Formula 1's sprint race qualifying format offered a novel distraction from the typical Saturday fare last year, and Liberty Media surely enjoyed the increased attention those events brought. Some teams were less enthralled with the idea, mostly because of concerns over crash damage — both the expenses required to fix it and what a serious wreck could mean for a driver’s Sunday chances. The hope was to work these issues out so F1 could go ahead with its plan for six sprint race weekends in 2022, but things don’t appear to be panning out that way.
The sticking point is the cost cap. This year it’s reduced from $145 million to $140 million. F1's original proposal was to offer teams $500,000 for each of the first five sprint events, then $150,000 thereafter for a total $2.65 million, Motorsport.com reports. However, unlike last season, none of those funds will be earmarked for crash damage specifically, supposedly because it wasn’t a major issue in the first three sprint races.
The mid-pack and back-marker teams, many of whom are operating below the cost cap, are fine with this scheme. You can guess who isn’t. Per Motorsport.com:
While a majority of teams were happy with the offer from Liberty, F1's big spenders were against the proposal and instead wanted the cost cap limit to be raised to cover all the costs of the sprints.
It emerged that one team even made a push for the cost cap limit to be raised by up to $5 million, which drew criticism from McLaren CEO Zak Brown.
Brown said recently: “One team in particular wanted a $5 million budget cap increase, which was just ridiculous, and had no rational facts behind it.”
The trouble is that F1 requires a majority of eight out of ten teams to move forward with a proposed rule change. Neither Liberty, nor the FIA, nor most teams want to alter the cost cap. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull do, because they don’t want to dip into their existing, topped-out funds for Saturday wrecks. The compromise for 2022, then, will likely be maintaining last year’s precedent for three sprint races.
You can imagine Liberty, and even the teams to some extent, are probably miffed about this because they all stood to make more money off holding more sprints in 2022 — an estimated $10 million, according to the article.
I assume F1 will go ahead with the maximum number of sprint races tenable to the majority of teams purely for commercial reasons. The way all of this has unfolded is pretty miserable, because I for one was excited at what the new format could bring — provided F1 made the sprint races actually mean something, with sizable points payouts so teams and drivers would be incentivized to make moves, or dare I say those forbidden words — reverse grids.
But none of that has happened, and instead sprint races have been strategically formulated to preserve the running order established in Friday qualifying until the start of the actual race. Hell — last fall, F1 was toying with the idea of making them even more meaningless than they already are. Until they corral fewer eyeballs, though, they’re probably not going anywhere.