Are F1’s revised sprint races an improvement over last year?

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After three introductory races last season, Formula 1’s polarising sprint race format will return with three more events for the 2022 season after all ten teams unanimously agreed to include them into this year’s Sporting Regulations.

The format of the three sprint race weekends – the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring and the Sao Paulo Grand Prix at Interlagos – will remain largely unchanged. There will still be the traditional three-stage qualifying session on Friday afternoon to decide the grid for the sprint race on Saturday afternoon, with the results of the 100 kilometre race determining the final starting order for Sunday’s grand prix.

However, there are a few minor changes to the format coming into effect this season – with some crucial ones meaning that the three sprint races could have a much bigger impact on the final standings in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships at the end of the year.

First, the session will no longer be referred to as “sprint qualifying”, but now simply as the “sprint”.

The finishing order of the sprint race will set the grid order for Sunday’s grand prix. However, the driver quickest at the end of Friday’s typical qualifying session will be deemed to have taken ‘pole position’ for that weekend for statistical purposes, even if they do not start the grand prix itself from the prime grid slot.

Most importantly, the winner of each sprint will now receive eight championship points, increased from three. Points are also extended down to eighth place, with each position offering one point less than the position above it down to just a single point for the driver finishing in eighth place.

So are these revisions to the sprint race formula an improvement over the format’s debut last season, or a step in the wrong direction?

For

The increased points weighting for sprint races is undoubtedly an attempt to encourage drivers to take more risks and pass rivals during sprints as they proved relatively pedestrian affairs last year – save for Lewis Hamilton’s charge through the pack in Interlagos prompted by his disqualification from Friday qualifying.

With more on the line, there’s more of an incentive to have a go at a rival if you get a decent run on them, especially if you’re sitting in one of the top ten positions. There are also more opportunities for teams further down the order to snatch vital points if the grid is shaken up during Friday’s qualifying.

And as the sprint race will continue to set the grid order for Sunday, there’s still a chance of some dramatic fightbacks from the established frontrunners this season if they get into any kind of trouble in the sprint race.

Against

With a record 23 races already set for this season, there are already more than enough points on offer to decide a worthy world champion in 2022 without three more sprint races to be added into the mix.

Rather than offer more opportunities to teams further back, it’s more likely that the extended points on offer will simply allow the teams at the front of the field to consolidate their positions and move even further ahead of the pack in the championships. And with Sunday offering the real rewards, drivers will always want to play it safe and prioritise the more important race of the weekend.

Finally, the sprint race continuing to set the grid order for the grand prix adds too much emphasis on what happens on a Saturday afternoon after drivers have already earned their grid positions by virtue of their performances in Friday’s qualifying.

I say

If sprint races are going to continue to be something that Formula 1 insists on subjecting fans to, then the ideal scenario would have been to make them less important to the overall championship standings – not even more of a factor.

It’s difficult to accept that an idea conjured up purely to add some long-sought after improvement to ‘the show’ would be given even more weighting in a season that is already 23 races long. A sprint race concept could be added to a series purely as a points-paying race on Saturday if needs be, but the fact it continues to set the grid order for the grand prix is still a difficult thing to accept.

Not only does it mean that three out of 23 rounds will run on a different format – when consistency in the rules is something fans have been increasingly vocal in wanting – it feels like a cynical way to try and create more drama into the sport by manufacturing conditions where there’s a much greater chance of an accident or a mechanical failure dropping a championship contender to the rear of the field.

Even with more points on offer, there’s nothing to suggest that teams and drivers will treat sprint races this year in any different manner than they did last year – effectively as the first 100 kilometres of a 400km grand prix, split by a long red flag period.

Hopefully 2022’s new regulations will lead to some exciting racing this season. But even with these revisions, it’s unlikely that sprint races will be among the more memorable moments of the year.



You say

Do you agree that F1's sprint race rules for 2022 are an improvement over last year?

  • Strongly agree (5%)
  • Slightly agree (23%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (16%)
  • Slightly disagree (16%)
  • Strongly disagree (38%)
  • No opinion (3%)

Total Voters: 153

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 55 comments on “Are F1’s revised sprint races an improvement over last year?”

    1. You even asking that question is a win for Liberty.

      Sprints should not exist.

      1. Exactly. More importantly why is everything in bold.

        1. Well you don’t have to shout!

          1. SINCE WHEN IS BOLD SAME AS SHOUTING?

            1. Don’t make me get out of this chair … DON’T MAKE ME GET UP!

            1. Coventry Climax
              21st February 2022, 0:12

              Couldn’t agree more, @verstappen.

      2. That’s a bold statement!

      3. Good changes, to me they fixed the two issues with sprint races last year. The quali stats and the need for more points to reward drivers. Shame it’s only 3!

        1. I had hoped for more changes like a standalone race…..

    2. Yep – definitely needed an option for please no sprints.

    3. They have figured out how to make a bad idea worse.

      1. (insert Michael dating POam’s mom here):
        F1 Fans: Please stop doing sprints
        F1: I will do sprints even harder.

    4. I went no opinion, because I do not really know.

      Looking purely at the sprint itself, I do believe more points going further back might give incentive for some that are solid in qualifying but perhaps know they are likely to drop down during a longer race to fight harder to get a point or two in. For those in front things aren’t likely to change, as winning the race, or a podium, on Sunday will remain the real prize, nir at the back, apart from penalties or misfortune.

      As for the influence on the weekend and season, it either won’t make much of an impact, or annoyingly much, but I suppose I am resigned to them not going away so I don’t really want to be thinking about that too much!

    5. What I do not like about the sprint show is the fact that at some point a driver who has qualified well will have an accident in the sprint race that destroys their chances in the actual race.

      If Liberty are so desperate to increase viewers then how about Chase Carey puts on a blindfold and runs across the track at random moments during the race.
      I 100% guarantee that that would send viewing statistics through the roof.

    6. Sprint races remain a bad idea in general and I agree that giving them more points is also a bad idea. The idea needs scrapping but from the way the TV pundits were almost forced to praise sprint races after the first one (which was immensely boring) I suspect they’ll be continuing to force it no matter what.

      1. I agree. The least they could have done when they insist on having Sprint races is to not award any point(s) for the championship. This has nothing to do with the WCC or WDC. It is a money maker.

    7. No sprint races, no problem!

    8. Sprint races do not belong in F1. If it is run at all then a reverse grid of the first 8 cars should be used with Qualifying still setting the grid for the actual race. A least a reverse grid might spread points out a bit more. The fact they are saying that the driver who wins Qualifying still gets official Pole, rather than the Sprint winnner who will actually start on Pole, shows it is a waste of time and resources.

      1. Reverse grids belong in children cartoons or WWE Wrestling, not in actual sports competitions. They are a circus joke level gimmick that would make a mockery of what already can babrely be called a sport.

        1. I disagree. But reverse grid formats can be made good or bad, it depends what they are trying to achieve. To be good, they need to be part of the bigger picture. Not something you smack on top of already existing, well-balanced, and functional rules.

    9. I actually like that there’s more points. I think crucially they could be far more exciting affairs given the improved cars ability to follow.

      I’m not like most F1 fans in that I don’t mind the idea, but I do think they should be a standalone race and not make the order for Sundays race, which should be based on qualifying. That’s what I’d like to see.

    10. Slightly agree. I find greater points distribution fairer overall as points aren’t solely limited to regular front-runners.

    11. You can polish a ____ as much as you like. It’s still a ____.

      I’ll let you fill in the gaps however you wish.

      1. And I think the only way to describe this comment section anomaly is in the only way half of the F1 internet sphere knows:

        🅱️old

    12. Overall I really don’t feel this does anything to improve (nor much to make it worse) Sprint races. It slaps a “solution” on without really even trying to see what exactly was the issue and how to solve it (yeah, dropping sprint races is not an option they would want to hear).

      I doubt it will do much to get more action going – the cars still all start on the same sets of tyres they did, and the distances will be the same, the risk of not finishing and ruining the Sunday race will also be the same. Sure, points for grabs might make a mid fielder or even a backmarker who finds themselves in a good place defend more robustly, or attack to grab that one or those two points for the team, but overall it will just mean a bigger gap between the front 6 cars and the rest.

    13. I think it’s an improvement. It’s now like stepping on Lego instead of stepping on a plug.

    14. These changes aren’t really changing anything, the format is still exactly the same and the flaws are still there.
      Yes, there are more points on offer, but still only for the front-runners. A majority of the cars starting will still be racing for nothing, other than practically extending the GP which isn’t really adding much excitement.
      Changing the name of something that even expert commentators struggled to be consistent with? Sure, that’s an improvement. But one that doesn’t affect the actual competition. Or even the show.
      Who is “officially” registered for what in the history books? I really never understood the point of that. It doesn’t matter. Whatever happens, happens. And that will be recorded in the history books anyway, officially or not. What matters is how you use historical data when looking at it. Are you interested in who started the most GP’s from the first grid slot, who was fastest in most qualifying sessions, or who has the most “official” “pole position” titles? These have always been different things.
      So no, this revision is not an improvement. Nor is it a step in the wrong direction. It’s just F1 struggling to balance show, politics, sport and media. As usual.

    15. Increased points increases my dislike of the sprint race non-race. #F1Sprinter(R)

    16. I think we need some reverse psychology here: FIA apparently do not want to call Sprints sessions as races. So whoever wants to stop Sprints, just start calling them Saturday Races. FIA/F1 managament wil have a PR problem in their hands.

    17. What is the logic in exactly 8 pts for first place? What is the logic in 8 drivers scoring points, and not 10 like in the race, or 3 like last year? What is this tweaking of rules every now and then, like a child playing some manager game on its PC? How on Earth can we take this thing seriously when they don’t? We didn’t even know if there’ll be this so-called spring until now and the season starts next month! And yes, almost no one wants this silly thing that is absolutely derogatory to the ‘actual’ race and serves only a commercial purpose. Sometimes more is less, and if this thing becomes a regular thing I might stop watching F1. I know it maybe sounds extreme, but watching two races in two days on the same track, with the same grid? That’s beyond stupid, and is done against popular opinion.

      1. I’m not sure this is the actual reason, but it is the closest whole number to 1/3 of 25. As in, the sprint is 1/3 the distance of a full Grand Prix. And with 8 points for the win, the longest falling scale they could make is to give one point less for each position down to 8th. I’m not saying it’s good, but it’s slightly more reasonable than the completely picked out of the air 3-2-1.

    18. Whatever way sprint races are packaged they’ll still be an abomination.

    19. Putting cherries and chocolate sauce on a pile of crap does not change that it is a pile of crap.

      1. This. Absolutely this.

    20. It’s the same format. If anything the increase in points just adds incentive for drivers to be even more risk-averse than last year, since there is more to lose and no more to gain. It’s all just so lazily thought out.

      I’ve said it before, if the sprint races were held on a Friday evening, for a slightly longer distance, had no bearing on the race, and Saturday and Sunday went ahead as normal, we might have something worth watching. Or, we might not, but at least it won’t detract from the rest of the weekend.

    21. Couldnt have said it better than Will.

    22. maybe a slight improvement of an unnecessary fumbling with the rules

    23. The only reason we have sprint races is because Liberty wants more viewers on Friday to please the sponsors and shareholders.

      That’s why qualifying is now on Friday and Sprint races on Saturday.

      And now because it has more points it makes the actual race even less valuable, so imho it is a step back compared to last year.

      All focus should be on the Grand Prix (Great Prize) and this kind of gimmicks only distracts from the real race.

    24. They’re still fixing the least broken aspect of the race weekend– especially now that in theory, we’ll have actual wheel-to-wheel racing.

      It’s a poor solution in search of a problem to solve.

    25. So this means that three races will have a higher points value than the rest which seems strange. Also, having a Saturday short race means that the teams will risk the cars in crashes anf perhaps not be ready on Sunday. Totally unnecessary format that only Americans could have cooked up.

    26. So much opinion, much less news

    27. Things that could improve sprint races:

      * Getting rid of them.
      * Completely disengaging them from the championship and the grand prix itself.

      This does neither of those things, so a strongly disagree from me.

    28. So, quite a good change. Especially pole awarded to fastest quali driver.

      More points also good..

      But overall I still think quali should decide sunday race starting slots.

      Sprint race should be reverse grid 100k for 10 points first 8 places.

      Let there be overtaking.

      Last thing I want is to watch is Lewis and Max babysit their car in P2 P3, unble to overtake and bag 3 points, for a processional drive.

      Sprint race should be a mad dash, like when Lewis started from the back and worked Hamertime magic.

    29. The only major advantage I see in the sprint races is making races more accessible for kids trackside. In my experience half an hour is about as long as you can get a kid under 8 to sit still and remain engaged so a grand prix is a bit of a stretch. I see the sprints as a good means for getting younger fans involved without feeling like Grands prix are too long and boring (remember how long 2 hours felt as a 6 year old…?). I just wish they were completely decoupled from the grand prix and have no bearing on the championship. Running them as a support category with reserve drivers between FP1 and FP2 on a Friday or something could work.

    30. Adding points is fine, but connecting it to the races BUT REMOVING POLE POSITION is absolutely absurd. Pole position is decided by quali, sure, but pole position is literally the first position on the grid of the race. How can the pole sitter be someone other than the person in pole position? This is absolutely stunningly stupid.

      1. Yeh, it’s rather silly. The pole sitter could feasibly start dead last if they’re taken out in the first corner of a sprint race.

    31. Much worse. Any points given to the sprint should then be taken from the main race. So if we have 8 for a sprint win there is only 17 for a non sprint win.

      More generally, sprints should be abandoned. The only two conditions which sprints could potentially interest me is if they are held on alternative layouts or if we only had around 16 races a year.

    32. Why are we making sprints even more consequential when we have just had arguably the best season since 2012 and are about to introduce new cars designed around making racing more entertaining?

    33. The key for me is that it creates an unfair advantage for any team who may be stronger on one of the sprint tracks. For example, a 1-2 normally would score 43 points for the constructors championship (ignoring fastest lap), with a minimum gap over the next team of 16 points. At a sprint weekend, that minimum gap would be 20 points if the strong team finished 1-2 in both sprint and full races.

      Each race weekend should give equal points and should be raced under the same rules.

      1. Ultimately this is the deal breaker for me besides the fact they’re pointless marketing exercises.

        If you wanted some key races with more TV time over the weekend then it would have been better to bring back refueling (maybe add a mandatory length stop for fuel so no risk of rushing around refueling causing accidents) and have some more endurance style races on the calendar with 50% longer races. They would have the same points awarded but would be very different experiences to the current races and provide some outlier technical challenges.

    34. I voted slightly disagree. I quite like the idea of there being more points as at least it means some more teams/drivers have the opportunity of scoring some. I don’t like the idea that the races still set the grid positions for Sunday’s race and the stupid pole position idea i.e. pole in name only.

      I am not sure the sprints are adding much really. I guess they might attract some more viewers. I think they should be stand along events though, that could count towards the championships but don’t affect the pole position on race day. Even with this their number should be limited as it does mean some races count for more than others.

    35. For the most part the Sprint has been boring, except for LH charge in Brazil. If the 2022 cars can follow closer and drivers have an incentive to take risk then Sprints may turn out to be OK. If the extra points don’t work, I expect Sprints will be gone in 2023.

    36. Even with the extension of points-paying positions down to eight, I still fail to see the incentive for “going for it” in the sprint race. Getting that extra one point is a poor reward for risking the starting position for the grand prix.

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