F1 sprint races: why a new format

It is not yet certain where and when sprint races will take place this season. The format is also discussed. We took a closer look at the three sprints in preseason to see if there was room for improvement.

F1 management was happy with the experiment. The number of sprint races in 2022 is therefore to be increased from three to six. There is already a main sponsor for the sprints and also six desired destinations: Bahrain, Imola, Montreal, Spielberg, Zandvoort and Interlagos. Nevertheless, it is still completely open whether the Mini-Grand Prix on Saturday will take place at all.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull are demanding that the cost cap be increased by $2.65 million to cover the additional expenses. In contrast, the other seven teams lock themselves. And you need their voices if you want to run sprint races at all.

As a compromise, Haas team boss Guenther Steiner proposes paying all teams a flat rate of $2.65 million. Then you would also agree to an increase in the budget cap. However, it is questionable whether Liberty will voluntarily give 26.5 million to the teams.

Even if the new sponsor “crypto.com” and the six organizers pay in more than this amount, the rights holders will find it cheaper if they distribute the additional income to the teams at the end of the year using the usual key.

McLaren boss Zak Brown railed against the haggling of the top three teams: “There is clear evidence that there was hardly any damage in the sprint races last year. I think this is a clumsy attempt to defend against the loss of their competitive advantage.”


Bottas won the sprint in Brazil. In the main race, the Finn went backwards.

Every day winners and losers

It is also unclear whether anything will change in the format of the sprints. The idea of ​​the starting line-up reversed from that of the World Cup is off the table. Many teams are also skeptical about the expansion of scoring. Points inflation only benefits the top teams. DRS may be released from the start so that there are more overtaking maneuvers in the initial phase.

However, an analysis of the three sprints in the past season shows that the criticism of the Saturday races was unjustified. In all three cases it was more interesting than any free practice that is only really entertaining for engineers and strategists. And that’s exactly what you have to compare it to. The qualification is still there, just on Friday. So every day has its story. And its winners and losers.

Fans and participants expect more from the 100-kilometer race than it can offer. A lack of overtaking maneuvers was lamented. The facts speak a different language. At Silverstone, ten overtaking maneuvers were counted without the first lap. In the main race there were 26 position changes. This corresponds to a rate of 38 percent. The naggers have to put up with the question: Why should a third of the distance be overtaken on Saturday in percentage terms than on Sunday?

Fernando Alonso - GP England 2021


Fernando Alonso entertained at Silverstone with an aggressive tire choice.

Overtaking action also on Saturday

The same picture emerges in Monza and Interlagos. The number of overtaking maneuvers in the sprint corresponded to around a third of that in the main race. In Monza there were nine position changes on the track in the sprint and 24 in the Grand Prix. That’s a rate of 37 percent. In Interlagos there were 17 overtakes in 24 laps. Exactly 31 percent of the 55 overtaking maneuvers on Sunday.

In each of the three sprints, the order of the top 5 changed from Friday to Saturday. And so the additional loop to determine the final starting grid after the classic qualification on Friday has already served its purpose. At Silverstone, Hamilton-Verstappen-Bottas-Leclerc-Perez became Verstappen-Hamilton-Bottas-Leclerc-Norris a day later. Three positions changed, Lando Norris was a new driver.

Also in Monza only two drivers defended their grid position from Friday. Pole man Valtteri Bottas as sprint winner and Norris in fourth place. The bad luck for Bottas was that he had to come back in the race because of an engine change. But that would have happened to him even on a standard weekend. In Interlagos, the top 5 was completely mixed up. Verstappen-Bottas-Perez-Gasly-Sainz became Bottas-Verstappen-Sainz-Perez-Hamilton.

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Hamilton always in focus

Each of the three sprints delivered its story. At the English GP, local hero Hamilton lost his pole position to Verstappen. Fernando Alonso impressed with a breathtaking opening lap. George Russell nudged Carlos Sainz in the early stages, which resulted in the Spaniard then overtaking six opponents for maximum damage control. Sergio Perez lost all chances with a crash in the Chapel corner. Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen each gained four places while Perez lost 15.

In Monza, Lewis Hamilton was the center of attention again. With a catastrophic start, he blew his chances of winning on Sunday. The Mercedes driver fell from second to fifth place. Conversely, Daniel Ricciardo laid the foundation for his victory at the Italian GP with a strong starting lap.

Pierre Gasly triggered a safety car phase with his high-speed crash on the Curva Grande. At the same time, Yuki Tsunoda and Robert Kubica were at loggerheads. This resulted in Tsunoda providing the most action with three overtakes. Compared to Friday, five drivers made up two positions each, Gasly lost 14 grid positions.

Valteri Bottas & Daniel Ricciardo - Formel 1 - GP Italien - Monza - 10. September 2021


Daniel Ricciardo laid the foundation for the Monza victory in the sprint on Saturday.

2022 cars better for sprints?

The story of the Brazil Sprint was Lewis Hamilton’s incredible comeback. From last place after his Friday disqualification to fifth in 24 minutes. Third place for Carlos Sainz, who had started fifth, also entertained the audience. The Spaniard dueled Sergio Perez throughout the race. There was also a collision between the two Alfa drivers, which cost Kimi Raikkonen five net positions.

So you can’t say that nothing happened in the compressed races on Saturday. Every sprint was decisive for the result on Sunday. Maybe even more would have been possible if, with Silverstone and Monza, they hadn’t chosen two circuits where overtaking is notoriously difficult. From this point of view, Imola and Zandvoort must be critically examined in the planned 2022 program.

Formula 1 is betting that the 2022 cars will be easier to drive in duels. If that happens, it will drive up the number of overtaking maneuvers on both Saturday and Sunday anyway. Another important point is the length of the sprint. It might be a good idea not to set the distance at exactly 100 kilometers.

With a window of between 90 and 110 kilometers, depending on the route, the number of drivers playing poker with soft tires could be increased. On some routes it might be worthwhile if the distance were ten kilometers shorter. Last year four drivers took risks at Silverstone, eight at Monza and nine at Interlagos.

Statistics sprint race 2021

runTop 5 WhichTop 5 SprintOvertaking sprintOvertaking GPtire choice
SilverstoneLH-MV-VB-CL-SPMV-LH-VB-CL-LN10 (Sainz 6) = 38 %264 soft, 16 medium
MonzaVB-LH-MV-LN-DRVB-MV-DR-LN-LH9 (Tsunoda 3) = 37%248 soft, 12 medium
InterlagosMV-VB-SP-PG-CSVB-MV-CS-SP-LH17 (Hamilton 9) = 31 %559 soft, 11 medium
runTop 5 WhichTop 5 SprintOvertaking sprintOvertaking GPtire choice
SilverstoneLH-MV-VB-CL-SPMV-LH-VB-CL-LN10 (Sainz 6) = 38 %264 soft, 16 medium
MonzaVB-LH-MV-LN-DRVB-MV-DR-LN-LH9 (Tsunoda 3) = 37%248 soft, 12 medium
InterlagosMV-VB-SP-PG-CSVB-MV-CS-SP-LH17 (Hamilton 9) = 31 %559 soft, 11 medium