Formula One’s Saturday sprint races will become standalone events with a new ‘Shootout’ qualifying session replacing final practice at six grands prix in 2023, starting with Azerbaijan GP this weekend.
The FIA Formula One commission, which includes the 10 teams, voted unanimously for the change at a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday. The decision was approved by an e-vote of the World Motor Sport Council.
The changes mean Friday’s qualifying, which follows an hour-long opening practice session, will set the grid for Sunday’s main grand prix instead of the Saturday sprint.
There will be a half-hour ‘Sprint Shootout’ qualifying on Saturday morning to determine the starting order for the same day’s 100km sprint race, which offers points for the top eight finishers but no longer sets the grid for Sunday.
This qualifying will be divided into three parts with the first phase lasting 12 minutes, the second 10 minutes and final top 10 shootout eight minutes.
Drivers will have to use new medium compound tyres in the first two phases and softs for phase three.
The change is aimed at adding excitement and “delivering more jeopardy”.
It could mean drivers having only one lap to secure pole position in the final phase of qualifying, depending on the length of track and traffic.
The number of sprint races has doubled since being introduced last season.
Formula One argues that separating the sprint from Sunday’s action will improve the show by allowing drivers to race freely without risk to their start position for the main grand prix.
The sport says television viewing figures have gone up on Fridays when there has been competitive action to watch rather than just practice.
“The FP3 (third practice) session on Saturday morning became almost worthless because nobody was watching it, the teams couldn’t do any changes on the car except trying the tyre out for the race so there was no real interest,” Haas team boss Guenther Steiner told Reuters last week.
“So I think that is a good addition to the weekend to put a sprint qualifying in.”
Apart from Baku, the other sprint races this season will be in Austria, Belgium, Qatar, Austin and Brazil.
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