The Return of F1 Sprint Races
Revving up the excitement for Formula 1 enthusiasts, the F1 Sprint races have returned triumphantly to the racing calendar in 2023. Following two successful seasons of implementation, this year promises even more action and drama with an expanded schedule featuring six captivating sprint races.
The second instalment of this adrenaline-packed spectacle is set to unfold just ahead of the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix, adding an electrifying buzz to the upcoming race weekend.
Ramping Up the Action
Bucking the trend of the past seasons, which saw three sprint races, the FIA has doubled down on the thrill factor by introducing six sprint races for the 2023 season. The brainchild behind this decision, Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, emphasized the aim to create a racing weekend brimming with three days of intense competition and a hefty dose of entertainment for fervent fans of the sport.
Introducing F1 Sprint
The concept of the F1 Sprint first emerged during the 2021 season, introducing a revamped format on three select occasions. This innovation garnered widespread interest and was extended to three more races in the 2022 season. The momentum continues in 2023 with six sprints on the calendar.
The essence of the F1 Sprint lies in its brief nature, spanning a compact distance of 100 kilometres, roughly equivalent to 62 miles. Distinct from previous seasons, qualifying for the sprint takes place on Saturdays, shortly preceding the actual sprint event scheduled for later on the same day. Remarkably, pit stops are conspicuously absent from these races, freeing drivers from the strategic necessity of a tire change.
The 2023 season ushers in a pivotal alteration to the F1 Sprint race weekends by introducing the F1 Sprint Shootout. Departing from the preceding years, where Friday’s qualifying session set the grid for Saturday’s sprint race and, subsequently, for Sunday’s Grand Prix, this season debuts the Sprint Shootout as an independent qualifying session preceding the sprint event on designated Saturdays.
Notably, drivers are mandated to utilize specific tire types in different segments of the Sprint Shootout. Medium tires are requisite for SQ1 and SQ2, while SQ3 necessitates soft tires. The caveat is that all tires must be brand-new sets. In a twist, drivers unable to furnish new sets of tires due to previous qualifying will be excluded from the Sprint Shootout qualifying session.
Retaining the points distribution mechanism from 2022, the 2023 F1 Sprint races award eight points to the winner, with the scale descending to one point for the eighth-place finisher. These points are subsequently integrated into both the World Drivers’ Championship and the Constructors Championship standings, heightening the significance of the sprints in the broader context of the championship race.
Reimagining Qualifying for the Grand Prix
Contrary to prior years, the outcome of the Sprint will no longer impact the starting grid for the Grand Prix. In the unfolding of the 2023 season, Fridays of Sprint weekends will herald a solitary practice session before launching into the qualifying rounds, which will ascertain the starting grid for the Grand Prix event on Sunday.
Victories in F1 Sprint Races
Max Verstappen, a two-time world champion, stands tall as the frontrunner for sprint race victories. His remarkable tally of four first-place finishes surpasses any other driver’s, underscoring his mastery of the format. Verstappen’s sprint triumphs include the inaugural race at Silverstone in 2021 and two more victories during the 2022 season at Imola and the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
The 2023 season further saw Verstappen seize victory in the Austrian Sprint. Valtteri Bottas has also capitalized on the sprint format, clinching the top spot twice, notably at Monza and Brazil. George Russell left his indelible mark by securing a sprint victory in Brazil, a feat he magnificently followed up with his maiden Grand Prix win, a standout moment for himself and the Mercedes team in the 2022 season.
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