Less testing but more qualifying, all for more show: With a new race format expected this weekend in Azerbaijan, the scene of the fourth round of the season, Formula 1 is betting on more excitement on the circuit.
The first category of motorsport benefits from its passage through the streets of Baku, which will host the first of the six sprint races of this season, to change its format, which was opened in 2021.
“This will enhance the spectacle (…) and improve the action on the track for fans around the world,” the FIA said in a joint statement with the Formula 1 promoter, a few days before the start of the first race of the season. .
Concretely, the pilots will only run one free practice session over the weekend (on Friday), followed by the ‘classic’ qualifications during the day, which will determine the starting grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Saturday will be devoted to sprinting. Drivers will take to the track for a second qualifying session (called the “Sprint Shootout”), on the same style as Friday but shorter, which will determine the starting order for a sprint race contested on the same day.
Besides Azerbaijan, the new format will also be raced in five other Grands Prix, in Austria (July 2), Belgium (July 30), Qatar (October 8), USA (Austin, October 22) and Brazil (November 5).
This change in format comes two years after the arrival of the first-class sprint races, which were already intended to provide entertainment over three days with “normal” qualifications, that is, against the clock on Friday, which determined the starting order for the 100 km race on Saturday, which determined Turn the starting grid for the race on Sunday.
According to the FIA, the new format will “give drivers more incentive to work hard on Saturdays”.
The latter generally did not take all the risks during the race in order to secure their position on the grid for the main race. The race has become a standalone event, and will not have an impact on the starting grid for the race.
The points distribution at the end of the race remains unchanged: only the first eight drivers will score points in the championship.
The weekend also featured two free practice sessions – the first (FP1) the Friday before qualifying and the second (FP2) the next day before the race. If the first remains, the second disappears.
“I’m not a big fan of FP2, sometimes it gets a little boring,” Ferrari boss Frédéric Vasseur admitted in early April. And for good reason: other than a lack of spectacle, teams can no longer freely adjust their individual seats from Friday’s qualifiers.
“Trying to have something more dynamic over the weekend is a good decision,” added the Frenchman on the sidelines of the Australian Grand Prix when both teams approved the change.
With such fast-paced races, F1 seeks to generate more income than the entire weekend, both in the stands and in the media coverage, as two free practice sessions are held on Friday – with little interest from the public – the third and final on the Saturday before the grid-defining qualifiers for the race in contention. them the next day.
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