Were the sprint races a success? The final verdict on the F1 Sprint races

14-11-2021 10:54

Interlagos has just hosted the third and final Formula 1 Sprint of the 2021 season and it is fair to say they’ve recieved mixed reviews. We are going to break down what happened at each sprint race, weigh up the positives and negatives, give our solutions and most importantly we’ll rank each one.

So sprint races were introduced at Silverstone and was contested over seventeen laps in Britain. Hamilton lost out at the start with Verstappen overtaking him into first place and although we saw a thrilling first lap, with plenty of movement in terms of places, Fernando Alonso in particular going from P11 to fifth on the opening lap it eventually became some what of a procession and in my opinion it fell a bit flat. F1 ackoledged this and emphasised that the three sprints in 2021 were focused on getting the reactions of the audience. 

At Monza Valtteri Bottas qualified on pole and kept it, storming to a whopping three points and although he won the sprint, he would eventually face a grid penalty for the race itself which gave Max Verstappen pole position. My issue with the race becoming a procession was reaffirmed at the italian Grand Prix, with the top eight not changing places after the opening lap, meaning there was a severe lack of action in the top 10, which is ultimately what the fans care about. The drivers had plenty to say, Sergio Perez criticised it calling it boring, whilst Fernando Alonso suggested single lap qualifying could be used to set the grid for the sprint. The method was last used in 2005. Ross Brawn understandably defended it, saying there was plenty of action but in reality the issues were evident but not disastrous.

Yesterday’s sprint race was slightly in the shadow of A the title race and B the drama we went through in the 24 hours previous. After qualifying on pole, Hamilton was demoted to the back after being disqualified for a rear wing infringement but it made for a great spectacle going from 20th to fifth in just 24 laps, as Valtteri Bottas won from P2! A fitting way for the final sprint race to end.

The positives

Well it is clear there is one overwhelming positive, and that is the fact it is something different. Formula 1 has been crying out for innovation. They’ve tried and failed in the past, but this feels like it has legs. It gives people something to care about, who gives a toss about FP2? On the subject of irrelavant sessions, I’ve always thought that the practice sessions give teams too much data to work with. Well the sprint cuts that down. It adds an extra competitive layer to the weekend, rather than boring practice sessions, it makes every session count. Drivers need to nail FP1 for quali and the sprint and they need information from FP2 for the race itself so it gives value to each session. And ultimately that’s what F1 wants because they want more people watching and by providing more competive racing, I’d expect that to happen. And finally it gives the sport a bit of much needed unpredictability in terms of results. At Silverstone George Russell got into the top ten for example and it allows for more variation in the standings. 

The negatives

Well I’ve already mentioned it, but after two laps, it was dull. It was just another 17 to 25 laps for the sake of it. Monza was a prime example, the top eight didn’t change after lap one. One word, BORING! Lap one and two is some of the best racing we’ve seen this year, but after that it has very little for you. In its current format it’ll just become a smaller version of the race on a Sunday because the grid doesn’t really change, so the question will be asked, what’s the point?

How do we make the F1 Sprint better? 

First of all and probably the most common suggestion is WE NEED A REVERSE GRID. Make the quicker cars fight through the field. On Friday we have qualifying this decides Sunday’s grid, the reverse of this is the starting grid for the sprint? That’s just a potential solution, I personally would love it but I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments. Also give out some more points? If you want to make teams go for it and make daring overtakes for all action racing, give it some incentive. 
Next year we’ll have six of these, and personally I’m a big fan of that but if we go to the same places each year it’ll be tedious and the same each year. I’m a huge advocat for a changeable calendar, and the sprint race should be no different, one year lets have one at Silverstone but the next why not do one around Miami. No calendar should ever be the same!

And finally our 2021 Sprint race tier list. In last Monza, it wasn’t memorable and did the concept no favours at all! In at two we’ll go Silverstone, the first lap or two were brilliant but it fell of after that. And the best till last, by a country mile was Interlagos. It benefitted massively from Hamilton’s penalty and the tyre split at the front, but there was action all the way through and it sets up today’s race nicely!

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