F1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn insists that he does not want sprint qualifying to “cannibalise” Grand Prix Sundays, with test events now scheduled for the new format.
Formula 1 confirmed on Monday that three test runnings of 100km sprint races will take place – rumoured to be at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos – and Brawn also said that if the format is not successful, then the sport will ditch the plans and try another avenue to improve the spectacle surrounding the races.
“The thing to remember about sprint qualifying is that it’s intention is to expand the whole weekend,” said Brawn via F1’s official website. “It is not intended to impact the race event. The Grand Prix is still the vital event of the weekend.
“We want to give fans engagement throughout the whole weekend. Sunday’s Grand Prix is fantastic, and we don’t want to cannibalise that, but we want to lift up the engagement on a Friday and a Saturday.
“Friday is really for the aficionados at the moment. Watching practice session on Friday is fun but there is no conclusion to it. But on a Friday now [at these selected events], we’ll have the excitement of the qualifying format.”
Following F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali saying that the sprint races will bring “many advantages“ to the sport, Brawn echoed those comments by adding his belief that the short, sharp format will be “very exciting”.
“I think it will be a great addition,” the former Ferrari technical director added. “There is unlikely to be pit stops, so it’ll be a clean race. It’ll be 30 mins roughly, 100km of action.
“We want to see how fans engage with it and if the short format is appealing, it’s complimentary and if it works with the main race. We feel it will. We feel it’s going to be very exciting.”
🚫 No compulsory pit stops
🚦 DRS in action
🏃 100km of pure sprint action
🏆 Points to top three: 3-2-1
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 26, 2021
There was initial scepticism from the teams surrounding the proposals, most notably by the added running costs for the races, with the new budget cap in the sport already restricting their spending.
After a compensation package was agreed for the teams, thought to be around $500,000 (£360,000) each for the test events, the teams voted the motion through unanimously on Monday to give sprint qualifying a go in 2021.
“[One of the challenges was] finding a format that had the right balance between giving us an opportunity to have exciting Friday and Saturday running – perhaps a shorter format race but one which did not take anything away from main event,” Brawn reasoned.
“We had to find that balance. Everyone had a different opinion on what that should look like. It was also about finding an economic and logistical solution that didn’t impact teams too severely.
“They want this event, but they are all working under massive challenges and we had to find a solution that worked with them without compromising the event.
“The drivers are open minded about the format – and that’s all we ask, that the drivers keep an open mind so we can evaluate this event and then we decide if in the future it forms a feature of the F1 season. If it doesn’t work, we put [our] hands up and we will think again.”