double dutch?

Introducing a new system of races for a Grand Prix weekend, just a few days before the teams start running, is perhaps not the most sensible kind of planning. Have all the different elements involved been properly thought through?

One hopes that is the case.

The changes are as follows: The FP1 session will remain unchanged. Instead of FP2 there will be the full qualifying session, with the usual Q1, Q2 and Q3 sessions. Sunday will see the race as normal.

But Saturday will be very different with Sprint Qualifying in place of FP2, with SQ1, SQ2 and SQ3 sessions, which will be shorter than regular qualifying and tyre choice will be dictated, with SQ1 and SQ2 featuring medium tyres and SQ3 having soft rubber.

This will establish a grid for the Sprint race which will come in the afternoon. The points will be the same as before, but the Sprint result will have no impact on the main race, so if drivers crash on Saturday, they will keep their original grid positions on Sunday, unless the car is unfixable.

In principle, this is simple enough. The goal is to give the fans at the races more exciting stuff to watch and to try to push up the TV eyeballs each weekend, which will push up the (and this is the important word) money.

There are some questions that will need to be answered. If one wins a Sprint race, is one regarded as an F1 race winner. For traditionalists, who respect the sport’s statistics, one can imagine that this will mean nothing, but one can imagine that some drivers will claim to be F1 race winners if they win a Sprint Race and that will skew all the stats and will undermine all the records that have been established in the course of the last 73 years. If a driver wins 16 Sprint races and 12 real Grands Prix, they will no doubt claim to have more F1 race wins than Jackie Stewart, even if everyone in the know will understand that they are not in the league of the greats. That is an esoteric argument, of course, and as we know money is the thing that drives everything in the sport.

Some may argue that the sport is on the slippery slope to being driven solely by commercial interests, and it is hard to argue against that. Does it matter? Well, some of us think that old drivers deserve to be remembered with respect for what they achieved, but it is true that the sport’s statistics have long been skewed by having more and more races. But, at least, we have known that every winner deserves the status. In future one can argue the Sprint Race winners are only half winners… but that is fraught with difficulty as well. Jochen Mass won the shortened Spanish Grand Prix in 1975, but no-one ever called him a half-winner. He was always a winner who collected half-points.

The other problem is far more pragmatic. Street races are usually fairly destructive affairs, because there are things that drivers can hit. Is it therefore a good idea to have two street races to kick off the new idea, followed by another event without much run-off area a week later. Teams with drivers who have a tendency to smash into things may find it hard to keep up and spares may run short, which is a problem in the age of the budget cap.

Still, they voted for it and so they will have to figure out what to do.

We will see if it makes the sport more interesting, but at least the Sprint race will not feature drivers worried about taking risks for fear of compromising their entire weekends.

The cynic in me says that it will probably mean that Max Verstappen will win a lot more races (or half-races) this year… If winning most of the races is considered to be dull by some fans, what will they think of someone winning twice as many as before.

Will it doubly-dull?

66 thoughts on “double dutch?

  1. Crikey,they really are desperate for more viewers! A simple solution would be to ask the fans first and the drivers second. Fans want more exciting racing and drama and the drivers want to race and win. So stop all this highly expensive chasing aero stuff,cut down on downforce and let the drivers put on a show of their skills.
    Also,get the youngsters to watch the Goodwood revival or the Members meeting on YouTube and they’ll see what I mean.

    1. I suspect that to get the best out of the drivers all the cars need to be on the bleeding edge and roughly similar in pace.

      The new rules have got us pretty close to that already and if you look past Red Bull, the remaining cars are close to each other and in that zone the drivers can make a real difference. If these cars can just close the gap to Red Bull then you’ll get your wish of a driver that can make a real difference on a regular basis at the front of the grid.

    2. It’s Formula 1. The cars have to be quicker then ever before. You can’t take away all the downforce and then have cars going 10 seconds a lap than they did 20 years ago. They have taken away all the engine power to pretend to be environmentally friendly, you have to find the speed somewhere.

    3. Glyn, you are so right. Was at Goodwood for the Members Meeting. Fanatstic racing!! Year in year out. F1 are you listening?

  2. I certainly haven’t been a fan long enough to become a traditionalist. But, I do hope there is some differentiation between full and sprint race winners. That would seem to be more accurate.

    Looking forward to seeing the new format. Might be really exciting. I hope the sprint is not too much like bumper cars…

    1. Another thought I had is maybe this is an effort to raise the demand/attendance for the live event on Fridays and Saturdays. If you look at resale tickets, good Friday tickets can usually be had for around $100. Saturday a little more. Now, if “real racing” is taking place on all three days, it changes the pricing dynamic and will drive attendance on Friday and Saturday to Sunday levels. Good Lord, I hope this doesn’t mean higher prices…

      I will be in Miami next week and was planning on taking it easy on Fri/Sat. This changes things for sure.

      1. These changes are only being used for six events, and Miami is not one of them. (But COTA is.)

        So, you can still take it easy on Fri/Sat. 🙂

        1. Oh! I thought this was the new rules across all races. Back to full chill mode. Wife has some bikinis I need to see.

      2. Whilst it may increase ticket prices the main aim is to increase TV revenues. Very few people watch Friday practice sessions. If more tune in to watch it they can charge the TV companies more money.

  3. Why not skip the Sunday race altogether, as it’s too long an tedious to market anyhow? This is selling the soul of the sport, but who cares?

    1. Because some folk have an attention span and don’t particularly need the quick hit, and appreciate the longer contest?

    2. That’s where we are heading. New viewers from Drive to survive don’t want any thing longer than an episode. 40mins. I listen to a few podcasts and all of a sudden we have a couple of teenagers who have never been in a car, who seem to be very opinionated about what they want. Never mind that F1 is older than most of us. Somethings should stay the same, more or less or change slowly, other wise F1 will be no longer a sport but a commercial.

    3. They could just have a raffle instead!

      It is starting (Well actually it started back when they commenced stuffing more and more races in each year) to look like our worst fears of what Americanisation would bring, are gradually being fulfilled! Watch out for the marching bands in the future, during the new “race interval”.
      We shall soon be adding America to the list of countries too dangerous, in which to race!
      (BYO Body Armour)

  4. Thank you Joe, for your usual excellent summary and considered opinion. It seems that money is driving change, as you say – and why not? But I wonder what they will do when the sprint races will become processional due to the risk of not having enough spares to fix damage in time for the main event? Will we get a mini sprint on Fridays? Qualifying for the main race will be challenging with only one free practice to dial everything in, I’m surprised the teams have accepted that.

  5. It will never be enough to attract new viewers who don’t want to really commit to watching the sport. Next step is to adopt the nascar’s playoff systems. 😦

  6. I really think these sprint races are something that a focus group dreamed up. Surely if you’re going to have such a race it should be for the reserve drivers to build up their experience & conditioning using last years cars to keep costs down. What are these people thinking about?

  7. I find it insane, changing things that don’t need changes like the usual racing format leaving things that need changes unchanged like downgrading the aero so more real racing can be seen.

    Kind regards,


  8. Oh dear! Is this to be every race weekend?
    So the number of permitted replacement engines, transmissions, brains etc is raised pro-rata with the increased mileage? Which would still not help the “short lifed” components made to survive a small number of “starts”. (Nor the suspension and other systems)
    Who pays for the extra wheels/tyres?

    How does this make more money?
    The teams agreed to this! So there must have been a hell of an incentive (Or penalty) offered.

    Sadly this reminds me of a motor industry way to get rich:
    Screw your supplier (Circuits/promoters)
    Screw your staff (Increase the teams workload and costs)
    Screw the customer (Watch the ticket price and paywall prices rise!)

    1. Having now read the FIA press release I see:
      “Proposals to increase the number of Power Unit elements were discussed during the meeting, with approval given to increase the number of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), Turbo Charger, MGU-H and MGU-K elements for 2023 only from three (3) to four (4).”

      It would be miracle if that was sufficient for any team.

  9. I am old veteran F1 enthusiast. This gimmick doesn’t interest me. To interest me, F1 would have to go back to the old points system 10,6,4,3,2,1. Also, have the races start in January and end in October.

    1. The real old points system was 8-6-4-3-2 (yes, top five only) with a bonus point for fastest lap…

      The reason the top six points payout system doesn’t work anymore is because reliability is no longer an issue. So, with today’s F1, you would essentially only have three teams scoring points every race.

      1. You don’t because even if only 5 teams scored points, the order of 6-10 would be defined by how close to the points they got. It could be worse in IMSA it’s 350 points for a win. I always thought 10, 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1 worked. When they first brought in the 25 points for a win, I ran a spreadsheet giving points on the old and the new system, and this will shock everyone and their dog. The results overall were the same.

  10. I personally don’t like the Friday main qualifying. Now I can watch it live on Saturday, and trying to avoid the results before watching it later is near on impossible.

    I like what they’ve done in the main, but they’re starting to mess with it too much.

    But I’ve been watching since 1980, so what do I know…

  11. Is this for 2024 or next week? Have they gone totally barmy? You mentioned ” A few days before the cars start running”.

  12. I like the idea of having two races per event, more racing, what’s not to like? Much better than sprint qualifying, that was a stupid idea. Although, I would prefer if they had one qualifying on Saturday, which sets the field for both races, like in MotoGP.

    I like FP, and i think teams should given time to set the cars up and test tyres. If you want to shake things up, have a mandatory rookie/reserve driver session.

    1. Except the sprint is not real racing. The drivers and teams admit that it is a necessary inconvenience imposed on them by LM. There is no real benefit to the WDC or WCC, and they don’t want to break anything before the main event, so it just becomes a procession.

  13. I guess F1 has always been a circus but why win a sprint race that could cause damage to the car meaning that starting on the grid on race day could be jeopardised. As a team I’d be sick at that time, as a driver can we get a spare car to have a bash around or put the spare driver in a spare car and let them take out a few barriers before the organisers realise that this is not Indy or smash em up derby racing and call it the F1 derby series.

  14. I’m wondering if there is any reason the existing sprint format couldn’t have been retained, however implement Parc Ferme after FP2 on Saturday morning to make that session more meaningful? Assuming there must be time constraints with that…

    With the new format, the weekend will feel disjointed with the the Grand Prix ‘proper’ being split between Friday and Sunday with the sprint day in between. Also, with no grid positions to fight for and a small gap between points places for the front runners, are we really going to see better racing in the sprint?

    1. Last year’s sprint format also had qualifying on Friday. Saturday morning was a useless FP2 session, so now they swapped that for another qualifying session for the sprint race only.

    2. I thought they could have spiced up sprint race qualifying by being randomly assigned a running position and then have a single, 4 lap qualifying like back in the 1990’s. I think even 3 laps, warme up, flat out and cool down would have been even better. Then it becomes a judgement call on how you do your flying lap.

  15. Positive is keeping the Sprint isolated from the Grand Prix.
    How busy is that P1 going to be?
    Sprints can be no more counted as Grand Prix wins than the Race Of Champions could be.

    1. Yep, I agree, maybe the sprints should be called a different series/championship and offer teams the option to enter or not, with no penalty if they decide not to.

  16. This sounds too convoluted to keep the hordes of fickle-minded views watching! It’s like the “Insta” of GP. This is putting too much pressure on Drivers, Teams, and their machinery while viewers sit in their lounge chairs whinging for more excitement (ie blood) from the sport!

  17. I guess it is the same little dilemma as a class winner at the 24h of Le Mans. Can one claim to be a Le Mans winner? I have no answer apart from the obvious one, of being a Le Mans class winner… 😉

  18. Like Le Mans, make them classes.
    Sunday = Formula 1 Winner.
    Saturday = Formula Netflix Winner.
    Points recorded separately in the two categories.

  19. So sprint weekends means, that working folk will need to take Friday off, to watch live qualifying? Bring on the four day work week.

  20. That was a well written and thought out piece. Well done. You raised several valid points that all must be thought through. Imagine a sprint race at Monaco for instance. I am against sprint races and would like to keep the purity of Grand Prix racing on a Sunday.

  21. ‘ . . . it is true that the sport’s statistics have long been skewed by having more and more races.’

    More definitively :-
    Less and less chance of being severely injured or killed after a few seasons thanks to immense improvements in car and track safety.

    So I don’t think Jackie Stewart would be bothered much by those claiming more race wins than him. On the contrary, considering his input on the sport’s safety side, I think he would be overjoyed.

    1. The stats have been skewed over time through the various changes in number of races, points allocation, number of teams & drivers, and other sundry regulation updates. The only consistent statistic is the WDC and WCC standings at the end of the season. But even that can be subject to debate with the flaky rules being applied by the FIA.

  22. Joe could you please send your article to the people who cooked up this messy melange?
    I’m sure it will prove enlightening and corrective to their muddled thinking.

  23. Enjoy your travels, Joe. Hopefully, the local taxi drivers be kind to you.

    I had an open mind when MBS was elected FIA supremo. It has changed.

    I wonder if there is anyone left in the paddock that thinks things have turned-out well?

    In F2 the cream tends to separate between Sprint and Race winners. I see no reason to classify Sprint winners with the same regard as GP winners. In the old days, there used to be non-championship F1 races. This is similar.

    1. Good point. Why not non-championship races? Teams, can develop their cars for the points races and run other drivers.

  24. Should no sport ever change its format for fear of being unable to maintain comparable statistics?

    Come one guys, even I take my anorak off when the sun is shining…

    Joe – Some solid points made, and unintended consequences identified. Thank you.

    A Sprint win is not a Grand Prix win. But a race will happen, and there will be a winner.

    I have been watching F1 for 25 years, and really can’t see what you lot are moaning about:

    In my mind, more races means more track action, which means more entertainment. It seems reasonable to expect even MORE excitement now that drivers don’t have to worry about ruining their Sunday by having a crash in the Saturday Sprint.

    If more entertainment means someone makes more money, well boo-f***ing-hoo:
    Personally, I value both entertainment AND Sir Jackie Stewart. But apparently that’s just me.

  25. F1 qualy has been the most exciting thing about the sport for years. Yet they keep tinkering with it, while the races (the dullest part, generally) remain the same. Their priorities are wrong, it seems…

  26. If TV insist on them, why not have the sprint races as a completely different series with their own “championship”. Go further and have only one car from each team entered for the sprint race with the reserve driver mandated. This would give some point to the whole thing and allow reserve drivers to get some chance to show their skills.
    How much more daft tyre manipulation do we have to put up with? Surely the most economic and least environmentally damaging solution would be a single spec tyre for the whole F1 season, or given Pirelli’s inability to build a decent tyre at least a single standard tyre for each event

  27. I’ve been watching and following F1 for 50 years. I’m an “Older Dad” and have a 9YO son (and 2x younger girls) and my son is a real PetrolHead. This year is the first year we haven’t watched a Grand Prix (either Live or Highlights) …. so far. I keep asking him if he wants to watch and he says, “can we watch rugby instead?”. But he is a real PetrolHead. I have a prewar Aston Martin which he loves coming out in. I race Historic Formula Ford and he loves coming to the circuit….. he just has no interest in Watching F1. He knows all the drivers and which team they race for etc … but for how much longer I don’t know….. I suspect he watches bits and pieces on his tablet and keeps in touch that way but can’t help feeling F1 has lost its way, and they’re losing a whole generation of Fans.

  28. What is the position with set-up changes and the like? Are the cars in parc ferme from start of Friday Q1? Or can they make changes after that, and after the sprint race?

  29. It’s just completely baffles me. F1 is continually spouting about cutting costs – and then it sets about adding more track time like this, and wants to add more races. All that increases costs and flies in the face of their stated intent. This is quite apart from the fact that I don’t know how on earth the teams are going to make their engine and gear box allocation last the whole season, let alone keep within the budget cap. Its impossible, and will mean widespread penalties. This means that points and titles will be tainted. Its not racing.

    This is quite apart from the fact that sprint races in F1 appear to be a solution running around to find a problem that doesn’t exist. I think I’ve seen one hotly contested sprint race so far. That’s it, the rest have been dull processions as no-one wants to take any risk in trashing the car. I will not be watching any sprint races this year.

    My reaction to meddling like this is rather like my frustrated reaction to my other half and women generally when they start messing around with their eyebrows:


  30. Joe, do you happen to know what was the explanation for introducing the concept of sprint and feature race in F2 and F3 and how teams, drivers and fans then reacted to them? Did they get any bonus for that as those teams must have considerably smaller budgets than F1 teams.

  31. Should no sport ever change its rules/format in order that accurate historical comparisons can be made?

    Though Joe has helpfully identified some untended consequences, this change introduces the prospect of harder-fought racing in the Sprint, and an additional realm of competition in the formal of the ‘Qualifying Shootout’. I enjoy competition – and racing in particular – so can’t quite sympathise with those who complain.

    A Grand Prix winner will still be a Grand Prix winner, despite this change.

    I have been watching F1 for 25 years, but even I take my anorak off when the sun is shining…

  32. The sprint race is obviously an LM invention that the teams have to go along with for “the show”. Here’s my alternative proposal. A one lap shootout for each driver in the safety car. That will tell the real F1 fans something about the comparative pace of the drivers. For the LM PR machine, and DTS fans, the passenger for each run will be your team mate. That should make for some interesting post match interviews.

    I know it will never happen, but I like to dream.

  33. As Mike Lawrence noted commenting on the 1959 German GP, Grand Prix motor races are not run in heats.

    Anyway, my idea which is mine and belongs to me is that all Friday and Saturday sessions should count towards the final grid position of Sunday’s race, and if the high heidyins announce it with enough razzamatazz and slick choreography no-one will notice that this is the same system we had in Ye Olden Days.

  34. Sprint races are all well and good, but I’d far rather sit down and watch a 2½ hour grand-prix (I appreciate I may well be in a minority here) – at least there’d be more chance of mechanical unreliability or driver error as a result of fatigue.

  35. 1. “If a driver wins 16 Sprint races and 12 real Grands Prix, they will no doubt claim to have more F1 race wins than Jackie Stewart, even if everyone in the know will understand that they are not in the league of the greats. ”
    I decided to look at these “sprints” like the non-Championship races of the old. So in this case Sir Jackie still wins, because in addition to his 27 World Championship Grand Prix victories he as 5 more non-Championship wins (or 11, if we count his Tasman wins here too).
    2. TV viewership – for me nothing has changed – i am working Fridays so unable to watch the “proper” qualifying, and being in North America the “sprint” qualifying falls a bit too early for me to bother getting up. So basically i still watch 1hr or so on Saturdays and 2hrs on Sundays.

  36. I think the scheduling is a bit sub-optimal.

    I don’t think that quali for the Sunday race works as well on Friday – so I’d be inclined to swap the quali sessions around.

    But my biggest objection is when parc fermé kicks in – I’d move it to the Saturday before quali (and as above, swap the quali sessions around). The existing rule is just introducing manufactured jeopardy, especially given FP1 is now only one hour long rather than the old style 1 1/2 hour sessions.

    Also, why not just have two fully fledged races or at least make the sprint 3/4 length?

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