As the F1 circus braces itself for its first sprint race experiment at this weekend’s British GP, there is still some uncertainty about what kind of impact the format shake-up will have.
But with teams and drivers having worked hard in the build up to Silverstone to better understand the implications, there is some consensus about what they expect to happen.
The first is that fears of a complete lack of action in the sprint, with drivers not willing to risk a good grid position for Sunday’s main event, are unlikely to materialise.
A number of F1 drivers think that there is enough incentive for some to want to push forward – plus the opportunities offered for easy gains in the early stages are huge.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz said: “Honestly, knowing F1 drivers and the way we act in starts on lap ones, I don’t think for those first six or seven corners we are going to think too much about Sunday.
“At for least me, I think I’m going to just go for it. But once the race settles down, yes, maybe we start thinking about Sunday.
“I’m just talking from my personal point of view. I don’t think on the approach to Turn 3, I’m going to be thinking, ‘oh it’s the race tomorrow.”
But once the race settles down from that point, then Lewis Hamilton’s earlier prediction of there being a ‘train’ of cars may come true.
Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi said: “For the first few corners you will just think to gain positions. But then for sure you will not risk anything maybe during a race, so no stupid movement during the race.”
One factor that the new sprint format has taken away is the requirement for the top ten drivers in the GP to start on the tyres they qualified on – which has sometimes opened up races.
With everyone now having free choice for the start on Sunday, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll thinks that a big strategic element of the GP could be gone.
“These are different things that we haven’t really experienced before and I think the sprint race could create a mixed up grid for the main race, we will see,” he said.
“It could just be really boring and change nothing. I’m looking forward to something a bit different. Unfortunately with tyres in the main race, it could be more straightforward for everyone in terms of strategy, so that might make the race on Sunday a bit dull. But we will have to wait and see.”
Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 walks the track
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Perhaps the biggest implication of the sprint race format is not actually the spectacle on Saturday, but more the impact it has on the rest of the weekend.
With now just a single practice session before Friday evening’s qualifying session, there is much less time for drivers and teams to finetune their setups. And that could mean bigger disparities of performance
As Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc explained: “FP1 will be crucial. I think it will be pretty busy, but very, very important to try to understand the car and then try to do the setup work before qualifying.”
Valtteri Bottas added: “We only have one session to find the setup, and then you’re kind of stuck with it for the rest of the weekend.
“Both me and Lewis, we’ve been in the simulator earlier this week trying different approaches and I think now we have a pretty good understanding, in theory, how should we start the weekend in terms of setup.”
But no matter how much preparation has been done, and what expectations are for F1’s first Sprint trial, the fact it’s an experiment shows that there is still much uncertainty about what lies ahead this weekend.