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F1 drivers favour standalone sprint race change

After the first three sprint events were staged in 2021 at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos, this year they will take place at Imola this weekend, the Red Bull Ring and in Brazil again.

Tweaks have been made for 2022, dropping ‘qualifying’ from the name, no longer conflating the sprint victor with winning pole position, and awarding points down to eighth place.

Despite the updates, criticism lingers that since the result of the sprint race determines the grid for the full points-paying grand prix on Sunday, there is reduced incentive to risk an overtake.

Motorsport.com understands that F1 is therefore considering developing the sprint race into a standalone event for next season.

This could result in Friday qualifying setting the grid for both Saturday and Sunday races and the sprint would only reward points to increase how much drivers battle one another.

Current points leader Charles Leclerc backed the proposal. The Ferrari driver said: “This could be a thing.

“This will help us to take a bit more risk maybe during sprint qualifying without losing too much on the Sunday – in case you do a mistake.

“It could add a bit of value of excitement for the Saturday. This actually could be a good idea.”

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 1st position, on the podium after the Sprint

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Ahead of the Italian GP sprint event last year, F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn had forwarded the idea of morphing the Saturday race into a standalone event.

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Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who will contest his first sprint event this weekend after spending last season in the IMSA SportsCar Championship, also supported Friday qualifying setting both grids.

He said: “I think the qualifying idea is a good suggestion. If the qualifying on Friday meant the grid position for Sunday, and also for the sprint race, that could be quite fun.

“You add another spectacle point to the weekend…you can fully go for it in the sprint race.”

The Dane added that the current format puts drivers in a “tricky mindset” as they choose between fighting for position on track but risking a crash to start the grand prix from the back of the grid.

However, Aston Martin racer Lance Stroll stated his preference for retaining the current format, citing the benefits of the current balance between risk and reward.

He said: “I like the way it is. There are points and there’s risk/reward. I thought that was the whole idea of the sprint race – to make it interesting for the fans.

“I think it’s nice to see drivers that are maybe further back fighting for positions on Sunday.

“And if you’re starting up at the front, you might not like that so much. But that how it is. I wouldn’t want to see that change.

“I think if it is going to be a sprint, it might as well be a proper sprint that puts pressure on Sunday.”

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