F1 returns to its controversial "Sprint Race" format this weekend in Brazil, for the third and final time this season. After mixed results in the first two iterations, this version may be make-or-break for fans. But how will the format work this weekend in Sao Paulo?
What are the sprint races?
F1 will trial the sprint race format for the third time on the Saturday of the race weekend at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. It will last for approximately 30 minutes, and will be about a third of the length of a standard F1 race. Grands Prix are set to the lap closest to 305km, whereas the sprint races will run to 100km.
Will there still be a normal Grand Prix?
Yes, the F1 sprint races will set the grid order for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. The winner will start on pole position on Sunday, second place alongside them on the front row, and so on. The Grand Prix will run to the full 305km (71 lap) distance.
How will the F1 sprint races work?
There are lots of questions about F1's new sprint races. We've tried our best to give you a lowdown on the biggest ones below.
- Pit-stops are allowed but, unlike a standard Grand Prix, they will not be mandatory.
- Standard qualifying will still happen (and will follow the standard Q1, Q2, Q3 format) but it will only set the grid order for the sprint race. In a change from normal procedure, drivers do not have a choice of tyres for qualifying - they can only use the soft tyres.
- The weekend format has shifted for the Brazilian Grand Prix, so Friday sees one practice session and qualifying, before another practice session and the sprint race on Saturday.
- Drivers can start Sunday's main race on any tyre they choose.
- There will be no podium ceremony after the F1 sprint race, but the top three in the race will receive championship points. First place will get 3 points, second place will get 2, and third place will get 1 point towards their championship bid.
- The session times listed below are in Irish time (GMT +00:00)
|Friday November 12th||15:30 - 16:30||Practice 1|
|Friday November 12th||19:00 - 20:00||Qualifying|
|Saturday November 13th||15:00 - 16:00||Practice 2|
|Saturday November 13th||19:30 - 20:00||F1 Sprint Race|
|Sunday November 14th||17:00-19:00||Sao Paulo Grand Prix|
Will there be any more F1 sprint races?
This is the third of three sprint races in the 2021 F1 season. The sport held trials of the format at this year's British and Italian Grands Prix, to mixed reception - though both played a crucial role in deciding the outcome of the race weekend.
Despite going fastest in qualifying in Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton was beaten to P1 in the sprint race by Max Verstappen - which led to him chasing the Red Bull on lap one of the Grand Prix proper, and their now infamous crash at Copse corner.
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) July 18, 2021
At the Italian Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas was destined to start from the back of the grid in the Grand Prix due to an engine penalty, but took P1 in the sprint race. Daniel Ricciardo's brilliant start allowed him to start the full race from P2, where he made a storming getaway to claim his first win in three years, and McLaren's first in nine.
Despite some instances of excitement and wheel-to-wheel racing, the sprint races have thus far received a mixed reception - however, plans are barrelling ahead to increase the number of sprints for next year, with six of the 23 races scheduled to feature the new qualifying format.
How can I watch the F1 sprint race?
The entire race weekend will be broadcast live on both Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland, with highlights on Channel 4. Sky's coverage will run on Sky Sports F1 across the weekend, with their coverage of Saturday's F1 sprint race starting at 6:30pm. Channel 4's highlights of the sprint will start at 11:20pm.
Sky's live race day coverage kicks off at 3:30pm on Sunday.
Who is expected to do well?
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are locked in the most intense inter-team championship battle since 2012, with the Dutchman leading by 19 points going into the final four races of the championship. Verstappen won the last time F1 came to Brazil in 2019, after a chaotic finish that saw multiple drivers crash out.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 30, 2020
The Brazilian race is one dear to Hamilton's heart, given his emotional connection to the late great Ayrton Senna, who hailed from Brazil. Pierre Gasly, who finished in second in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, is also a Senna fanatic, and has been pictured sporting a Senna cap this weekend.
It's set to be an enthralling weekend at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with the championship battle going right down to the wire, and the latest iteration of "F1 sprint" to liven up the race weekend.