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The Sprint Weekend Explained

Another race weekend, another F1 Sprint to get stuck into!

The new for 2023 Sprint format returns for more action, more jeopardy, and more excitement on what we're terming: Sprint Saturday.

What's it all about though? We caught up with Sporting Director Ron Meadows, and Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin, to get the low down.

"The most notable change is the removal of Free Practice Two from the weekend timetable. That has been replaced with a session called the Sprint Shootout," Ron states. "This will set the grid for the F1 Sprint later that day and ensures that Saturday is completely dedicated to this format. Qualifying on Friday will therefore determine the starting order for the Grand Prix on Sunday."

What will Saturday entail and what are the key changes to note? Ron explains: "The Sprint Shootout will essentially be a condensed version of traditional qualifying, but with some notable differences. SQ1 will last 12 minutes, SQ2 10 minutes, and SQ3 just 8 minutes. Drivers will be limited to using one set of the medium tyre in SQ1, another set in SQ2, and one set of the soft compound for SQ3."

"The drivers will go straight into a qualifying session on Saturday, which is very unusual," says Shov. "It's a tall order to expect the drivers to deliver a single-lap performance immediately so I suspect everyone will go for multi-lap runs. The medium tyre can handle multiple laps but without having several sets available, there's a higher chance of getting unlucky with a red flag for example. I think everyone will get out on track and get busy trying to put laps in."

Added jeopardy therefore and should you get it wrong, a knock-on impact for the team in the garage. "The new format won't cause massive changes to how the garage personnel operate over the weekend. However, when you add sessions that require 100 percent attack from the drivers and every lap matters to advance through to the next stage, you always run the risk of a crash," Ron adds.

Practice time under this schedule is reduced to a single hour at the very start of the weekend. It presents an interesting challenge, as Shov explains. "When you've only got FP1, it's practically impossible to condense all the usual learnings across Friday and Saturday into one session. You lose the opportunity to focus on the long run and you've got to think about what the real priorities are."

Ron continues: "It will be very tricky for the engineers and drivers to find the optimum set-up for both qualifying and heavy race fuel trim. We will need to maximise the number of laps in FP1, so we likely won't be planning on making set-up changes that sap running time for the drivers. It's a new way of working for all the teams and provides a fair amount of opportunity to excel."

Plenty of changes therefore that have had an impact on the Team's preparations for the weekend ahead.

Shov concludes: "It's our job to take any set of regulations and optimise for them. That's what the Team is focused on."