Formula One: Sprint Races

Mark Thompson, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool

Formula One is to debut sprint races at Silverstone and two other weekends in 2021. Reported to fill the vacant spots are the Italian, Canadian or Brazilian Grand Prix. The go ahead for sprint races comes after the consensus that teams support the concept, more meetings are to follow to finalise the decision expected in the coming week.

Regarding the format of the weekend, the sprint race will replace qualifying on the Saturday with finishing positions setting the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix. So, Friday will have qualifying to set the grid for the sprint race. There will also be two practice sessions, one before qualifying and one before the sprint race.

There have been many attempts to change the weekend format in recent years including the notorious ‘elimination qualifying’ in 2016 under Bernie Ecclestone. Sprint races have emerged next in line for rigorous testing, after amassing a great deal of attention in recent weeks. The principles are to increase the likelihood of closer and unpredictable racing in Sunday’s Grand Prix whilst spreading the excitement and engagement across the entire weekend for fans.

The 2021 season is already regarded as an ‘interim’ for the extensive regulation changes to come in 2022. But for Sprint races to join the already rogue season comparatively to recent years with shuffled driver line-ups, new teams, cost caps and token system; there is already much optimism for this to be a thrilling and likely unpredictable season.

Raising the argument that sprint races would mitigate the DNA of the sport is almost an uninformed remark, as Formula One has evolved exponentially since the inaugural championship race in 1950. Change has been a constant, otherwise the sport wouldn’t be what is loved today. But what hasn’t changed all that much is the dominance, like the partnerships of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari or currently Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, and as such many factors have been engineered into the sport to prevent it but haven’t succeeded.

Sprint races, however, will raise many questions about whether it is worth it and the implications that might follow. For instance, whether it would count as a win or a pole position? Will it detract from the main race? What happens if a sprint race decides the championship? Thus leading to potential debates and disputes on the significance of records and unravelling more comparisons. However, Formula One often centres around comparison as speed, wins and all out success rate often lands drivers in the better teams.

Financially, there are implications that raise concerns. Teams, especially those who consistently start in the midfield, will be more susceptible to damage over the season. The complete change in tactics for teams, as well as the development plans of their cars for better performance behind others, will also be an interesting follow in the run-up to the first race.

This will, of course, be a financial benefit for organisers, as it will attract more fans to buy weekend tickets and tune in throughout the weekend. The weekend is already full of support races, the most notable addition to this year is the W Series and, as always, Formula 2. With this in mind, are sprint races needed to gain a more tangible excitement across the race weekends, or will we already have that with support races? And should there be more encouragement to watch those races as well? What happens to those who work on the Friday as well and enjoy watching qualifying live?

All in all, it will certainly amass greater discussion and controversy leading up to the weekends that it will be tested on, whether it’s beneficial or not? Whether it would actually change anything? With all the questions that have collated on the topic, there is only one way to understand, namely to encourage and test the idea.

By Joe


Hamilton’s Record race and what an Eifel GP it was

Losses of power, tyre temperatures and tangles made for a thriller of an Eifel Grand Prix. As for Valtteri Bottas, who started on pole, he was hit with reliability issues giving Lewis Hamilton less of a hassle fending off Max Verstappen. The six-time champion was able to bring it home for a record-breaking 91 race wins, matching the mighty Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton is now level with Michael Schumacher on 91 Grand Prix victories in Formula One – courtesy of Mercedes Media

A clean getaway for the field meant it was not until lap 9 that the first events took place as Charles Leclerc’s attempt to tame the charge of Ricciardo was swiftly halted and the Monegasque was forced to pit straight after for fresh tyres. The other Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was having another dismal weekend and was not able to compete with his teammate nor the rest of the field, spinning the car into the first corner for good measure.

A costly lock-up relegated Bottas to second as Hamilton capitalised on this opportunity and took first. Not long after it was to get worse for Bottas as he retired and unluckily, after the momentum he was on from last race, saw the the gap increase to 69 points to Hamilton in the Drivers Championship.

George Russell was a sitting duck when Kimi Raikkonen locked up and sent the Williams onto two wheels, ending the race for Russell and bringing out a Virtual Safety Car. Kimi also indirectly impacted the race for Romain Grosjean as the Frenchman reported on team radio that he thought his finger was broken after Raikkonen’s car spat gravel towards the Frenchman’s cockpit.

George Russell was aiming for a competitive race before contact with Kimi Raikkonen ended his afternoon – courtesy of Williams Media

Alex Albon also endured a tough weekend having been pipped by Leclerc on Saturday and he eventually retired the car early. This will be a weekend to forget for the Thai driver who is in a ruthless Red Bull driver market and he will be looking towards Portugal to set more pointers to retain his seat for next year.

Nico Hulkenberg, after jumping in last minute for the unwell Lance Stroll, had a relatively calm weekend following his call up. The German came away with a brilliant 8th, place taking Driver of The Day. This will be valuable in his efforts to get a seat back in Formula One, and the result proved valuable to Racing Point as well. His finish, coupled with Sergio Perez’s fourth, placed them ahead of McLaren and now into 3rd place in the constructors’.

Nico Hulkenberg earned a fantastic eighth-placed finish, deputising for the unwell Lance Stroll – courtesy of Racing Point Media

There was a late safety car as Lando Norris pulled to the side to take to the deck chairs as his “Default Zero 3” wheel setting was not able to get the car home. This however was timely for the rest of the teams and brought forth a new strategy as they jumped into the pits to grab extra points.

The restart gave exciting skirmishes in the midfield and Ricciardo attempted a move up the side of Verstappen to further cement a trip to the tattoo parlour with Cyril Abiteboul. It wasn’t necessary though as he will be looking to his friends back in London after taking 3rd  to get one done for Renault’s Managing Director.

It looks like Cyril Abiteboul will be getting a tattoo of Daniel Ricciardo’s choice after the Australian’s podium

The top three crossed the line all improving on their start positions with a surprise podium for the Renault who have not seen the top steps since Malaysia 2011, and Ricciardo’s return to the steps since Monaco 2018.

Renault earned their first podium since Malaysia 2011 with Nick Heidfeld – courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

A celebration of Hamilton’s achievements was met with Mick Schumacher handing over his father’s iconic helmet in honour of matching the record—rather fittingly at the German’s home Grand Prix with the Schumacher S being named after him. He added in his post-race interview that he remembers playing against the seven time world champion on Grand Prix 3 aged around 13-14 and now it looks ever promising that he will complete his climb to being the most successful driver in Formula One.

The next stop is Portugal, where Formula One has not landed since Damon Hill’s win at Estoril in 1996. The Algarve International Circuit in Portimao will host the Grand Prix on the 25th October. And two weeks on from the Eifel Grand Prix the F1 Drivers’ Championship is shaping to be heavily contested in the midfield and the Autodrome will hopefully maintain the enticing battle with 6 confirmed races in this season still to go!


Feature Image Courtesy of Pirelli Media

PREVIEW: 2020 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom

On the back end of yet another exhilarating Formula One Grand Prix in Italy, we head to Sochi and round 10 of the 2020 F1 season in Russia. Mugello provided the fans with a gripping watch which saw Red Flags up to the third in the space of two races. Alex Albon achieved his first podium for the Red Bull Racing team and Racing Point left wondering if they will be able to get the upgrades on the car in time for Sochi after Lance Strolls off at Arrabiata corner, leaving the car with heavy terminal damage.

Being announced alongside Mugello on the 10th of July for this unprecedented season, Sochi will allow the teams to have a more familiar approach to the race with the knowledge that is shared from the past 6 races here. Mercedes’ dominance has earned them a win in every one of them and the team certainly look set to do the same this year. Valtteri Bottas also took his first win at the Autodrom in 2017 for the Silver Arrows and will want to turn the tides on his championship fight and take it to Lewis Hamilton in the hopes of reducing the gap of 55 points.

Bottas took his first win for Mercedes in Russia three years ago – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Knowing how the season has panned out so far, it is safe to say that we could be in for another treat of a Grand Prix. The Renaults have proven their pace with near podium finishes and they now lie 5th in the championship, honing in on both the Racing Points and McLarens who sit fourth and third. Daniel Riccardo is still in high hopes of sealing a bet with Cyril Abiteboul which amusingly details that if he was to gain a podium before the end of the season, the Renaults chief principle will be getting a Tattoo of Riccardo’s choice.

The Streaming superstars of Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc and George Russell have all surprised us this season in regards to performance and results. The remarkable efforts of Russell have gotten the Williams into Q2 five times this season and the famous ‘Last Lap Lando’ attacks have provided plenty of late drama. Will we see these drivers taking the headlines if any of them at the Autodrome this weekend?

George Russell has impressed again in 2020 for Williams – Courtesy of Williams media

After Lance Strolls suspected puncture incident at Mugello and the car hitting the wall causing excessive damage, Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer suggested the upgrade that was on the car had a couple to three-tenths improvement. Due to the damage of Lance Stroll’s car, by the race weekend, Lance may still only be the one with the upgrade. And with Russia being a tight circuit that is difficult for overtaking, the overall pace of a car is vital for the higher positions and to optimise strategy.

With the news of reshuffling and the potential of F2 drivers making the jump to Formula One next year, this could cause worry for some of the drivers. Which makes this race an important statement to keep them in the team. Pierre Gasly – following the frustration of ending his Tuscan Grand Prix no more than two corners in after winning previous – will want to return to his exceptional ways that may prow the eyes of Red Bull for a potential step-up or other teams. However, with the current situation at Red Bull Albon may have found the confidence back that he was looking for after his P3 finish last time out.

Alex Albon’s podium in Mugello was his first in F1 – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

The set tyre choices for the 2020 season being predominantly soft tyres may see teams opt for a more aggressive strategy for the 5.8 km circuit, and maybe even a two-stop strategy with the evident tyre degradation in the new Pirelli tyres. And with the weather set to be clear it should be a straight forward strategy come race day for the teams.

A healthy gap to the rest of the field sees Mercedes lead by an enormous 152 points in the constructors’ standings, which will be difficult to close for Red Bull especially with the trend of this season let alone the track itself. Taking a look down the field there is a close battle with Ferrari just 17 points shy of Renault and the Alpha Tauri a further 13 behind.

Hamilton is aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91 wins this weekend – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

The Crew from Netflix will be on Mercedes for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix with the hopes to capture a moment in history no one would have called, as the reigning Champion Lewis Hamilton is tipped to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins.


Feature Image Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool