Start, Silverstone, 2020

Should Formula 1 trial sprint races during 2021?

2021 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Formula 1’s plan to trial three sprint races during its upcoming season – which starts in just 43 days’ time – is moving ahead at pace.

The F1 Commission agreed this week to form a working group to investigate a “new qualifying format”. As RaceFans revealed previously, Formula 1 favours introducing Saturday sprint races at three events – Montreal, Monza and Interlagos – to decide the grid for Sunday’s grand prix. The usual qualifying sessions would be held on Fridays at those rounds, and set the starting order for the sprint races.

Further details of the plan, such as whether points would be awarded and what tyre strategies would be permitted, are yet to be confirmed.

The FIA confirmed the plan this week, stating teams believe introducing an “even more exciting weekend format” is of “major importance [in] engaging fans”. But do fans agree?


Adding sprint races on Saturdays, and moving qualifying sessions forward to Fridays, will ensure each of the three days during an F1 race weekend has a focal point of interest.

The races themselves will add another point of interest to grand prix weekends including the drama of a standing start and the possibility of mixing up the grid ahead of Sunday’s main event. And if they turn out not to be a success, F1 may not continue their use in 2022.


Besides being a needless break with decades of F1 heritage, sprint races would detract from the main event of a race weekend: the grand prix. They would most likely serve to making the starting grid for the grand prix more similar to a race result than a qualifying session, making Sunday’s event more processional.

If points are awarded for sprint races they could serve to increase the advantage of a dominant team and lead to the championship being decided earlier in the year.

I say

The essentials of Formula 1’s race weekend format – fastest lap times decide the grid for a single race – have been virtually unchanged throughout its 72-year history. This proposal would sever that link to the past.

If you’re going to make that kind of break with the sport’s heritage, you should have a good reason for it. This isn’t it. It’s clear the motivation for introducing sprint races is entirely financial – they haven’t decided how they will work, but they have decided they want them.

As I wrote earlier this week, it’s hard to see how sprint races would enhance the competition unless the rule-makers resort to some gimmick like the (thankfully abandoned) reverse grids scheme to mix things up.

As has been pointed out countless times before – including by several drivers – Formula 1’s new technical regulations for next season have been meticulously researched to deliver the improved racing action and better championship competition which is desired by so many. Reading the initial feedback from readers to the sprint races idea earlier this week, I saw the same sentiment expressed many times, and found myself wishing those running the sport had the same patience and confidence in the quality of its product many of its fans do.

You say

Do you want to see Formula 1’s trial of sprint races go ahead this year? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Do you agree Formula 1 should trial sprint races this year?

  • No opinion (0%)
  • Strongly disagree (56%)
  • Slightly disagree (15%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (4%)
  • Slightly agree (12%)
  • Strongly agree (12%)

Total Voters: 285

Loading ... Loading ...

A RaceFans account is required in order to vote. If you do not have one, register an account here or read more about registering here. When this poll is closed the result will be displayed instead of the voting form.

Debates and polls

Browse all debates and polls

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

143 comments on “Should Formula 1 trial sprint races during 2021?”

  1. teams believe introducing an “even more exciting weekend format” is of “major importance [in] engaging fans”

    So *THAT’S* why 99% of comments on F1 news outlets by fans are negative. i see.

    1. Exactly, keep everything as is and come 2022 with the new regulations this sprint race bull— will hopefully be forgotten. The simple fact is Mercedes need regular challengers every weekend not just once in a while. More competition at the front is the fix not manufacturing the on track competition by mixing the grid up.

    2. Are they? I dont see 99% at all first commentator pushing your view

      1. 99% correct 33% of the time.

      2. Well i went down the comments section on F1s official instagram under the announcement of this contraption and the engine freeze waaaay further than i feel comfortable admitting too, and it seems to check out roughly

    3. I didn’t realize *fans* was accepted usage as an abbreviation for *sponsors*.

  2. Let’s see what the full proposal actually is. Without reverse grid I don’t really see the point of a sprint race.

    I’m not averse to change – F1 has constantly changed and adapted its offering. Turbos, ground effects, single lap quali, points for fastest lap, points for top 6, DRS, KERS, indy 500, qualifying over two sessions on Fridays and Saturdays… The list goes on.

    Don’t agree that we must keep the status quo just because it’s always been like that.

    1. Do it please. F1 is too pretentious and conservative, give it a try… If it doesnt work, then it doesn’t work. It is about time f1 moved with the times. The best teams and drivers come to the fore in any racing formula, but one thing F1 is down on compared to other racing series is ‘entertainment’ for the casual majority viewers. There is not much competition, so give it a go. Often the most passes are made on lap 1 and turn 1. Twice a race weekend seeing f1 starts will make it instantly more interestesting even if it doesnt change much of the results in the end.

      1. moved with the times

        What times are those exactly?

      2. Coventry Climax
        14th February 2021, 23:34

        “If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work.” Can you define ‘work’ please?
        Because that’s the problem with this, the thing is fake, but they want it anyhow, for financial reasons,
        so they’ll say ‘it works wonderfully’ no matter how it ‘works’.
        Same with the Pirelli tyres, same with DRS (‘We still ‘need’ it – Brawn’.), same with the hybrid engines, same with etc. etc.
        I have a distinct feeling the deal’s done and dusted, and we’ll get it crammed through our throats.
        And we haven’t heard or seen the last of reverse grid either.

    2. I’m up for change too but for me the full proposal has to have separate qualifyings for the two races, otherwise Keith’s words will be all too true: “They would most likely serve to making the starting grid for the grand prix more similar to a race result than a qualifying session, making Sunday’s event more processional.”

      Also if the qualy is on Friday people who work won’t see it live.

      1. 2 events, 1 weekend
        Friday practice
        Saturday 1 qualifying 1 race
        Sunday 1 qualifying 1 race

      2. Also if the qualy is on Friday people who work won’t see it live.

        This. People in F1 thinks that Fridays have less attendance due to no competitive sessions being held. But it’s not the reason. The reason is that Friday is a normal work day and people are working. You cannot simply go to your boss and say “Hey tomorrow I’m not working because I’m going to the F1”

    3. I see a difference between tech-regulation and sporting regs.
      Technology shall evolve & change, the more the better.
      But the sport-regs were always quite stable;
      gives orientation, to evaluate the difference in technology.
      If you change the course of a track every year, the track record of the past has ZERO meaning.
      If you want to keep your customers, the fans busy (while their sparetime — seeking for relaxation & entertainment) then you change everything, always.
      Whereby the most successful sports run under quite stable rules: football, tennis etc.
      F1’s seasons were quite disputed, among title contenders, in many eras, and under stable sporting regulation.

  3. It was funny looking through the comments on the official F1 Instagram after they announced the news there – responses ranging from ‘no’ to ‘absolutely no’. I wonder whether F1 will listen to the fans – this is something that none of them want!

    1. How many real racing fans use instagram? I dont

      1. I follow my favorite team and a couple of drivers on Instagram, and I would consider myself a “real” racing fan.

      2. @kpcart I do, and also Twitter.

      3. Ok Boomer

      4. Great sample size

      5. One quick question: What’s your thoughts on the horrible January attacks?

    2. I think the issue here @georgeod is that F1 are not necessarily looking to please their current fans, but want to attract new ones. They have calculated that most current fans will complain but largely keep watching, and that this new format gives a better chance of attracting new audiences.

      The same happens in many sports. The England and Wales Cricket Board, for example, are pressing ahead with a new hundred-ball format for 2021 with all-new franchise teams, even though fans of the existing county teams (and many of the teams themselves) are vehemently opposed. But it’s not about them – it’s about the hordes of potential new fans that the ECB presumes must exist somewhere, but are put off by existing forms of cricket being at least 20 balls too long.

      1. We all know how to get new fans.
        Get F1 back to “free to view” on TV and the internet.

        1. @w-k a thousand times, this.

    3. Well this is why I only slightly disagree</em, because it is supposed to be a trial, I would strongly disagree if it were imposed without trial.

    4. @georgeod I guess ignoring the majority to push a narrative with fake democracy (polling) is called ‘moving with the times’ now..

      1. @balue
        Its about sample size and the actual samples themselves.
        73% of 213 respondents here are against it.
        Over at F1FanVoice, 50% of 1387 respondents feel positive about it.

        1. @balue that means, over at F1Fan Voice 50% feel negative about it.

          1. @chrisr1718
            32%, right now – which is a lot less than 73%.
            20% are undecided/don’t care.

  4. I honestly don’t see the point of sprint races if they aren’t reverse grid or using some other form of balancing or alternate challenge.
    One of the main things that makes F1 dull is that one team is always faster than the rest, and the only way to make them actually race is to put them back into the pack – an extra qualifying race only serves to make that even less likely. They’ll just spend more of the weekend out in front on their own.

    A sprint race in this format will add nothing to F1. I’d rather watch F2 and F3 races than an F1 sprint race.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      13th February 2021, 13:05

      Yeah I agree – on the odd occasion something goes wrong for Mercedes, they now have an extra session to save themselves. 99% of the time, they’ll just cruise around in 1st without having to risk anything.

      On a more selfish note, it being on Friday means I’ll never watch quali anymore and it’ll be another reason to lose a bit of interest in F1.

    2. I dont agree with you. Say If a redbull jumps a mercedes into turn one of a sprint race, mercedes wont be able to undercut them to pass in pits on lap 20, as there wont be pit stops, so the mercedes will have to fight on track. This kind of fighting will go on down the field instead of tyre and fuel preservation.

      1. So it will be procession in a different order?
        Why would they fight on Saturday when they can just undercut them on Sunday? That’s when it actually matters.

      2. @kpcart, Exactly why I have been campaigning to get rid of unessential pit stops since BCE introduced re-fuelling.

        1. I was campaigning, too !
          Can we team up ?
          Because there seems to be room for more improvement, in this sport

    3. I say the same

  5. If no points are awarded, my answer is neither agree nor disagree (I guess there’s no harm really in trying it, but I think it will make the weekend worse, not better). If points are awarded, my answer is strongly disagree, as it would devalue the Grand Prix and would ruin tradition, because it would be a second race per weekend, rather than a different qualifying format (as it would be if no points were awarded). So for now, my answer is slightly disagree, but this will change depending on this later, crucial decision over whether or not championship points are awarded.

    1. Actually, I think I would still have voted slightly disagree even if we knew that no points would be awarded. Keith makes a very good point about patience. There are lots of new rules coming in 2022, and surely we should at least wait until then. The 2022 rules might improve the show anyway, and we won’t need to resort to sprint races. And even if the main Grand Prix was not devalued by the sprint race (if points weren’t awarded), qualifying certainly would be devalued, and I really enjoy qualifying. The sprint race does seem a bit pointless being between qualifying and the race, and I think it would actually make the weekend less exciting, not more; but it is only a trial, and hopefully the F1 bosses would have the sense to get rid of it if it was making the weekend worse (or even if it was making no difference). However, as I said before, my main objection to sprint races is if points were awarded.

      1. If this poll votes overwhelmingly against sprint races:


        1. I don’t trust this poll, @f1frog.
          It’s probably based on dead people voting or suitcases with ballots appearing from under the table.

          Only a few months ago the fanatic fans on this site voted that the most recent sprint race (Monza 2020) was one of the best races ever (69% voted 9 or 10). And if it wasn’t the length of the race after the red flag then it was the unpredictability (similar to a reverse grid race).
          I can’t believe that those same fanatic fans now suddenly voted against a sprint race.

          1. I think the single reason why Monza was so popular was that Pierre Gasly won (it’s why I enjoyed it. It was the unpredictability (as you mentioned) and nothing to do with the short race after the red flag. Now I know this makes it seem like reverse grids are a good idea, but Gasly winning a reverse grid race wouldn’t be special in any way. It would seem fake, and it would mean very little, because it was not done on merit. You could argue that his Monza win was not on merit because it required a lot of luck, but it still meant more than a win from a reverse grid race. Races like Monza are also more special because they are rare, and reverse grids would make it less exciting if this happened again in a real Grand Prix, and would also devalue the win that Gasly got.

            I thought the Italian GP was a brilliant race, because Gasly won, but I would not want that happening every weekend, for reasons mentioned above, so I am against reverse grids. And I think the popularity of Monza was nothing to do with the second half being like a sprint race, as the sprint races next year will be nothing like that.

          2. @coldfly @f1frog To be fair the Italian GP was already shaping up to be a great race even before the red flag – it was not clear who was going to be on the podium, which is more than can be said for most GPs at half-distance in 2020. Hamilton’s penalty (which was earned before the red flag) would have only heightened the drama further even without Leclerc’s crash.

            I am sure the Gasly factor helped, but it was not the only thing that created excitement that weekend.

          3. @coldfly, no matter how the fans voted, the result would be Pastor Maldonado getting Hamilton’s contract.

  6. I voted for slightly disagree. Although I, like most, am generally against the idea, I could still live with having spring races on three weekends should it get the green light.

    1. How about winter races for some weekends?

  7. why not… sounds rather fun.

    More Racing = more action

    in terms of losing a link to the past, Formula 1 has changed the way it’s run loads of times in the past.
    There was a time when a car could be shared over the course of a race.
    There was a time when the Indy 500 counted towards the championship, despite the normal F1 drivers not taking part.
    there was a time when a team could buy it’s car from another team / constructor.
    There was a time when being a racing driver meant literally being on the edge of a nasty and fiery death.

    Change is part of F1’s DNA. I’m sure some fans were upset when the original qualifying format was dropped in favour of what we have now.

    I would never call sprint races a gimmick, it is still just plain racing after all. And other series have sprint races and no one questions those.

    Bring it on, I say.

    1. @napierrailton More racing doesn’t necessarily always equal more action, but otherwise, I agree with you on your points in principle.

    2. @napierrailton – I’m with you on this too.

    3. I do kind of miss drivers sprinting to the paddock to get in the T-car when their car stalled on the formation lap.

  8. Clearly this website has a strong bias against given the amount of articles asking this exact question.

    I voted strongly for. The argument about the history and tradition of F1 and ‘severing the link to the past’ is ridiculous given the points system has changed repeatedly and even in the time I’ve watched I’ve seen at least three different qualifying formats. Greatest points scorer in the sport’s history? How can you fairly compare Hamilton to someone like Senna when the points structure was vastly different? To imply change and evolution hasn’t been a major part of F1’s history is ridiculous and makes me wonder what sport you’ve watched. This sport literally changes year by year.

    Also, this total resistance to change or trying new things baffles me. This sport literally thrives on innovation, evolution and outright change – every season it’s similar but slightly different. Experimentation with the format, with the engines, with the race weekend is something to be encouraged, not disparaged. Reading so many ‘F1 fans’ commenting ‘NO’ to any form of change, adaptation or even just TRYING something new is deeply disappointing. The most bizarre part is none of these changes are ‘final’ – they’re just being trialled, experimented with. We don’t even need to keep them!

    1. @rocketpanda In other words, should F1 introduce ‘fanboost’ or similar you will be all for it since it will be a change, and we should all be for change. Ok got you.

      1. I’m not saying whether they should or shouldn’t, or whether it’s a good idea or not – just that its worth at least trying. None of these changes are permenant or being suggested as such. I’m advocating for trying new things, not dismissing them immediately without even trying.

    2. @rocketpanda your right about things changing, but they’re more about regulating the cars and costs, not about changing the format of a weekend to that degree.

      I’m not overly against the idea of “trialing” some things, but in this case, with just 3, it’s going to be far too easy to skew the “fan” opinions so that we’ll rather rapidly descend into the sort of “keep things short” madness that seems to be taking over a lot of sports.

      I think if they just called it “qualifying” instead of a sprint race, it might get more support, even though it’s the same thing, it has a different connotation in the mind of viewers.

      Me, personally, I really wish they’d show some patience. If the new regulations
      and budget caps work, we should see a whole different (and more interesting) F1 anyway, so why not wait?