when the cars line up on the grid. Heart pounds as each red light appears, and as they go off, spectators remain on foot until the cars race into the first corner.

But with an additional race to a weekend, the amount of attention and prioritization that the main race receives might take a step back. Teams will start giving more concern to the sprint race, as the shorter format, too, offers points, like the main race.

Main race wins may no longer feel deserving

With the recent makeovers into play, one might struggle to find a difference between winning the main race and the sprint race. The drivers are no longer going to endure the special feeling of lifting the trophy after finishing on the podium over Sunday’s race.

We’ve seen the emotions that run through an F1 driver when he finally gets to stand on the top step after a long wait. Wins are not meant for every driver, and that has remained the logic in F1 for years.

For instance, 2020 witnessed two new drivers secure a race win – Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – Sparks fly behind Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Sakhir at Bahrain International Circuit in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

And the way the two celebrated their wins was quite emotional to watch. It is the rarity of such events that makes the sport more exciting than ever.

But with F1’s attempt to bunch up the grid, the value of the term ‘race win’ might go down the drain, with most of the drivers likely possessing a victory under their record in the coming years.

F1 cost cap coming into play

F1 initialized the concept of cost cap over the 2021 F1 season, amongst the teams. The teams are no longer allowed to spend their funding freely like in the past, as their budget has now been limited.

Hence, one minor on-track accident could put a car or an entire team on the back foot. And that concerns have so far remained restricted to the main race. The Valtteri Bottas incident in Imola last weekend ended up showing how the cost cap could affect the entire team.

However, now that sprint races are set to join the weekend, the threat of collisions has gone up a notch.

What’s more, with more running on the cards, the reliability issues could become a bigger issue for the teams. And this will force the teams to downplay their efforts for the upgrades to their cars. Instead, they will start focusing on managing their budget and keeping themselves on foot amidst a closely packed grid.

And the much bigger racing calendar is doing no good either. Hence, if F1 decides to make sprint races an essential part of a weekend, the teams are going to demand a much higher cost cap, with big teams likely demanding an overwhelming rise to help gain a leap of advantage over the R&D phase.

Is F1 losing its legacy?

Yes, seems to be the right answer by the looks of it. There is no denying that Liberty Media have done a prodigious job in reviving the sport back to life following their takeover from Bernie Ecclestone.

However, recent events have hinted that the owners may now be losing the plot, and their focus has gone from maintaining the sport’s heritage to expanding the fandom.

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It all started with F1 extending their brand all over the world, by initiating talks with quite a lot of countries into hosting a Grand Prix. However, the problem is that most of the circuits have been street circuits, rather than proper racing tracks.

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With enough street circuits already on the calendar, including the likes of Melbourne, Sochi, Azerbaijan, Singapore, and Monaco, F1 has now roped in Saudi Arabia and Miami into the list as well. To add to these woes, now it’s the changes to the race weekend.

Let’s hear it from you, though. Are you looking forward to the sprint race? Do you think F1 will pull off in this seemingly unnecessary gamble?

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Rohit Kumar

1167 articles

Rohit Kumar is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. He has been an ardent follower of the racing series since 2007, with his love for the sport coinciding with his love for Kimi Raikkonen. He is also an ardent follower of Sebastian Vettel and Aston Martin Racing.

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