Following a successful trial run in 2021, F1 Sprint Races are back on the table for the 2023 season. Fans at the track and at home get more scintillating racing action during the weekend, without losing the traditional time trial qualifying.
There are tweaks to the format for 2023, including changes to the points system, the races the F1 Sprints are run at, and the effect on the teams’ cost cap.
As we prepare for the first of such races this season, here’s a look at what to expect from the Sprint Races during Formula 1 weekends.
What is an F1 Sprint race and how does it work?
An F1 Sprint Race is a shorter race with more intensity which, as of the 2023 season, takes place on the Saturday of a Grand Prix weekend. This offers fans attending the Grand Prix extra entertainment included in the price of their weekend ticket.
For 2023 each Sprint Race features its own Sprint Shootout qualifying session, which is held earlier on the Saturday. Drivers can still win championship points in the Sprint Race, but it no longer sets the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix, which is still done by the traditional qualifying session now held on the Friday afternoon in place of the old Second Practice Session.
How long is the F1 Sprint Race?
The length of each Sprint Race varies but they are much shorter than the Grand Prix. They tend to run for around 100km (62 miles). Sprints tend to last around 30 minutes.
How does F1 Sprint qualifying work?
Sprint qualifying, now known as the Sprint Shootout, is essentially a short-form Qualifying session that sets the grid for the Sprint Race.
The format changed in 2023, where the new Sprint Shootout takes place on Saturday morning or early afternoon, and then the Sprint itself on Saturday afternoon.
The format of Sprint Shootout is the same as qualifying, but with the three segments named SQ1, SQ2 and SQ3, as opposed to Q1, Q2 and Q3. They are shorter at 12, 10 and 8 minutes, instead of 18, 15 and 12 minutes.
Where are the F1 Sprint Races in 2023?
In 2023, the number of Sprint Races was increased to six.
|Race||Sprint Race date||Grand Prix date|
|Azerbaijan Grand Prix||29 April||30 April|
|Austria Grand Prix||1 July||2 July|
|Belgium Grand Prix||25 July||26 July|
|Qatar Grand Prix||7 October||8 October|
|US Grand Prix||21 October||22 October|
|Brazilian Grand Prix||4 November||5 November|
What time do the F1 Sprint Races start?
Below you can see the times the Sprint Races are scheduled to start, as well as the UK time.
|Race||Date||Start time (local)||Start time (UK)|
|Azerbaijan Grand Prix||29 April||16:30||15:30|
|Austria Grand Prix||1 July||16:30||15:30|
|Belgium Grand Prix||25 July||14:30||13:30|
|Qatar Grand Prix||7 October||15:30||13:30|
|US Grand Prix||21 October||22:00||04:00|
|Brazilian Grand Prix||4 November||18:30||22:30|
Do drivers earn points for winning the Sprint Race?
Those finishing the Sprint event between first and eighth position will score points towards their championship tally. This is more points than they were in 2021, when points were only awarded for the top three places, so we can expect more competitive races.
Why did F1 decide to run Sprint Races?
Sprint Races have been utilised in the junior series since 2005 and the inaugural season of GP2 (later rebranded as Formula 2). The current system sees drivers qualify on a Friday, which sets the grid for the feature race on Sunday.
However, the top 10 results from qualifying are reversed to form the grid for a Sprint Race on Saturday. The idea being the fastest drivers are challenged to work their way through the field.
The idea to use this concept in Formula 1 was first touted in 2019. As F1 approached its new technical regulations, Ross Brawn said he believed the cars offered a “stable platform” to “try a few new things”.
There was opposition to the reverse grid element of the idea, which was described by many as “gimmicky”. So it was removed, but the idea of a shorter race was picked up. It gave fans more racing action throughout the weekend both at and away from the track.
What happens if a driver crashes during a Sprint Race?
There are two big implications if a driver crashes during the Sprint Race session, and they are sporting and financial.
Any race ending crash will end that driver’s chances of taking any points home from the Sprint. Penalties are only applied to the Grand Prix, so they might pick up a few places if another driver is heavily penalised.
But crashing an F1 car isn’t cheap. Mick Schumacher’s crash during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was estimated to have incurred $1million in repair bills.
Because of the increased danger of damage when the cars are racing in anger, each team was permitted to spend an extra $150,000 for every Sprint Race organised. If a driver doesn’t finish the race, they are permitted to spend an extra $100,000.
Given that a front wing is estimated to cost in excess of $100,000, the additional cash might not cover the damage suffered.
What’s happened in F1 Sprint Races so far?
F1 Sprint debuted at Silverstone in July 2021. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battled hard on the first lap, but the real winner of the opening tour was Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard was the only driver to run the soft tyres, and made up six places on lap 1. He lost two of those positions, but it showcased the format’s ability to mix up the order through strategy.
The second F1 Sprint happened in Monza. Despite starting the Sprint on the front row, Hamilton found himself in fifth after the first lap, with McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris making good gains.
Pierre Gasly suffered a crash on lap one, meaning he would start the Grand Prix plum last. Bottas won the Sprint, despite engine penalties meaning he would be demoted to the back of the grid.
In 2022, Imola, Austria and Sao Paulo featured Sprints. Verstappen who the first two, with George Russell claiming an historic victory in Brazil.
This season, the Sprint Races are standalone with their own qualifying session called ‘Sprint Shootouts’, and the number of races has increased to six. Sergio Perez won the Sprint in Azerbaijan for Red Bull, while teammate Verstappen won the Sprints in Austria and Belgium.
Can we expect more Sprint races in 2024?
Although it hasn’t been confirmed which Grand Prix will host F1 Sprints in 2024, we do know that there will be six races in total, as in 2023.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali confirmed in an exclusive interview with Autosport.com that more details on the six Sprint Races will be provided in September of this year.
The remaining F1 Sprint Races in 2023 will run in Qatar, the US and Brazil. Book F1 tickets to these races here!