F1 Sprint Explained: Making Sense Of The Changes For 2023

F1 Sprint Explained: Making Sense Of The Changes For 2023
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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After a four-week hiatus, Formula 1 is back this weekend with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from Baku - and it's the first outing in 2023 for the divisive "F1 Sprint" format.

2021 was a shaky start for the F1 sprint format, with little action in the three half-hour Saturday races - but last year's trio were far more exciting, with great action on show at Imola and Sao Paulo in particular.

F1's bigwigs have clearly given the format the stamp of approval, bumping the number of "sprint weekends" up to six for 2023 - and there are wholesale changes to the layout of the weekend to boot.

We've got everything you need to get up to speed ahead of the first trial for the new F1 sprint.

What are the F1 sprint races?

F1 Sprint returns for the first time in 2023 on the Saturday of the race weekend at the Azerbaijan 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 run to 100km.

The opening lap of the sprint race at the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix (Photo: Shutterstock)

Will there still be a normal Grand Prix?

Yes, there will be a standard Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. The Azerbaijan Grand Prix will run to 51 laps (roughly 306km).

How will the 2023 F1 sprint races work?

The format of the sprint weekends have been totally overhauled for 2023, with the sprint event now detached from the full race on Sunday.

There will now be two separate qualifying sessions and two separate races, taking place across the three days of the weekend. We've broken down everything you need to know about the new format for the F1 sprint races below:

  • In a change from 2022, the F1 sprint race will not set the grid order for the Grand Prix
  • The weekend gets underway on Friday, with a single practice session, and then a full qualifying session which will set the order for Sunday's Grand Prix
  • F1 have coined the next day as "Sprint Saturday," with a shortened qualifying session setting the grid order for a 17-lap sprint later that day.
  • Saturday qualifying - dubbed the "Sprint Shootout" will follow the usual elimination format, but with each session shortened. Q1 will last 12 minutes, Q2 will last 10 minutes, and Q3 will last only eight minutes.
  • Teams are mandated to use the medium tyre in Q1 and Q2 of the Sprint Shootout, before using the soft tyre for Q3.
  • The top eight finishers in the F1 Sprint Race will earn points, with the winner earning eight points, runner-up seven, and so on.
  • Drivers are permitted to come into the pits during the sprint race, but pit stops are not mandatory for Saturday's race.
  • Saturday's action will not affect the starting order for the full Grand Prix on Sunday

What time is the F1 sprint race?


Every session this weekend will be broadcast live on Sky Sports F1 in the UK and Ireland. All session times below are listed in Irish Summer Time (IST).

Day Time Session
Friday April 28th 10:30 - 11:30 Practice
Friday April 28th 14:00 - 15:00 Grand Prix Qualifying
Saturday April 29th 09:30 - 10:14 Sprint Shootout Qualifying
Saturday April 29th 14:30 - 15:00 F1 Sprint Race
Sunday April 30th 12:00 - 14:00 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Will there be any more F1 sprint races?

Yes. This is the first F1 sprint race of 2023, but the format has been expanded for this season. There will be six F1 sprint races in total across the 2023 season, with further events taking place at the Austrian, Belgian, Qatar, United States, and Brazilian Grands Prix.

Of the six sprint venues for 2023, only Austria and Brazil have hosted the format so far. Austria held its first F1 sprint weekend in 2022, with Max Verstappen winning the Saturday event. This will be Brazil's third consecutive year hosting the event, with Valtteri Bottas winning in 2021, and George Russell coming out on top last year.


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 1:30pm. Channel 4's highlights of the sprint will start at 7:50pm.

Sky's live race day coverage kicks off at 10:30am on Sunday, with Channel 4's highlights getting underway at 5:30pm.

Who is expected to do well?

Short answer: Red Bull, and Max Verstappen. Verstappen has won two of the year's first three races - and likely would have also won in Jeddah were it not for an engine failure in qualifying. He also won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last year, and was en route to victory at this venue in 2021 when a tyre blowout late in the race forced him to retire.


Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso on the podium at the 2023 Australian Grand Prix (Photo: Shutterstock)

This race has thrown up some unusual results in the past, with unexpected podium finishers and winners in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2021. The tight and twisty street track will throw up plenty of opportunities for some chaos, and the chasing pack will hope to profit.


Said chasing pack is starting to take shape as the season progresses. Aston Martin have been the most improved team this season, and will hope to add to their streak of podium finishes so far this season. After a much-improved performance last time out in Melbourne, Mercedes will hope to kick on and close the gap to Red Bull this weekend.

Interestingly, no driver has won at Baku more than once, with a new winner every year since the first race in 2016. Of the current grid, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez, and Valtteri Bottas have all won in Azerbaijan in previous years. Given the track's record, and Aston Martin's renaissance, could this be an opportunity for Fernando Alonso or Lance Stroll?

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