June 18, 2021
By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) – Formula One will seek to avoid a scenario where a new points-paying Saturday sprint race format being trialled this season could decide the title, according to managing director Ross Brawn.
The sport wants to host three sprint races in 2021, with the first at Silverstone in July and the second scheduled for Monza in September.
The venue for the third has yet to be decided, with the United States in October and Brazil in November mentioned as the most likely candidates. Both have hosted title-deciding races in the past.
Under the new format, qualifying will switch to Friday with points awarded on Saturday to the top three drivers in a short 40 minute race to decide Sunday’s starting grid.
Those extra points could, in theory, be enough to clinch the title although the current battle between Mercedes’ seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen looks like going the distance.
The pair are so far separated by just four points after six rounds.
“We’d probably want to avoid the title being decided on a Saturday,” Brawn told reporters in a briefing ahead of Sunday’s French Grand Prix.
“If we went to the last race and a driver could win the championship on Saturday by winning a sprint event, that could bring an added dimension but I think we’ll just try to avoid it while we find out how successful it is.
“We want to pick an event ideally a few races before the end of the season and we always want to pick tracks where we think the racing can take place in a short format with overtaking opportunities and a little bit of tyre degradation.
“I don’t think we want to do it at the last race.”
Brawn said he understood purists might be unhappy with the proposed change but he urged them to hold judgement and give the format a chance.
He said the sprint race would give promoters and broadcasters more of a show with three meaningful days as well as potentially appeal to a new and younger audience of fans.
Brawn likened it to short-format cricket compared to Test matches, saying the former had attracted new fans for the traditional offering.
“We will never force this through if it’s clearly not a success,” he promised. “There’s no incentive in doing it if the audience don’t engage.
“I think one of the great things about what’s happening is that it’s three races, it’s not the season…If we don’t get the response we hope, then we’ll put our hands up and stay the way we are.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Lincoln Feast.)