Formula 1's Sprint Races Are Likely Here To Stay

CEO Stefano Domenicali says F1 has "ideas to create a special format for certain historical grands prix."

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Photo: Michael Regan (Getty Images)

Was Formula 1's first-ever sprint race qualifier good? Who knows! I mean, everyone seemed to watch it, if for no other reason than the novelty and the proposition of additional racing. The drivers seemed to be ambivalent, while the teams probably hate it because it risks yet more damage — and they can’t stop complaining about having to spend money to repair their cars under the cost cap as it is.

So who’s to say if the sprint race qualifier is a good idea or not — unless you’re on the corporate side of F1, you’re a sponsor, or you’re an investor. In which case, it was unquestionably great. You loved it, you had to! Whether it was good or bad for the sport, it was always going to grab eyeballs. So it’s little surprise, then, that F1 is trying to figure out ways to formalize and expand them next season.

There’s two more sprint races scheduled for the reminder of 2021: one at Monza and another recently confirmed at Interlagos. Here’s how Domenicali reflected on the first attempt at Silverstone, via Motorsport.com:

“What I can already say is that after the first sprint event in Silverstone, the response that we have, from the drivers, from the teams, the media, has been really positive.

“And also for the promoter, because if you think that every day, we had something new to say.

“People coming to the track on Friday were really tuned for the first qualifying already on Friday.

“So the outcome of the first event has been dramatically positive, if I may say, and it’s great because that’s brought attention, interest to TV, and also partners, because thanks to that we have brought in, for example, Crypto.com. And so we have already seen our financial influence being positive.”

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Oh good, so now there’s a Crypto site involved.

Anyway, you’d be forgiven for completely forgetting what happened in Silverstone’s sprint race, because of the two weeks of noise Red Bull was making after the actual race. But it seems like F1's hope going forward is to center those feature events around historical, highly anticipated contests on the calendar, like the British Grand Prix. Perhaps Monaco and Belgium will join too, though I wouldn’t be surprised if teams pushed back on the former, and don’t like the idea of risking contact with the uncompromising walls of that street circuit for a bit of wheel-to-wheel action on Saturday.

Domenicali made it clear that there are no plans to introduce sprints at every race weekend, as some venues are not thought to be suitable.

“We’re going to have a full debriefing, if I may say, at the end of the season,” he said. “We have a plan for the future of course, we are developing that, we are fine-tuning [after] some of the comments that we received.

“And what I can say is that if we move as we should in that direction in the future, it will be not every race.

“We have ideas to create a special format for certain historical grands prix, and certain special awards that we want to offer, and add to the already incredible platform of F1.

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Get used to the sprint races; it seems like they’re going to be here to stay.