Why F1 should overrule teams in sprint debate

Henry Valantine
Formula 1 British Grand Prix sprint qualifying start

Michael Masi praises open-minded sprint qualifying approach.

Pushback from teams over new Formula 1 measures has not been uncommon in the past.

But their supposed stand-off over sprint qualifying poses an intriguing point – are they right to do so this time?

The basic crux of the issue comes from Formula 1 looking to increase the number of sprints to six after their three trial weekends in 2021, with the sport’s big hitters wanting extra budgetary room to account for this.

The full weekend schedules for the season have now been released, but without sprint qualifying included in any of the weekend structures as it stands – although last year’s sprint venues were confirmed as the season progressed.

But for 2022, Mercedes and Red Bull are reportedly looking for an extra $5million to add to their coffers, which would wipe out the lowering of the budget cap by the same amount in time for this season.

On the face of it then, this would render Formula 1’s efforts to make the sport more affordable for the teams in 2022 absolutely meaningless.

On top of that, McLaren CEO Zak Brown has also accused these front-running teams of aiming to win titles by the “chequebook”, as this budget boost is unlikely to be used in full on sprints alone.

Valtteri Bottas takes the lead at the start of the sprint. Formula 1 Sao Paulo November 2021.
Valtteri Bottas dives past Max Verstappen at the start of sprint qualifying. Sao Paulo November 2021.

There was already an arbitrary amount of money available for teams from Formula 1 of $150,000 per sprint in 2021, with an added $100,000 per event should they incur damage during one of those qualifying races.

Doing the maths, these teams are now asking for a more than fivefold budgetary increase in the funding currently available to them (assuming cars are undamaged) – which sceptics could argue would simply be ploughed back into the development of their car over the course of the year.

This, of course, creates a quandary for the sport, and it leans towards Brown’s opinion that the teams are holding the sport “hostage” to try and get what they want so they will take part in sprint qualifying.

Talk of a reduced three-sprint agreement is rumoured in the world of Formula 1 and should the teams not get their way, they may vote to forego sprint qualifying altogether in 2022 – with a super-majority of eight of the 10 teams needing to sign up to the proposals.

This would get in the way of the sport’s plans to expand the format, and would also be a demonstration of team power in a way that has not been shown for a while.

Brown said the teams should not wield as much power as they do in the sport, and this could be a case study in showing that if the teams stand their ground together, then Formula 1 is beholden to them.

He has a point, too.

Formula 1 needs the teams, but those on the grid make their money from being in Formula 1 – so the relationship is almost certainly slanted in the sport’s favour, so there is some weight to Brown’s argument that the teams cannot hold the sport “hostage” when negotiating.

Of course, teams having input in decision-making in Formula 1 is crucial for a happy camp, but ultimately it is up to those in charge to say ‘this is what we are doing, now it’s up to you to work with it’ – and that very much applies to sprint qualifying too.

Fernando Alonso said the fans should have the final say on whether sprints should continue, and he is right in that assessment.

To go through the sport in its most basic process: Formula 1 provides the format, the teams provide the show and the fans decide whether or not they like what they see. That is the premise Alonso is urging the sport to follow and they should be decisive in making that happen, if that is the path they want to take.

If the teams eventually agree to the terms of sprint qualifying this season, the solution that will have to be in place is a simple one too.

Should Formula 1 decide to enable more money to be given to teams for sprint qualifying, it must be carefully policed to ensure the integrity of the budget cap remains intact and anything beyond that central allowance must be covered by the teams themselves.

It should not be forgotten, however, that the six proposed sprints, at one-third race distance each, would add two further grand prix distances onto the season and thus more mileage on their limited power-unit parts for the year.

This cannot be underestimated in terms of how this added test of reliability and performance could impact the World Championship. But it should have been apparent that once talk of expanded sprint qualifying started, they should take this into account.


The fact remains though that the teams have long known this move by Formula 1 had been intended heading into 2022, so it does feel as though this impasse could have been avoided if terms had been agreed for the teams before the end of the year, and they should have taken this added workload into consideration when mapping out the year – but the topic of overworked staff in the sport is a separate issue.

Should the dissenting teams remain stubborn and not budge on their demands over the budget cap, it is a no-win situation for the sport.

They will have shown themselves as not being powerful enough in introducing their own initiatives, and the teams themselves will feel their power will only have been reaffirmed in this process.

A sense of democracy in some areas is crucial in a sport as closely linked as Formula 1. But in moments of ultimately restructuring how some weekends will take shape, those at the top of the sport should show the teams who makes the rules – and they should follow them in this instance.

After all that, everyone will ultimately answer to the fans as to how the additional sprint roll-out is received – as it should be. Whatever the feedback, Formula 1 should absolutely listen to those watching for a true reflection. It is better that way.


Teams and F1 fail to reach agreement over sprint qualifying

Just three sprint qualifying races are set to take place in 2022, instead of the planned six.