British GP qualifying moved to Friday evening

Jon Wilde
Start of the 2020 British Grand Prix at Silverstone

Formula 1’s first weekend trialling a new format will feature a Friday evening qualifying session at the British Grand Prix.

Sprint Qualifying is being introduced as an experiment this season, with Silverstone the first of three venues to include competitive action on all three days of the race weekend.

July 16-18 are the dates for the 2021 British Grand Prix and the newly-announced timings show that the traditional one-hour qualifying session will take place on Friday evening between 6pm and 7pm UK time.

Instead of setting the grid for Sunday’s race, qualifying will instead decide the order for Sprint Qualifying – a race over 100 kilometres which will award three, two and one points for the top three finishers.

Starting at 4.30pm on the Saturday and expected to last for up to 30 minutes, Sprint Qualifying will, in turn, set the grid order for the British Grand Prix, which is at its usual start time of 3.00pm on Sunday.

Only two free practice sessions instead of the usual three will be held over the Silverstone weekend.

The first will be on Friday afternoon between 2.30pm and 3.30pm, leaving a gap of two-and-a-half hours before qualifying, and the second between 12pm and 1pm Saturday lunchtime, leaving three-and-a-half hours until lights out for Sprint Qualifying.

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Although points are to be awarded for Sprint Qualifying, there will be no podium ceremony. But the winner will receive a trophy in parc ferme, similar to how the pole-sitter receives a commemorative tyre from Pirelli after qualifying.

Formula 1 have said two more Sprint Qualifying weekends will take place after Silverstone during 2021, one of them expected to be the Italian Grand Prix and the other at a “flyaway event”.

Sir Lewis Hamilton has spoken positively about the new format, which he will first get to sample at his home race – with the Friday evening qualifying sure to attract a greater audience than if it had been held during the afternoon when fans are more likely to be working or studying.

“I’ve always said we need to have some sort of different format throughout the year at some tracks,” said Hamilton.

“So I like that they are being open-minded and making changes. I think from those experimental weekends, hopefully the sport will learn lots on how we can deploy better races moving forwards.”

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