F1 bosses to discuss shorter 'sprint' races in place of qualifying to increase entertainment

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Cars on a Formula 1 grid
'Sprint' races might be used more widely in 2022 if successful

Formula 1 bosses are to discuss a new proposal to introduce shorter 'sprint' races in an attempt to increase entertainment levels this season.

Teams and bosses will vote on Thursday on a plan for a shorter race on Saturday, which would define the grid for Sunday's grand prix.

Qualifying for the Saturday race would take place on Friday.

The top eight drivers in the 'sprint' race would earn approximately half the points awarded for the grand prix.

The 'sprint' race would be about 100km - a third the length of a grand prix - and would replace qualifying, which takes place on Saturday afternoon or evening.

Qualifying for the sprint race would replace second practice, which is on Friday afternoon or evening.

The plan - the latest in a series of attempts to introduce sprint races in some form on Saturdays - is to be discussed at a meeting of the F1 Commission of senior figures.

To be passed, it needs a total of 28 out of 30 votes. Governing body the FIA and commercial rights holder F1 have 10 each, and the 10 teams one apiece.

Previous plans have not received the necessary support but this one has dropped the proposal for a reverse grid for the sprint race. Mercedes, who blocked the plan for a reverse-grid sprint race, are said to be open-minded on the new proposal.

F1 president Stefano Domenicali said in a news conference last week: "Reverse grid is over. It's important to think of new ideas of being more attractive or interesting but we don't have to lose the traditional approach of racing.

"When we changed qualifying every couple of days [at the start of 2016], it burned our fingers. Now, the formula is quite stable. We are looking at what could be the approach of the so-called sprint race on Saturday. We are thinking that could be tested maybe this year."

Three races have been chosen as potential venues for a trial this year on the basis that they should provide fast and exciting racing - Canada, Italy and Brazil.

If they were a success, the idea would be used more widely in 2022.

F1 hopes the idea would raise interest for the audience, as Friday practice sessions tend only to be watched by avid fans.

The plan should be seen as part of a wider attempt by F1 to increase the value of the business significantly over the next five years.

However, it remains to be seen whether teams will accept the idea.

One potential sticking point is that, according to sources, F1 is proposing only an extra $75,000 (£55,000) per team per race to cover the new approach.

This is nowhere near enough to cover the costs of any damage to cars in the shorter race - a front wing alone can cost as much as $200,000.

There is also scepticism in some quarters as to whether a sprint race would provide the excitement some expect.

Some insiders have raised questions as to whether teams and drivers would be risk-averse during the sprint race, as the penalty for having a problem or not finishing is so high when far more points are given out in the main Grand Prix.

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