Formula One sprint races move a step closer

Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent

Formula One edged a step closer to introducing sprint races this season after the idea received unanimous approval from the teams in a meeting on Thursday.

F1 bosses tabled the format of a shorter race on Saturdays, which would replace qualifying and determine the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

If given the green light, it is set be trialled at this season’s Canadian, Italian and Brazilian Grands Prix.

Eight of the 10 teams must vote in favour to get the concept off the ground, and following F1’s presentation on Thursday, the early indications suggested there could be a big enough majority to push it through.

However, the teams are keen to understand the finer details of F1’s plans before formally showing their hand.

They want to discover how many points will be distributed for the sprint race, while there could also be financial and legal implications surrounding current driver contracts.

It is also unclear whether the sprint event would count as a victory, or merely pole position for Sunday’s grand prix.

  • To be held on a Saturday

  • Approx a third of the length of Sunday's grand prix

  • Top eight awarded points

  • Points count towards championship

F1 chiefs are keen to shake up the format of a GP weekend in a bid to spice up the show. There are currently two practice sessions on Friday, followed by a third on Saturday ahead of qualifying.

Under the proposed changes, Friday’s second practice session would be replaced by qualifying to make up the grid for Saturday’s shortened race.

The race would be approximately a third of the length of Sunday’s grand prix. It is expected that the top eight drivers would be awarded points which would count towards the championship.

A joint statement from F1 and its governing body, the FIA read: “All teams recognised the major importance of engaging fans in new and innovative ways to ensure an even more exciting weekend format.

“There was, therefore, broad support from all parties for a new qualifying format at some races, and a working group has been tasked with creating a complete plan with the aim to reach a final decision before the start of the 2021 championship.”

It was also confirmed that the Portuguese Grand Prix is set to fill the May 2 slot on the calendar.

Lewis Hamilton is set to open his bid for an unprecedented eighth world championship in Bahrain on March 28 ahead of rounds in Imola (April 18), Portimao and Spain (May 9).

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