F1 approves updated sprint weekend format for 2023

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Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

The F1 Commission has approved the proposed tweaks to the sprint format, effective from the first Sprint weekend of the season—this week’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix (28-30 April).

First held in 2021, the format introduced a new event: the Sprint Race. The Friday qualifying session would set the grid for the Sprint (essentially a 100-km flat-out race to the finish, sans pit stops), which in turn determined the starting order for the Grand Prix on Sunday. 

With the revised format coming into effect for the 2023 season, the Sprint will now “become a standalone event.” The entire sprint weekend format has been somewhat rejigged to accommodate this. 

The weekend will kick off with a conventional Free Practice 1 session on Friday—this will be the only practice session held on a Sprint weekend. FP1 will be followed by a qualifying session that, unlike previously, will set the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

This shifts all the Sprint-related activities to Saturday. A Sprint-exclusive qualifying event—called a Sprint Shootout—will set the starting order ahead of the Sprint Race. This qualifying session will be shorter than traditional qualifying, consisting of 12 minutes of running in Q1, 10 minutes in Q2, and 8 minutes in Q3. Unused dry tyres will be mandatory for each phase of this session, with Q1 and Q2 using mediums and Q3 softs.

The Sprint itself remains unchanged: a 100-km dash with no mandatory pit stops. The points awarded for the event also remain the same: the winner picks up 8 points, second place earns 7, and so on, with the top 8 finishers scoring points.

In terms of penalties, the following has been confirmed: grid penalties incurred in Friday’s FP1 or qualifying will apply to the main race on Sunday; grid penalties incurred in Saturday’s Shootout will apply to the Sprint; grid penalties incurred in the Sprint will apply to the Race. 

A breach of parc fermé is expected to result in a pitlane start for both the Sprint and Race, while power unit penalties will only apply to the main race on Sunday, unless they are also parc fermé breaches.

Regarding the changes, the F1 Commission’s note on the updated sprint format states: “…Clear objectives were set by the FIA, Formula 1 and all teams to investigate how the Sprint format could be improved to increase the level of intensity on-track across the weekend, making as many sessions as possible result in a competitive sporting outcome.”

The aim of these revisions was to create a Sprint event that

The number of Sprint weekends has doubled from three in 2022 to six in 2023, set to take place in Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Qatar, the United States (Circuit of the Americas) and Sao Paulo.