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F1 shakes up sprint race format in time for Baku

Th Azerbaijan Grand Prix faces a revamped sprint race. Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

Formula One approved a shake-up to the sprint format on Tuesday in time for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

In Baku, which stages the first of this season’s six sprints, the 100-kilometre dash becomes a standalone event on the Saturday of race weekends.

A shortened qualifying version will be held in the morning of the approximately 30 minute race to define the starting order for the sprint first introduced in 2021.

Qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix will now he held on Friday, the traditional three-session qualifying preceded by a first practice session.

The shake-up was given the green light by the teams at the Australian Grand Prix at the start of the month, with the changes rubber stamped by the FIA’s F1 commission on Tuesday.

Up to now, the three sprints held in 2021 and last year have shaped the grid for Sunday’s main event.

Teams and Formula One believe the revised race weekend will now give Saturday’s action added excitement to fans with the doing away of the often less than enthralling second practice session.

Saturday’s qualifying will be known as ‘the Sprint shoot-out’ with the first qualifying session or Q1 running for 12 minutes, Q2 for 10 minutes and Q3 for eight minutes.

F1 hopes that with its new standalone status drivers will have an added incentive ‘to go for it’, knowing any incidents will not have a bearing on where they start in the Grand Prix.

The Sprint points system remains unchanged, with eight going to the winner down to one for eighth place, meaning a maximum points haul of 34 on offer to a driver winning the sprint, grand prix, and posting the fastest lap.

Announcing the changes the FI Commission hoped the new format would deliver “more ‘jeopardy’ through a reduction in practice time and providing a greater incentive to drivers to race hard on Saturday”.

After Baku there are sprints scheduled for Austria (Red Bull Ring), Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps), Qatar (Lusail Circuit), the United States (Circuit of The Americas) and Brazil (Interlagos).

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