Formula 1 has confirmed changes to the sprint format for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with the new ‘Sprint Shootout’ replacing the second practice session.
Since its introduction in 2021, the sprint format had been run to a rigid schedule with a single 60-minute practice session followed by qualifying – run to the traditional Q1/Q2/Q3 system – on Friday.
A second practice session would be held on Saturday morning before a sprint race of 100km was held to determine the starting order for Sunday’s grand prix.
It had been extensively reported over recent weeks that F1 was considering a change to the structure of the sprint format ahead of its return in Azerbaijan, with these tweaks now ratified by F1 and governing body the FIA.
Under the revised format, a single practice session will be followed by qualifying for the grand prix proper on the Friday of a sprint weekend.
That will make the middle day of a race weekend a designated ‘Sprint Saturday’, with a separate qualifying session – dubbed the ‘Sprint Shootout’ – forming the grid for a standalone sprint race with no bearing on Sunday’s race.
The Sprint Shootout will follow the standard Q1/Q2/Q3 format but with minor differences, with the timings of each segment reduced and a requirement to run mandated tyre compounds.
The new SQ1 will be shortened to 12 minutes with only medium tyres allowed, with SQ2 also run on the medium compound and lasting just 10 minutes.
The pole position shootout – SQ3 – will be cut to eight minutes, with the soft compound used by all drivers.
It is hoped that these revisions will leave a smaller margin for error for teams and drivers, increasingly jeopardy and potentially resulting in more unpredictability.
With a change of format comes a change to the way penalties are applied on a sprint weekend, with F1 confirming the following:
- Grid penalties in FP1 and Friday qualifying will apply to the race
- Grid penalties in sprint shootout apply to sprint
- Grid penalties in sprint apply to the race
- Parc ferme breaches mean a pit lane start in both sprint and race
- PU penalties only apply to race
F1 has doubled the number of sprint events for this year, with Baku hosting the first of six spread across the 2023 season.
The remaining five will be held at the Austrian, Belgian, Qatar, United States and Sao Paulo grands prix.