At the British Grand Prix 2021 this weekend, Formula One (F1) will try out an exciting format that promises more speed and entertainment. The F1 Sprint, or “sprint qualifying”, will see drivers battle it out for 100km, around 17 laps at the Silverstone Circuit, from start to chequered flag to decide the starting grid for Sunday’s final race. The final race remains unchanged in its format.
On Friday, all 20 drivers will participate in the first practice session, followed by the traditional Q1-Q2-Q3 qualifying, which will decide the grid for sprint qualifying on Saturday. Sprint qualifying will be preceded by a second practice session.
The sprint will be a flat-out race, with no pit stops for tyre management—the top three finishers will get points. The winner gets three points and the third-placed driver, one. F1 writer and expert Lawrence Barretto compares it to Twenty20 cricket. Silverstone is the first of three sprints planned in this year’s F1 calendar, with Monza another possibility. Depending on how these trials work, the sprint format could become a regular fixture.
The introduction of this new format comes at a crucial point in the 2021 F1 season. Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen is leading his team's charge for both the drivers and constructors championships this year. The 23-year-old Dutch driver currently holds a 32-point lead over his nearest rival and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.
The Dutchman has won four of the last five races this season but it's also important to remember that this Mercedes team has taken every pole position at Silverstone since 2013 and won seven of the last nine grands prix held at the circuit. Hamilton also holds an impressive streak at this home race: having won the British Grand Prix a record seven times.
"I have great respect for Lewis and we are taking nothing for granted," Verstappen said recently. "We are taking each race one at a time, but, of course, I am hoping to come out of the race with 29 points." Normally, it would be a maximum of 25 points for a victory and one for the fastest lap. There are additional points on offer this weekend through the sprint qualifying, an AFP report adds.
Hamilton, however, will be hoping that he can build on his stellar record on home soil, with Silverstone expected to be at full crowd capacity this weekend. It remains to be seen if he will be able to add to his record 100 pole positions, 98 race victories and cut down the gap to Verstappen.
The Formula One 2021 British Grand Prix starts later today; the final race is on 18 July.