Q&A: All about the new Formula 1 sprint qualifying set to debut at three weekends in 2021

The augmented race weekends will take place at Silverstone, Monza and another still undecided location

By Olivia Kairu

The winner of a Saturday 100km sprint qualifying race will start the Sunday race on pole position (Photo: Twitter/F1)

FIA, Formula 1 and its ten teams have unanimously approved the implementation of a Sprint Qualifying format, set to debut over three weekends in 2021.

The augmented race weekends are set to take place at Silverstone, Monza and one undecided location during the season. 

“I am sure the drivers will relish the fight,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali in a statement. “I am delighted that all the teams supported the plan, and it is a testament to our united efforts to continue to engage our fans in new ways while ensuring we remain committed to the heritage and meritocracy of our sport.”

F1total.ca prepared a quick Q&A for you to be on top of the new format.

So, what’s the new format?

A sprint qualifying session will take place on Saturday, replacing the standard three-part qualifying session. In the new format, drivers will compete in a 100km race with no required pit stops. 

The session result will determine the grid for the race on Sunday, whose traditional format remains unchanged. Points will also be awarded to the top three in the sprint qualifying, with three points for pole-sitter, down to one point for third. The sprint race winner will be awarded a trophy instead of the current Pirelli’s Pole Position Award.

What does the rest of the weekend look like?

The three practice sessions have been cut down to two one-hour sessions: FP1 on Friday and FP2 on Saturday. During these, the teams can use two sets of any tyre compound out of the 12 allocated. 

What we know as the regular qualifying session as of now will follow after the Friday morning FP1 session. But instead of it determining the grid for the Sunday race, the session will decide Saturday’s sprint qualifying start positions. Teams are only allowed to run on the red-marked soft compound throughout the session, in which five sets are available. 

What about rainy Saturdays?

A fresh set of intermediate tyres will be provided in the event of wet conditions during FP1 or qualifying. 

However, all teams are required to exchange their used set of intermediates for a new set if wet conditions carry on into sprint qualifying. 

Do the Parc Ferme rules still apply? 

New Parc Ferme rules prevent teams from changing considerable elements in their cars ahead of both qualifying sessions. For this period, however, a list of changes will be permitted due to safety reasons to allow teams to work on brake ducts, power units and gearbox cooling. In the event of damage, changes to front wings will also be allowed. 

Full Parc Ferme is to be instated, as usual, before races on Sunday. 

Will Sprint Qualifying sessions become a regular thing beyond 2021?

The three locations set to debut the new format are the beginning of a test period set by the FIA which could determine a future change in the sport’s format for seasons to come. 

F1 Managing Director Ross Brawn mentioned if unsuccessful, the format would be scrapped. “I’m not sure this format would be as successful at Monaco,” he said. “We’re considering these weekends being Grand Slam events, spread through the season, so it is something different,” said Brawn.

Prospects of success, however, thrill FIA president Jean Todt as he regards the decision as progress for the sport. “F1 is showing itself to be stronger than ever with all stakeholders working together in this way,” Todt said, “and much has been done to ensure that the sporting, technical and financial aspects of the format are fair.”

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