Formula One is set to introduce a new sprint format at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, following unanimous agreement among all teams. Pending official ratification, F1 will drop the traditional practice session that usually precedes the sprint race, in favor of a standalone qualifying session for that event. The sprint race is expected to have no bearing on the main race, with the outcome of Friday’s qualifying session taking center stage on Sunday. The top eight finishers in the sprint will receive points, awarded 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.
Baku is one of six events that will be held under the sprint format, with the others being Austria, Belgium, Qatar, Austin’s US Grand Prix, and Brazil. The change is part of F1 boss Stefano Domenicali‘s plan to make all three days of race weekend mean something for the spectators. Domenicali recently caused controversy by suggesting that all practice sessions be cancelled, as he feels such a move would benefit F1 from a spectator point of view.
Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur said the new sprint weekend change is an unusual moment of agreement among the teams. Speaking to reporters, Vasseur said, “For once, I think all the teams were aligned — it’s not very often that it’s the case, so we have to jump on it. The format is more dynamic, and you can discuss about doing it so late [before the race], but at the end of the day, if we’re all aligned, then we have to push for it.”
Vasseur went on to state that he likes the new format and is not a big fan of the usual FP2 practice session, as it can be boring for spectators. He said he imagines the race can be dull for those who do not know about the levels of fuel, the engine mode, and so on. Vasseur’s support for the new format was bullish, saying, “To try to have something more dynamic during the weekend is a good decision.”
The Friday schedule will now feature just one practice followed by qualifying, with the sprint qualifying and race taking place on Saturday before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday. The new format is still controversial, with verified critic of the sprint concept and the current reigning world champion, Max Verstappen, among its most prominent detractors.