F1 confirms new Sprint format ahead of Baku GP

Jaden Diaz
25 Apr, 2023

After weeks of speculation, a new Sprint race weekend format has been agreed to. Formula 1 is preparing to return after a four-week hiatus, which has given the likes of FerrariMercedesAlpine and others opportunities to work on updates. The Azerbaijani circuit will host the first of the six Sprint Races on the calendar, featuring the newly approved Sprint race weekend format.

We left Australia with an idea of the potential changes ahead, given the speculation surrounding Sprint Races. The previous format consisted of a free practice session and a Qualifying session on Friday, which determined the starting grid for the Sprint Race on Saturday afternoon. A second free practice session was also held in the morning, albeit in part ferms conditions. The result of the Sprint then formed the starting grid for the ‘real’ race on Sunday.

New format: More of the show and fewer rehearsals.

Stefano Domenicali’s words from Portimao, as he attended the MotoGP action, have caused plenty of discussion in previous weeks:

“I am part of the party that would like to limit free practice, which is of interest only to engineers and not to spectators. Every time you go to the track, you should fight for something,” said the F1 boss during the Portuguese MotoGP weekend.

Domenicali had already hinted that the teams were discussing a rescheduling of the schedule to make race weekends more dramatic and entertaining for the fans.

Over the last four weeks, rumours intensified about Domenicali’s plans, which have now received approval from the teams:

One free practice session, two Qualifying sessions and two Races (Sprint and Main Race).

With this format, race weekends will feature even more racing and, with the exception of FP1, there will be something at stake for the drivers and teams to fight for.

Teams have already explained that steps have been taken to adjust to race weekend formats, which has not been confirmed with an announcement from the F1 Commission.

On Friday, the teams will have a free practice session in the morning and then, in the afternoon, the Qualifying in the ‘classic’ version, which will decide the starting grid of the Race (Sunday). 

Saturday will therefore be independent from the rest of the weekend. The morning will feature a ‘Sprint Shootout’, which is nothing more than normal qualifying with shorter Q1 (12mins), Q2 (10mins) and Q3 (8min) sessions. This will dictate the starting grid for the afternoon Sprint Race.

Something of note for this session is that teams will be forced to use new Medium compounds for Q1 and Q2 and Soft compounds for Q3.

This novelty has led F1 and the Team to re-discuss and also clarify what concerns the penalties. Any penalty received during FP1 or Qualifying on Friday will be served on Sunday, as well as a penalty received directly during the Sprint Race.

Instead, if a driver incurs a penalty during the ‘Sprint Shootout’, he will serve his penalty in the Sprint Race on Saturday. A breach of parc ferme will instead be punished with a pit lane start in BOTH races of the weekend.

Engine-related penalties, on the other hand, will only be applied for the race (unless the replacement of an element requires a parc ferme infringement).

However, the F1 Commission has launched another significant change by granting the teams the use of fourth ICE, Turbo, MGU-H and MGU-K, rather than the three originally planned.

This change is (currently) only planned for this year. This change was something the teams had already discussed last season. The increase in tenders and the implementation of this new format have convinced the parties involved to change the number of PU elements available.

New schedule for the Baku GP

Friday 28th April

Free Practice 1: 11:30 – 12:30
Qualifying: 15:00 – 16:00

Saturday 29th April

Sprint Shootout (Qualifying): 11:30 – 12:30
Sprint Race: 15:30 – 16:30

Sunday 30th April

Race: 1.00 pm – 3.00 pm

Author: Paolo D’Alessandro

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang

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