When fans return to the Silverstone circuit to participate in the British Grand Prix, the Formula One car will welcome them in an animated form, adding a “sprint” on Saturday-actually an extra race. With the relaxation of restrictions on the coronavirus in the UK, Silverstone can accommodate 140,000 people in three days. The change in the first two days is to bring more action to the crowd and audience. They are an experiment, repeated at most in the other two games this season. F1 Sports Director Ross Brawn told the F1 website that he expects “the weekend will be more fulfilling and the competition will last three days.”
Not everyone is convinced.
The seven champion Lewis Hamilton predicted that the sprint will be “a train.”
“The race is still going on on Sunday,” said Jean Todt, chairman of the FIA, the governing body of motorsports.
The event on Saturday, which the organizers call “Sprint Qualifying” or “F1 Sprint” is a compelling innovation, but its launch has a ripple effect, which will be obvious from the weekend. Friday
It will be open for practice as usual but has moved to the afternoon.
It is followed by “qualifying”, switched from Saturday afternoon to early Friday evening to give “the first day of track action some gravitas and a crescendo event,” said the F1 web site.
The later start is designed to make it easier for viewers who work to watch.
F1 is seeking “better media coverage with Fridays that will finally come to life,” Brawn said.
Instead of deciding the grid for the main race, qualifying will sort out the starting order for a mini-race on Saturday afternoon.
The Sprint will last 25-30 minutes and be run over 100km, which at Silverstone means 17 laps. That compares with 52 laps and just over 306km for the race itself on Sunday.
F1 describes it as “a short and fast-paced racing spectacle – similar to a Twenty20 cricket match – with drivers racing flat-out from start to finish without the need to pit.”
In addition to determining Sunday’s grid positions, the sprint offers a small number of championship points: three for first, two for second and one for third.
‘It’s going to be a train’
While there will be “a special post-Sprint presentation for the top three”, Formula One stressed it will not include a podium or national anthems.
“The thing to remember about Sprint Qualifying is that its intention is to expand the whole weekend,” said Brawn. “It is not intended to impact the race event. The Grand Prix is still the vital event of the weekend.”
“Sunday’s Grand Prix is fantastic, and we don’t want to cannibalize that, but we want to lift up the engagement on a Friday and a Saturday.”
Not everyone is convinced the Sprint will provide “100 kilometers of action.”
“It’s going to be a train, probably,” said Hamilton. “Hopefully there’ll be some overtaking, but it most likely won’t be too exciting.”
Todt said he was “not a big fan” and does not want to call the Sprint a race.
“I don’t think Formula 1 needs it,” he said. “On the other side, if people want to try something, it’s not going to hurt the race on Sunday.
“It costs nothing to try.”
The format is still an experiment, which F1 intends to repeat at Monza in September and at one other race. Brazil has been ear-marked but F1 acknowledges that the coronavirus pandemic could put paid to that race.
“If it doesn’t work, we put hands up and we will think again,” said Brawn.