Formula 1 journalist Michael Schmidt believes that the revamped sprint qualifying points system has gone too far.
The series rolled out its new sprint qualifying concept for the first time in 2021, with the British, Italian and Sao Paulo GPs selected as the venues to trial this 100km sprint race as part of an altered race weekend format.
On a sprint weekend traditional qualifying was brought forward to Friday to determine the sprint grid, with that then defining the starting order for the main grand prix.
Initially Formula 1 had planned to up the schedule to six sprint for 2022, satisfied with how the trials went, though disagreements over how that increase could be accounted for in the budget cap is largely behind the fact that we will only have three sprints again this season.
There will though be some major alterations to the sprint weekends.
Firstly, the winner of sprint qualifying will no longer be declared the pole sitter, that honour instead returning to the P1 driver in traditional qualifying.
And on top of that, rather than three points for the sprint winner, two for P2 and one for P3, the top eight will now score points.
Eight will go to the driver that takes the chequered flag in the sprint, dropping by a point per position down to one for the P8 finisher.
This has been done to encourage drivers to take more overtaking risks in the sprints, but in his blog piece for Auto Motor und Sport, Schmidt explained that to his mind, there are now too many points up for grabs.
“Inflation has never been a good thing. It makes things arbitrary, because there is too much of something,” he wrote.
“Now the sprint races will also be upgraded. There are points for eight of the 20 drivers, for a race that lasts 25 minutes. That is clearly too much.
“The sprint should be an additional programme item on the way to the starting grid. No more and no less. This points inflation damages the value of the main race.”
He also does not believe that the new system is going to encourage more overtaking, especially further down in the midfield, where battles would be for minor points only while putting a driver’s starting place at risk for the main race.
“The drivers will therefore no longer take risks,” he continued.
“If I have three points in my pocket as sixth, I won’t risk my neck for four points with the risk of starting from the back on Sunday. In none of the three sprints in 2021 did fourth make any special effort to get to third.”
There is a potential silver lining though in the form of the new 2022 regulations, which have been designed to allow cars to follow more closely, thus increasing the overtaking opportunities.
So, Schmidt believes it is this which will determine how much overtaking there is in the sprints, rather than the points incentive.
“The number of duels is determined by how easy or difficult it is to overtake,” he stated.
“That’s supposed to be easier this year with the new cars. So hopefully we’ll see more action on our own, with or without the extra points.”
But while feeling that points should be taken away from the sprint race pot, Schmidt argues that one should be added to the tally of the driver who takes pole on Friday.
“There’s something else that bothers me – the man who sets the fastest lap of the weekend on Friday goes away empty-handed,” Schmidt wrote.
“From now on, he’s back in the statistics book with a pole position, but he doesn’t get any reward for it in the form of World Championship points.
“What is the greater achievement now: to finish on pole position on Friday or to finish eighth on Saturday?
“I would have left it at 3-2-1 and given the pole man from Friday an extra point. If he then wins the sprint, he will be clearly ahead of the runners-up and third-placed drivers in terms of points.”
Too many sprint race points being awarded in 2022?
Michael Schmidt feels that the sprint qualifying points system has gone too far.