F1 teams agree to pursue standalone sprint format for Baku

Plans to introduce a new standalone Saturday sprint format for the Azerbaijan GP weekend took a step forward after F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali met team bosses on Sunday.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

The purpose of the meeting was not to have a formal vote, but in effect to get a mandate from the teams for the FIA to press ahead with finalising the regulatory details in time for Baku.

The rules will also have to be checked and tested by the team sporting directors in the sporting advisory committee, before being formally ratified ahead of the round, from 28-30 April.

Various potential formats have been under discussion, including the possibility of a one-lap qualifying format for the sprints, but that idea has now been abandoned, in part because of the complications of readying the timing software to cope with the format.

There had also been a debate about which of the sprint and race qualifying sessions would be on Friday or Saturday, but it has now been agreed to make Saturday an independent event.

The basic plan now for sprint weekends is to have normal race qualifying on Friday after FP1, with the grid set in stone and no impact on it from the result of the sprint.

Sprint qualifying will take place on Saturday with a slightly shortened version of the usual three-session format.

Although the exact timings are still being discussed one likely option is to split the three sessions across twelve, 10 and eight minutes.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL36

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Teams wanted to have a shorter sprint session in order to keep a lid on the number of laps that power units are run in qualifying modes during the weekend, and because of the limited number of sets of tyres that are available.

There are many complicated issues that have to be addressed, such as tyre allocation, with each driver restricted to 12 sets on sprint weekends. Parc ferme rules also have to be finalised.

The general idea is that technical penalties such as those for PU changes will continue to apply to the main race, as was already the case with sprint weekends, and that sporting penalties incurred in the sprint are applied to the sprint.

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It’s understood that a driver who incurs a grid penalty for triggering an incident in the sprint is likely serve it in the next sprint rather than in the following day’s main race, although that has yet to be confirmed.

Speaking before Sunday’s meeting Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he was in support of the standalone format if the details could be agreed.

“I think two qualifying sessions per se is not something that's bad,” he said when asked by Autosport.

“If we stick with the current format, I think we wouldn't be able to do this with the engine mileage and I think Pirelli's hasn't got enough tyres. So that's something that needs to be solved.”

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