Was F1’s Sprint experiment a success?

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While the British Grand Prix will be remembered for the first lap incident between championship protagonists Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton that left the former out of the race, there was a special moment on Saturday when Formula 1 debuted with sprint qualifying.

After more than twelve months in the pipeline, Formula 1 has finally tested its alternative to the traditional one-hour qualifying session in the form of a 30-minute sprint race to determine the grid for the Grand Prix. And overall it was a success.

The idea was to improve the weekend for the fans and give them more wheel-to-wheel races to digest.

Since I’d been constantly preaching the mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” it would always take something spectacular to convince even the most traditional of followers to get on board with the idea of ​​a Sprint.

We saw both the advantages and disadvantages of racing to set the grid in those 17 laps around full Silverstone.

Verstappen jumped into the lead from second place immediately before Hamilton Abbey went in to take pole, while Fernando Alonso put on a show in midfield, eventually finishing four places higher than where he initially qualified.

Max Verstappen (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

It also benefited Daniel Ricciardo, who struggled to get the ultimate one-lap pace out of his McLaren in qualifying against the clock in 2021. In the Sprint, however, the Aussie was able to move up to sixth.

Concerns about additional damage and racing incidents ruining the starting position for the Grand Prix were also realized when George Russell made contact with Carlos Sainz on the first lap.

This compromised the Ferrari driver’s potential to qualify the car closer to his teammate Charles Leclerc on the podium.

Russell also paid the price for his over-enthusiasm at Sainz and received a three-place grid penalty for the race, which took away a top ten start for his home grand prix after reaching Q3 on Friday.

Red Bull’s miserable weekend finally kicked off on Saturday, when Sergio Perez spun at the super-fast Maggots and Becketts complex and was forced to withdraw from the Sprint.

As a result, the Mexican driver had to start the Grand Prix from the pit lane and ultimately did not score any points.

What would have been a crumb of comfort for Red Bull was not to walk away from Silverstone empty-handed and secure Verstappen’s three points pole position at the end of the Sprint.

What can be commended, however, is the way Formula 1 has implemented this – which is a far cry from the horrendous elimination qualifying grading scheme, introduced indiscriminately in 2016 to cut just a few races in the season.

The murmur of a reverse grid on Saturday was enough to trigger a convulsion, but by settling for a simple 100km race to establish Sunday’s grid, there was an entrance for the main course.

Despite drivers saying ahead of the sprint that they expect it to ride in procession, it was great to see an attempt to turn a profit to improve their results on Sunday.

And since it only takes 30 minutes, if it were a train, it would hardly be enough time to put anyone to sleep.

Instead, there was an incentive to make a cautious profit, but so was the danger. They put on a good show at the time and without it feeling like a gimmick.

With the sample size yet to increase after two more test runs at Monza and another location towards the back end of the season, it can be safely suggested so far that the Sprint will be introduced in select races in 2022.

This is how it should be, to change weekends for everyone and offer a new challenge in these rather long 20-plus racing seasons.

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