F1 have confirmed that the Sprint race format will be back for three outings in the 2022 season.
The format was seen as a success in increasing entertainment and engagement over a race weekend. Following the three Sprint Qualifying races in 2021, there had been discussions of increasing that number to six for 2022.
Why Three Not Six?
The proposed increase met strong opposition from a number of the top teams. These teams wanted to see an increase in the budget cap to reflect the additional risk of damage occurring. They also argued there would be an increase in maintenance costs from running the cars for more events.
One team asked for a $5m increase in the cost cap before they would agree to the increased number of Sprint Races. This was significantly more than F1 was offering and created the standoff between the parties. This standoff prevented the increase in events being agreed.
$5m is a significant increase when you compare it to the $450,000 given for the three events in 2021!
McLaren CEO Zak Brown broke the news about the standoff with the big teams and admitted the Sprint might not return at all for 2022. He also suggested that some teams were just using this as a way around the agreed budget cap.
In the end, a compromise has been agreed with the teams. There will be three races like last year. The same $450,000 increase in the cost cap as 2021 has also been agreed with the teams. The compromise relates to an additional payment of $100,000 per team per Sprint if they sustain damage.
Through 2021, the event was called Sprint Qualifying to signify its importance in setting the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Moving into 2022 the name is being shortened to just ‘Sprint’. It is supposed to be more reflective of the fact it is a sprint race and qualifying is still separate.
Speaking of qualifying. Last year the winner of the Sprint Qualifying race being awarded Pole Position confused a lot of people. This was because traditionally the fastest driver in qualifying is awarded pole, but instead they just started Sprint Qualifying at the front.
This has now been tidied up to make it clearer for fans. The winner of the traditional qualifying session, held on Friday, will be awarded Pole Position and start there for the Sprint. However, the Sprint will still be the method which decides the grid order for Sunday’s Grand Prix. It makes the job of being a statistician much easier!
Instead, the other two will be held at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola and the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring.
Austria looks like a good location for a Sprint as the track generally sees more overtaking than most F1 tracks with its three DRS zones.
Imola is not known for large numbers of overtakes in the dry but likely changeable conditions like the 2021 Grand Prix could through up a few surprises.
Interlagos probably falls somewhere in the middle of the two. Overtakes can be attempted but they don’t always happen. That is unless you have a driver like Lewis Hamilton starting from the back and charging through the field!
Last year points were only awarded to the top three drivers in the Sprint. First place got three points, second got two and third got one point.
For the 2022 season, points will now be given to the top eight drivers again in single point increments. Now first place earns eight points, second place seven etc, down to eighth place who earns a point.
The new point system will hopefully increase the importance that teams put on this element of the weekend. The maximum amount of points across the three events is 24, still less than a race win so shouldn’t have a huge bearing on any championship battle.
The reason for the increase in points positions is for the midfield teams to have something to fight for. They are usually the teams that are fighting more on track anyway and for them, a couple of points are a far bigger deal than for the front runners.
The FIA statement on the agreed Sprint Races makes clear that the tweaks they have made are in part due to the feedback received last year. The longer term goal for the FIA will be for these tweaks to increase the enjoyment even further and allow them to push through six events for 2023.
What do you guys think? Did you enjoy the Sprint in 2021 and are you looking forward to it coming back this year? Let us know below!
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