Earlier this week, Formula 1 officials said they will try out a Sprint Qualifying format. Essentially, it's a rather unorthodox way to see who starts on the front row on Sunday by running a race on Saturday. Only three chosen Grand Prix rounds will adopt the new format, specifically two European venues and one non-European venue.
If you're a little confused by the proposal, let us explain it to you. Before that, though, let's recap how qualifying goes these days.
A race weekend features two sixty-minute free practice sessions on a Friday, one sixty-minute free practice session and qualifying on a Saturday, and the Grand Prix itself on Sunday. The new format stirs all of that up. Here is how it goes.
-60-minute morning First Practice with two sets of tires for teams to use.
-Normal afternoon Qualifying format. Soft tires only.
-60-minute morning Second Free Practice. Teams must use one set of tires.
-100 km Sprint Qualifying in the afternoon with two sets of tires for teams to use. Pit-stops are not required.
-Full distance (305km) Grand Prix with two remaining sets of tires.
The new format replaces one free practice session on Friday with a traditional three-part qualifying session. However, the results from the Friday Qualifying will only dictate the grid line-up for the 100km Sprint Qualifying/Race on Saturday. So what dictates the starting line-up for Sunday's Grand Prix? Well, that would be the results of the 100km Sprint Qualifying/Race on Saturday.
The 100km Sprint Qualifying/Race isn’t all about grid position, though. Championship points are also up for grabs. First place gets three points, second place gets 2 points, and third place gets one point.
But here's an interesting kicker. Teams aren’t allowed to make fundamental changes to their cars starting Friday afternoon. They can only change parts on the brakes and suspension for safety reasons.
Adding another (half) race during an F1 weekend might be an interesting and entertaining move for the sport. It also shows a newfound willingness to change and improve existing formats. That said, we're pretty certain it will be better than the knockout-style qualifying they tried in 2016.