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Sprint Qualifying: A Step Forward or a Step Back for F1?



Sprint Qualifying F1 Format 2023

Formula 1’s latest experiment, the sprint shootout qualifying session, made its debut in Baku this weekend. The condensed Saturday morning session determined the starting grid for the sprint race, resulting in a slightly altered grid. While the sprint shootout was undoubtedly more engaging than the FP2 sessions seen in previous sprint weekends, there remains a sense that it doesn’t sufficiently differ from standard qualifying.

The intense and consequential beginning to Saturday resulted in a slightly altered grid.

The brief and intense ‘sprint shootout’ session was undeniably more engaging than the FP2 sessions seen in previous sprint weekends. However, there is still a sense that it does not sufficiently differ from standard qualifying.

Although it is intriguing to witness a second qualifying session at a distinct time and with increased track temperatures, it still seems more like a subdued repetition of yesterday’s session rather than a major event on its own.

This might be a result of F1 transitioning towards a ‘lower stakes’ revamped sprint format, with Saturday essentially becoming a standalone mini-GP event. Ideally, the excitement of the weekend should build up to the grand prix, but this felt like a regression from last night’s session.

In general, sprint weekends provide more sessions with stakes, offering significantly more than the conventional FP1-FP2-FP3 structure.

However, it seems like a step back from the previous sprint format in terms of the progression through qualifying on Friday, sprint determining the grand prix grid on Saturday, and the race on Sunday.


There are both advantages and disadvantages to this new format. While the mini-session was captivating, there remains an underlying sentiment that, due to its detachment from Friday and Sunday’s events, it appears more like a supplementary attraction rather than an integral part of the main event. As a result, it may be viewed as less essential for fans beyond the most dedicated.

I didn’t catch the session myself. While I appreciate having more significant sessions and less practice time, there comes a point where other commitments interfere, and it can become overwhelming to keep up with everything. When choosing between watching the main qualifying on Friday, the two races, and the MotoGP races this weekend, F1 sprint qualifying doesn’t make the cut.

This isn’t a complaint, and I don’t expect F1 to tailor its weekends to my schedule. If future weekends with this format continue to draw good viewership numbers even after the novelty wears off, that’s great. It means fans with more available time are getting what they want.

Perhaps if the sprint qualifying session format was more distinct from the main qualifying, it would feel more essential to watch. However, I didn’t even attempt to argue for turning off Care Bears on TV to watch a slightly shorter version of what I’d seen the day before.

The sprint shootout was acceptable. It’s difficult for the series to ruin qualifying too much, as I would argue it’s already the best part of a typical F1 weekend. Thus, a briefer, even more intense version of it was relatively foolproof and certainly an upgrade from a parc ferme FP2 session.

It’ll be intriguing to see if the eight-minute SQ3 was not sufficiently time-restricted due to the possibility of a cool-down lap between two ‘runs’ and if the session’s organization needs improvement when not all ten cars can make it to the track at the end (it reminded me of the V8-era tire-saving tactics).

In conclusion, I believe this format is an improvement. However, I must admit, the sheer amount of meaningful action is already making me feel somewhat burnt out. Is there a diminishing return on this level of intensity?


As someone on-site, I don’t have to worry about keeping up with the action, a luxury that I understand not everyone watching at home can afford. This aspect should be considered when evaluating the effectiveness of this format.

The qualifying aspect of the new format indeed felt like a much-needed improvement over the previous one. It’s far better than watching a practice session and offers a higher-stakes version of the existing format, as there’s only a single set of a mandated compound to be used in Q1 and Q2, and very limited time to get it right.

This was always expected to be the easiest ‘win’ of the new format, so it was quite satisfactory from my viewpoint.

One aspect I was curious about was whether the weekend would lose its typical rhythm. It did feel more disjointed than before, but there was enough intrigue and stakes to maintain interest during the actual session.

However, I don’t anticipate a significantly different sprint race with this new format. It’ll be a race, possibly a fine one, but its quality won’t be determined solely by whether the grid was set yesterday or today.

A simple way to summarize it would be to ask: what’s the difference between the main event qualifying and the sprint race qualifying, and does it enhance the show?

Regarding the session itself, I enjoyed it. Although it was merely F1 cars racing around a challenging circuit, there was a clear purpose behind it.


I’ve highlighted the top 10 cars that improved their grid position for the sprint race compared to their main race qualifying positions in bold.

Qualifying (soft)SQ1 (medium)SQ2 (medium)SQ3 (soft)
Leclerc 1:40.203LeclercVerstappenLeclerc 1:41.697
De VriesDe Vries

I agree that the success of this new format will ultimately be determined by the feedback from the readers and fans. The incident that led to the red flag in SQ1 for Logan Sargeant was unfortunate and certainly not what Williams needed, putting them at a disadvantage for the remainder of the event, which now involves two races.

I acknowledge and value the concept of a distinct qualifying session for the sprint, and the fact that it takes place at a different time of day offers some variety to the weekend. It’s undoubtedly a better use of time than the old FP sessions that felt pointless and ran between qualifying and sprints in previous seasons.

However, I do agree that it could have been a bit more distinct. If F1 reduces the time of each segment by a couple of minutes, it could be closer to one-shot territory while still leaving enough time to prevent it from turning into a massive traffic calamity. With this change, F1 might have something decent on its hands.

Sprint Qualifying F1 Format 2023 Sprint Qualifying F1 Format 2023 Sprint Qualifying F1 Format 2023 Sprint Qualifying F1 Format 2023 Sprint Qualifying F1 Format 2023 Sprint Qualifying F1 Format 2023 Sprint Qualifying F1 Format 2023

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