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The devil is in the details of the new sprint format in Formula 1


In a racing series as competitive as Formula 1, the devil is always in the details when it comes to making the most of the opportunities presented by the rules.

After Formula 1 approved plans for an overhaul of the sprint race weekend format on Tuesday, teams will now study the revised regulations to ensure they are on the front line and ready in Baku this weekend.

While the FIA ​​has announced the broad outlines of the revised Sprint Weekend format, which includes the new Sprint Shootout Qualifying, it is only with the formal publication of the updated Sporting Regulations that we have a clear idea of ​​the complications and idiosyncrasies to come mediated.

Below is a recap of the key takeaways before we experience the new format for the first time this coming weekend.

Sprint Shootout is effectively a one-shot qualifying

The switch to making the Saturdays of the sprint weekends completely independent was prompted by the desire to organize what happened in the morning as qualifying and not as practice.

Formula 1 had considered how best to organize qualifying due to problems with the number of tire sets available and concerns about increased engine mileage if the units had to be used longer and harder.

The preferred solution was a condensed Q1/Q2/Q3 qualifying format, with the three sessions lasting twelve minutes, ten minutes and eight minutes (compared to 18/15/12 normally). At first glance, the new format seems like just a more intense version of what we have now, but the tire rules surrounding it make it a different beast.

The new rules mean that drivers can only use medium tires in the SQ1 and SQ2 sessions (as the new Sprint Shootout qualifying sessions are called) and only soft tires in the last session.

More importantly, the regulations spell out that drivers are only allowed to use a single “new set” of this specification in each segment.

This means that there is no way for the drivers to set a lightning-fast lap with an old set at the start of the race. And if they mess up their second attempt in qualifying, there’s no new chance to race again with fresh rubber and make it up to them later.

Although the sessions are long enough for drivers to do more than one lap, the fact that the tires’ peak performance is achieved on the first lap means drivers know they will only have one lap to qualify to reach.

Parc Ferme rules as strict as ever

Even if the Saturdays of the sprint weekends are now completely independent and have no influence on the starting grid on Sunday, that does not mean that the teams and drivers are completely free from their shackles. To keep costs down, Formula 1 has had a perc-ferme rule for many years, stating that settings are pretty much fixed from qualifying through to the race.

This rule will also remain in effect for the new sprint weekends – with chassis set-ups and components being frozen once the car leaves the pit lane after qualifying on Friday.

The rule changes specifically state that any changes to settings before the start of the sprint race will result in a car having to start from the back row for both Saturday’s race and Sunday’s feature race.

Driver exchange can take place after qualifying

In Formula 1, the rule has always been that a driver can only take part in a Grand Prix if he has qualified (or at least set a representative time in practice). For this reason, reserve drivers often go home on Saturday evening, because when qualifying is over, they don’t have a chance to play – even if the teams would like that.

However, the new format of sprint weekends has opened up a small change in scenario as qualifying is so early and the sprint does not count towards the grid.

Should a driver not be able to continue after qualifying on Friday, the revised rules open the door for a substitute driver who can be used on the sprint day – and thus theoretically start the main race from the last row.

The regulations state: “A driver change can be made at any time before the start of the sprint shootout or at any time before the start of qualifying practice, provided that any change proposed after the end of the first scrutineering receives the approval of the stewards. Additional changes due to force majeure will be considered separately.”

So it’s not out of the question for a rider to qualify on Friday, then fall ill and miss Saturday and have a replacement rider put in before he’s fit enough to take his rightful place on Sunday.

The complexity with the penalties

One of the reasons behind Formula 1’s push to make Saturday a race in its own right was to encourage drivers to push harder in the sprint race without fear of losing grid positions. But even if the drivers have to take fewer risks on Saturday, they will not be able to act with impunity if they act recklessly.

The regulations make it clear that while the result of the sprint race does not determine the starting grid for the Grand Prix, all penalties imposed in these races count for the Sunday. This means that violations such as causing a collision in the sprint can result in a race penalty.

A revised Section 37.4 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations states that: “All such starting grid penalties will be served in the race unless the driving offense occurred in the Sprint Shootout Qualification, in which case the penalty will be applied to the starting grid applied to the sprint session.”

FIA leaves door open for emergency measures

While the redesign of the sprint weekend format has been hotly debated among teams and Formula 1 bosses to ensure there are no unintended consequences, it cannot be ruled out that something may have been overlooked.

The new format changes are enshrined in the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations and the process for making changes can be quite lengthy if something turns out not to be quite right. Even minor changes have to be approved by the Formula 1 Commission and then ratified by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council.

The FIA ​​is well aware of this and has therefore left open the possibility of making emergency changes at a given race weekend without going through the traditional process.

Until August 1st, the FIA ​​may make temporary changes to the driver penalty rules, weekend format, parc ferme rules and grid formation if deemed necessary. However, this is only possible if the FIA, the owner of the commercial rights to Formula 1 (Liberty Media) and eight of the ten teams agree.

In addition, such changes must address “unintentional issues” with the new rules that ensure sporting fairness and must only relate to the individual event at which issues have arisen.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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