The successes and warning signs from F1's first sprint race

Sports, Edition: Global 17 July, 2021 - 02:18pm 8 views

What time is British GP sprint race?

The Sprint race will kick off at 09:00 pm IST (4:30 PM local time) on Saturday. News18British Grand Prix 2021: Time, Date, Venue, Telecast, Live-streaming Details - All You Need To Know about F

How long is the f1 sprint race?

The Sprint, as F1 has named it, will result in a race of roughly 30 minutes (17 laps of Silverstone, for example) with the aim of providing wheel-to-wheel thrills on Saturday and a mixed grid on Sunday. ESPNWhat to expect from F1's new sprint qualifying format at the British GP

It was always going to be difficult for Formula 1's first sprint qualifying race to live up to the hype that had been building around it for weeks.

Hopes of 100km of flat out racing, with drivers banging wheels in their battle for the top positions now that they were unleashed from worrying about tyre degradation and fuel, were unlikely to ever materialise.

But Silverstone's first sprint can certainly be viewed as a creditable first trial, even if it has offered a few warning signs of potential trouble on the horizon if it does become a regular feature.

On the positive side, there was some good track action, and it was a race where drivers weren't just sitting there waiting for a pitstop to offer them a chance to overtake.

At the front, sure, it turned into what Carlos Sainz had predicted it would be ahead of the weekend: brilliant fun for seven corners and then settling down into a procession.

Max Verstappen's aggressive weaving on the opening lap and Lewis Hamilton's bold attempt to try to go around the outside of his Red Bull rival at Copse, were brilliant to see – and likely something that would not be expected in a regular two-hour GP.

The spectacle was certainly saved by Fernando Alonso's brilliance in switching his softs on at the start and surging his way from 11th on the grid to run as high as fifth after the opening lap.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, and Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

With the fight for the top four positions pretty much stabilised from then on anyway, all the attention was on Alonso as he valiantly tried to hold back the medium runners behind him.

It was the kind of difference in strategy that is rarely seen in regular F1, because stints are normally much longer than the 17 laps that was sprint was contested over. Alonso would never have taken the soft gamble on a normal Sunday because he would have stopped early and wrecked his race chances.

What will be especially fascinating to see is whether the very close crossover point between the soft and the medium for the Silverstone sprint is matched at other venues.

For had the soft not been an option (and remember Valtteri Bottas was not able to benefit much from it), then the sprint event would certainly have been much less exciting.

The arrival of the sprint was not just about hoping to deliver a brilliant 30-minute spectacle on a Saturday afternoon.

As F1 chief Ross Brawn repeatedly kept saying in recent weeks, the format change was about improving the entire race weekend – with a focal point on each day. That means a Friday qualifying, a Saturday sprint and a Sunday main race.

The British GP Friday undoubtedly showed that the move had spiced up the opening day of practice.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, waves to fans

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The delight of the crowds in seeing Hamilton take a pole (that wasn't a pole) was clear to see. In terms of engagement, the eyeballs on the sport were certainly bigger on a Friday than they are when teams are focused on their long run data.

But what needs to be taken into account is that the Silverstone weekend has had the benefit of the novelty factor. Hamilton's pole, and George Russell's Q3 effort, were a highlight because they were something new at a race where a capacity home crowd was behind the home heroes.

What we can't tell yet is whether the intensity and value of Friday qualifying could decrease massively in the future if teams realise that the grid positions for the sprint race don't matter that much.

If the main competitive difference between teams is now making good getaways and strong first laps, then drivers could quickly switch off from caring too much about what happens on a Friday.

And as soon as drivers say: "I don't care I qualified fourth, I know that the sprint race changes everything", then fans will quickly carry that message and turn off the Friday action themselves.

One certain benefit of the Friday change for the fans however is that the lack of practice time means there is a bigger chance for teams to get it wrong with set-up.

Parc ferme rules mean that drivers are locked into their set-up from Friday afternoon, meaning there is just a single session to decide on their approach for the weekend.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

In Red Bull's case, its dominant form in opening practice on Friday convinced it to lock into a high downforce setting. With rival Mercedes opting to take wing off and go for straightline speed instead, it now means Verstappen is stuck with something he knows is not ideal. Such jeopardy can be good for delivering entertainment.

The parc ferme rules have, as Verstappen feared, triggered the consequence of making Saturday's morning final free practice session a bit redundant. It can't be used as a session to make set-up changes to the car, so it is in effect simply an opportunity to check on tyre life.

At Silverstone, the fine margins between the soft and the medium tyre meant that there was value in teams getting their cars out there and checking to see what was the best way forward, with Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson admitting he was "quite impressed by how much running the teams did in FP2". But at tracks where the softest tyre can easily last the full sprint race, what will there be to gain by putting extra mileage on engines and the race car?

What we don't fully know yet is what impact the spectacle of today's sprint race will have on the main grand prix.

With parc ferme rules in place, and drivers all looking set to start on the same medium tyres, there is little reason to believe that in pace terms anything will be different.

Fans already know that the Red Bull looks too quick in the corners for Hamilton to be able to follow close enough, so the only hope of a turnaround on Sunday is for strategy to come into play. Does that make things more or less exciting than if we had gone into the full race today?

A glance down the finishing order of the sprint race shows that there wasn't that much of a shake up, with only Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen gaining big from the afternoon.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

The biggest loser was Sergio Perez, whose spin put him to the back of the field. He now looks set to start from the pitlane on Sunday with Red Bull able to make set-up changes to the car to help him move forward.

But it's hard to judge the value of sprint races based on drivers being huge losers and dropping to the back. Is F1 really better off if, for example, it were Verstappen or Hamilton starting at the back on Sunday and with little hope of challenging their rival at the front?

One of the big social media debates over the weekend has been about messaging and naming. F1 has been especially eager to not call the sprint race a 'race.' In the FIA's rule book, it is known as sprint qualifying. F1's owners Liberty Media have been tagging it as the 'F1 Sprint.' But for fans, it's the sort of marketing speak nonsense that simply agitates them.

As F1's post-race media interviewer Jenson Button said quite rightly to Verstappen, as he kept tripping over himself not to say the R-word: "I don't want to call it a race, but it was a race..."

Then, the arguments about whether pole position from the 2021 British Grand Prix should be credited to Verstappen or Hamilton will rage forever.

In FIA terms, it is the Dutchman who starts from pole after winning sprint qualifying and duly starting from pole position for the race on Sunday. For many fans (including Verstappen himself, and Sebastian Vettel), it should be Hamilton given the credit for what he did on Friday in qualifying...

"Pole position should be deserved over one fast lap, that for me is a proper pole position," said Verstappen.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, and Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 3rd position, tour the circuit in the victory lap truck after Sprint Qualifying

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

After all, you can argue that the sprint race is effectively just the first stint of the proper grand prix, but with an automatic red flag after 17 races and a restart the following day.

Whether or not sprint races are F1's future is still uncertain, but what is clear is that the sport has done the right thing in at least experimenting and trying something new. It's given fans and media plenty to talk about; and that can only be a win for F1.

As McLaren CEO Zak Brown said on Saturday morning: "I think what's worked well is it's got people talking about the weekend and the format.

"Ultimately that drives interest, and whether those people are pro what they're seeing or not, it's given people a reason to maybe tune in on Friday that maybe they would not have done before, and I think everyone's going to watch the sprint race.

"You're never going to get a unanimous view of what the right answer is there. But so far I like what I've seen, because it's created conversation."

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2nd position, congratulate each after Sprint Qualifying

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

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F1 Sprint report from the 2021 British Grand Prix: Verstappen beats Hamilton in thrilling F1 Sprint at Silverstone to claim pole position for Sunday's Grand Prix | Formula 1®

Formula 1 RSS UK 18 July, 2021 - 05:01am

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With all of the top 10 starting the 17-lap F1 Sprint on medium tyres bar the Mercedes of Bottas on used softs, Verstappen was incisive off the start from second on the grid, out-dragging the Mercedes of Hamilton – who’d started P1 – into Abbey, despite flames having been spotted licking from his front-left wheel on the grid.

Fans were then treated to a thrilling opening lap, with Verstappen resisting the passing attempts of Hamilton – including an audacious one to go around the outside of the Red Bull at Copse – while Fernando Alonso impressively used the soft starting tyres on his Alpine to jump from 11th to 5th, as the two Haas cars of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin touched in the Village complex, with Mazepin spinning.

Qualifying hero George Russell also made contact on Lap 1 with the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, Sainz coming off worse than the Williams as he fell to P18 – with the incident to be investigated after the session by the stewards.

As the drivers settled down, Verstappen was able to eke out the gap over Hamilton, who complained of not having an answer to the Dutchman’s pace, with both cars developing blisters on their medium tyres.

Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez found himself in bother, however, as he got on the throttle too early out of Chapel and spun his Red Bull on Lap 5, falling down to P19 – with the Mexican eventually retired before the end.

Hamilton had asked his race engineer Pete Bonnington for more power from his Mercedes W12. But ultimately as the laps ticked quickly down, Verstappen was able to open the gap up on his title rival to take the F1 Sprint win by 1.4s and claim pole for tomorrow’s British Grand Prix.

Behind, despite running the softs, Bottas was able to hold onto P3 from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, with the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo earning fifth and sixth, having demoted the fast-starting Alonso to P7.

Sebastian Vettel claimed P8 for Aston Martin, having narrowly failed to pass Alonso on the 17th and final lap, as Russell and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon rounded out the top 10.

Sainz did a fine recovery job after his Lap 1 crash, ending up P11 after a string of neat overtakes, while AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly will line up 12th for the British Grand Prix, ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen, who did well to end up 13th after starting P17.

So, after the first ever F1 Sprint, it’s Max Verstappen who claims his fifth pole of the year, as well as three points – with Hamilton claiming two and Bottas one. But with Perez set to start from the back in the British Grand Prix, and two Mercedes starting alongside Verstappen, the action is far from over at Silverstone this weekend.

“Around here it’s difficult to pass, but we had a good start and a good fight with Lewis in the first lap then we tried to do our own pace. But you could see we were pushing each other hard because at the end of the race the tyres were blistering a lot, so we had to manage that to the end.

“Nevertheless, happy to have scored three points. It sounds a bit funny to then hear you scored a pole position but anyway, we’ll take it. I think it will be a really exciting, exciting battle tomorrow” – Max Verstappen, Red Bull

As mentioned above, the start was electric as Verstappen launched off the line to take the lead from P1 starter Hamilton, who then battled hard to try to retake the position, while Russell and Sainz had contact further down the field. Check it out in the video below...

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were the biggest gainers after Friday’s qualifying, both jumping four places in the F1 Sprint – Alonso from P11 to P7, as Raikkonen moved from P17 to P13.

The grid is now set for Sunday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which begins at 1500 local time. And with a Mercedes not starting on pole here for the first time in nine years, follow all the action on and F1 TV.

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Hamilton seeking Mercedes improvements after “terrible” F1 start

Crash 18 July, 2021 - 05:01am

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes has “lost a bit of performance on our starts” after making what he described as a “terrible” getaway in Formula 1’s first-ever sprint qualifying race.

The seven-time world champion started at the front of the grid after setting the fastest time in Friday evening’s qualifying session, but slipped behind his main title rival Max Verstappen on the run to Abbey.

Hamilton was unable to get back ahead of Verstappen, who went on to claim pole position for Sunday’s British Grand Prix and take the additional three world championship points on offer.

“I hit target on my start,” Hamilton said. “It’s just not good when you lose from P1 but we will try and turn a negative into a positive tomorrow.

"But I'm grateful to have finished and tomorrow we'll fight again, but I mean they're just so strong in the race.

"He was pulling away, there was nothing I could do to hold on to him. So, we've really got to try and be at the front somehow.

"They've [Red Bull] done a great job with their engine, their starts are really great this year.

"We’ve lost a bit of performance on our starts, so we've got to work a bit harder to try and improve that, because losing positions is never a good thing.”

Hamilton explained what he meant by his ‘hit the target’ comment later in the FIA press conference.

“We have a target position which you have to hit with your clutch,” he said.

“The goal was to be on target and I was on target, so I did what I was supposed to do but it didn’t deliver, for whatever reason, I don’t know why. I had a lot of wheel spin and the rest is history.”

Despite being disappointed to have been defeated by Verstappen, Hamilton said he enjoyed F1’s new-weekend format, especially qualifying on Friday.

"I wish we could redo the start again, luckily we can do it all again tomorrow,” Hamilton added.

“I don’t know how it was to watch for the fans but I think this weekend has been awesome. It was such a fun day to have qualifying on Friday, way more enjoyable.

“I don’t know whether that was the most exciting race or not, but we should do more like that, maybe a different version of it in future because it makes the weekend more enjoyable.

“I need everyone to bring their energy again tomorrow, and I’ll bring my A-Game.”

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Horner has mixed emotions: "A shame we've not got Perez up there" 17 July, 2021 - 11:19am

"Positive start, we've got our first pole in ten years [at Silverstone]. Achieving it in a different way, obviously in that sprint race. Max managed the race incredibly well, the start was crucial for us. it's a shame we've not got Checo up there as well," Horner said. 

Verstappen started the sprint race from second, but by the first corner the Dutchman managed to overtake Hamilton. Horner dishes out the praise for this quick start. 

"[Brakes] were on fire! A great launch, we knew that Mercedes in particular were strong in the first sector. So staying ahead down the first main straight was incredibly important to us. You can see there is very little between the cars in terms of tyre management. We were slightly better off than Lewis, we're quicker in the corners they're quicker down the straights. They are mighty in a straight line," Horner added. 

Perez will start from the back after a spin. He will be unable to support Verstappen in the strategic battle with Mercedes. "He's lost the rear of the car. no major issue, but it put a huge flat spot. Thankfully we didn't hit anything but the level of vibrations were so high. that's why we retired the cars to enable us to check it over fully for tomorrow," he concluded. 

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