Formula 1's 10 constructors support Saturday sprint races at “selected” grands prix this year, orgaizers announced following a Thursday commission meeting. Additionally, F1 will freeze power unit development beginning in 2022, a year earlier than originally planned, until the start of the 2025 season when new regulations will kick in.
It seemed that most F1 teams were keen on trying out sprint races when management floated the idea in lieu of the less-popular reverse grid scenario. Although no specific locations or number of races were announced to receive this treatment, earlier this week it was suggested F1 was considering the Canadian, Italian and Brazilian rounds on the calendar. From F1 and the FIA’s joint statement, published today:
“All teams recognised the major importance of engaging fans in new and innovative ways to ensure an even more exciting weekend format,” said F1 and the FIA in a statement following the first F1 Commission meeting of the year.
While the plan has yet to be formalized, here’s how it’s shaping up: Qualifying for the sprint race will happen Friday, while the sprint itself, expected to be about one-third of normal grand prix distance, is set for Saturday. The results of the sprint race will determine the grid order for the main event on Sunday, and drivers would be awarded “approximately half the points” they’d typically earn from a grand prix for their sprint race finishing position.
Again, none of this is set in stone quite yet, so between now and the start of the 2021 campaign it’ll be the job of F1 management to refine and finalize the plan. The season is scheduled to begin in Bahrain on the weekend of March 26.
Two other big announcements came out of this commission meeting. First, F1 intends to fill the May 2 gap that currently exists on the calendar — what would be the third race of the season — with a return to the Portimao circuit in Portugal.
Second, all teams and power unit manufacturers, as well as F1 and the FIA, have “unanimously” agreed to freeze engine development beginning in 2022. That’s one year sooner than was originally decided, and that freeze will last until 2025, when new regulations go into effect. Those regulations haven’t been decided yet, though the commission did outline goals for power unit design from 2025 onward:
The key objectives for the 2025 Power Unit are:
• Environmental Sustainability and social and automotive relevance
• Fully sustainable fuel
• Creating a powerful and emotive Power Unit
• Significant cost reduction
• Attractiveness to new Power Unit manufacturers
As for now, this means teams will have this season to continue improving their power units before further development is forbidden next season. The news is extremely welcome for Red Bull, which will lose its engine supplier, Honda, in 2022 when the Japanese automaker drops out of F1. With Honda engines locked in after the end of this season, Red Bull and its sister squad AlphaTauri won’t have to worry about finding a new partner to take Honda’s place until the new power regulations take effect.
There are still details to work out. A report from RaceFans adds that “no mechanism of balancing the performance of the current engines when or after they are frozen has been agreed.” For now, that means constructors that find themselves down on power at the end of this season are essentially going to have to make do with what they’ve got for 2022, 2023 and 2024 without any boost from F1 itself, which could potentially lead to a miserable several years for lower-rung teams. However, there are still those sweeping new chassis regulations on the docket for next year — for the moment, anyway — so it’s not like constructors will have no room to improve their cars elsewhere.