F1 Sprint Qualifying approved for three Grands Prix in 2021 season in shake-up to weekend format
Additional short race to be held on a Saturday at three events in 2021, the first of which is set to be Silverstone in July; Points to be awarded to top three finishers in Sprint Qualifying with full finishing result to set the grid for the main Sunday Grand Prix
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 26/04/21 8:43pm
Formula 1 will introduce shorter Saturday races at three events this year in a new format called Sprint Qualifying after the concept was given the green light.
The new races, which will run to 100km and from which the finishing order will form the grid for the main Sunday Grand Prix, will be held at two European venues - believed to be Silverstone in July and Monza in September - and one non-European location towards the end of the season.
In a further shake-up to F1's traditional format, points will also be awarded to the top three finishers in these new Saturday races (three points for the winner, two for second place and one for third place).
On the three weekends that Sprint Qualifying is in place, F1's usual knockout qualifying format will move to Friday and the results of this will set the grid for Saturday's mini-race.
How 'Sprint Qualifying' weekends will run
"The format is designed to increase the on-track action and engage fans in a new and innovative way," said F1 and the FIA in a joint statement after the plans were unanimously voted through by the F1 Commission on Monday.
"It also strikes the right balance of rewarding drivers and teams on merit while also giving others the chance to battle their way through the field on Saturday to increase their race chances on Sunday."
The new format means that a maximum of nine additional points will now be up for grabs for drivers across the season in this year's world championship battle. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are currently separated by a single point in the Drivers' Championship after 2021's dramatic opening two rounds.
How the new format will work at the three GPs
- 60-minute First Practice in the morning with two sets of tyres for teams to choose freely
- Normal Qualifying format in the afternoon with five soft tyre sets available only
- 60-minute Second Free Practice in the morning with one set of tyres for teams to choose freely
- 100km Sprint Qualifying in the afternoon with two sets of tyres for teams to choose freely
- Full distance Grand Prix with two remaining sets of tyres
Stefano Domenicali, F1's president and CEO said: "We are excited by this new opportunity that will bring our fans an even more engaging race weekend in 2021.
"Seeing the drivers battling it out over three days will be an amazing experience and I am sure the drivers will relish the fight. I am delighted that all the teams supported this plan, and it is a testament to our united efforts to continue to engage our fans in new ways while ensuring we remain committed to the heritage and meritocracy of our sport."
FIA president Jean Todt added that the agreement underlined that "F1 is showing itself to be stronger than ever with all stakeholders working together in this way, and much has been done to ensure that the Sporting, Technical and Financial aspects of the format are fair".
Unlike the main Grand Prix, there will be no requirements for pit stops in Sprint Qualifying.
Parc ferme conditions - which restrict teams from making major component changes to their cars - will be in force from the start of Friday qualifying onwards on the three weekends in question.