So just how successful was Formula 1’s second trial of Sprint Qualifying? The answer to that, just as it was after the first trial, is uncertain.
If you are Daniel Riccardo you would praise the weekend format because it played a major role in him winning the Italian Grand Prix.
Traditionally, there are three practice sessions followed by qualifying and the race on a grand prix weekend. During the British Grand Prix weekend, and at that of the recent Italian Grand Prix, there was one practice session followed by qualifying on Friday. And that set the grid for Sprint Qualifying, a 61-mile race (even though the FIA and Formula 1 refuse to call it a race) that followed another practice session on Saturday. Those race results set the grid for the main event on Sunday.
The Sprint Qualifying in Italy turned into a largely static race as drivers were unwilling to take too many risks that could jeopardize their starting position on Sunday. Furthermore, overtaking proved to be difficult indeed. That came as a surprise to Formula 1 and the FIA who had specifically chosen the Monza circuit because in the past it has been the opposite case.
There will be one more Sprint Qualifying weekend this season – in Brazil. How many will be staged next year?
“I think that’s a big decision,” Ross Brawn, F-1’s managing director of motor sports, said. “Do we make this a grand slam event for five or six races or do we do more of it? What we are seeing is a strong increase in fan engagement. More people are watching a race weekend than we had before. Does that tail off if we do it all the time? Is it something we can maintain?”
“We all know we get good and bad races,” he added. “We might find in Brazil we have a fantastic sprint. It’s over three races we want to judge it. There’s probably an element in this event that drivers take a little less risk because they know they want to be there on Sunday.”
One proposal, and this has received the support of many of the drivers, is to have practice and qualifying on Friday that sets the grid for the main race on Sunday. There would be a “stand alone” race on Saturday, perhaps with a reverse grid based on Friday’s qualifying. Points would be awarded, but whatever the race results are on Saturday they would have no bearing on the starting line-up on Sunday.
“How do we marry that (Saturday race) with a classic grand prix weekend and make sure we don’t cannibalize the weekend? Brawn said. “Lots of decisions to make and work to be done.”