Revealed: Sprint weekend format change mooted for Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Thomas Maher
McLaren drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris. Baku June 2022.

Daniel Ricciardo leads Lando Norris through the castle section in qualifying. Azerbaijan June 2022.

F1 may trial a new race weekend format for the first Sprint event of the season, the upcoming Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

As it stands, the qualifying format for a Sprint weekend sees Friday host first practice and a normal qualifying session, with the outcome of that session used to determine the starting order for a Sprint race.

An inconsequential practice session on Saturday morning follows, before said Sprint race is held in the afternoon – the results of the Sprint then being used to determine the starting order for the Grand Prix on Sunday.

Additional reporting by Michael Lamonato

Obvious weaknesses in the format have been identified as 2023 marks the third year of the format being used, such as Saturday morning’s practice session being largely useless due to the cars already being locked into parc ferme conditions.

As well as that, with the Sprint result having an impact on the Grand Prix itself with only minimal rewards as a trade-off, drivers were inclined to race with caution on Saturdays.

Qualifying changes for Azerbaijan?

However, a change to the format is being discussed for introduction, possibly as soon as the weekend in Baku in fewer than four weeks’ time. understands the proposal, discussed by the teams together on Sunday morning in Australia, would see the inconsequential Saturday morning practice session replaced with another qualifying session to determine the starting order for the Sprint race – isolating the Sprint outcome from the Grand Prix itself.

While there has been a positive reception amongst the team bosses, there are still various hurdles to clear before the format change is set in stone for Azerbaijan – starting with discussions at the Sporting Advisory Committee (SAC) level, before being put to a vote by the F1 Commission, and then for ratification by the World Motor Sport Council.

Several team bosses, including Red Bull’s Christian Horner, have expressed misgivings about hosting the first Sprint weekend of the season in Azerbaijan, with Horner labeling the decision as “ludicrous”. recommends

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Aston Martin’s Mike Krack acknowledged discussions had taken place over the Australian weekend, revealing that the conversation is focusing on trying to find a common ground that suits all the parties involved.

“F1 has to evolve, in general, but also I think F1 has to keep its DNA,” he told media, including

“There were some quite constructive discussions today [Sunday] on how to achieve that because you have to work to understand all the stakeholder’s interests, which we do.

“But then, also, we have very tight timelines now, with regulations with tyre availability, engine mileage, and all that. All these points, you have to factor in and try to find a sensible compromise.

“Maybe at one point, you have also to put the interest of a single team on the side, and look for the big picture. From that point of view, I think there were very constructive discussions.”