After experimenting with Sprint Qualifying rounds in 2021, Formula One had originally decided to expand that program to six rounds in 2022. Sadly, it announced on Monday that Sprints would stick to just three rounds this season to curb costs in light of the fact that the sport requires a totally new chassis design. I’m slightly disappointed, because I truly enjoyed the sprint qualifying rounds last year, and more racing is always good. It wasn’t perfect, but with just a couple of the newly approved changes for Sprint rounds, it just might be.
I found the sprint rounds to be a whole lot of fun, not only because it added extra raced-in-anger time on track to an F1 weekend, but it also added an extra day to the proceedings. I could watch a traditional knockout qualifying session on Friday, enjoy a short-but-sweet sprint event on Saturday, then see the main event on Sunday. What’s not to love about that? Plus, with the sprint qualifying rounds we were treated to killer pieces of the season, like Lewis running from the back of the field with a massively dominant car in Interlagos, or Fernando Alonso’s incredible 11th-to-5th run on the first lap at Silverstone.
There were a few things I didn’t particularly like about Sprint Qualifying in 2021. First of all, it’s a shame that the work teams and drivers do on Friday can easily be undone on Saturday before the race starts. At the very least, the person who sets pole time on Friday should get to keep that pole start for the Grand Prix, irrespective of what happens on Saturday. They earned it. Secondly, it’s a shame that the points payout is so small for the sprint rounds. It almost encourages drivers to defend and not attack. Proper World Championship Points would make the Saturday races a little spicier.
While I didn’t exactly lobby the FIA to make these changes, we seem to have seen eye to eye on both of those counts. In speaking to teams, fans, and drivers, it was determined that pole would be set by the knockout qualifying sessions on Friday.
Instead of the previous 3-2-1 allocation for just three top finishers, sprint race points will now be handed out in the following order; the top three, 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. This points scoring setup wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the championship, either way, as Max Verstappen would have scored 15 additional points in sprint rounds, while Lewis Hamilton would have only gained 13 points over his 2021 total. That said, it could certainly make some mid-field teams very happy with quite a few extra points on offer all the way back to eighth.
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I hope that these three sprint rounds prove even more successful in 2022 than they did last year, because I’d like to see these events spread even further in 2023. With these minor changes, Friday qualifying carries more weight, Saturday’s race will hopefully see more dicing for points, and Sunday will still be the experience it has always been. This season of F1 could be shaping up to be a really interesting one.