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F1's new sprint format will rob teams of key long run data

Formula 1 teams face an ‘impossible’ task in getting their normal long run data thanks to the new sprint weekend format, says Mercedes.

George Russell, Mercedes W13, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT03, Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22, the remainder of the field at the start

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Following approval at this week’s F1 Commission meeting, this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix will witness a revamped schedule.

Saturday’s running will be completely standalone from the rest of the weekend, with there being a sprint shootout qualifying session in the morning followed by the short race in the afternoon.

The change means that teams will lose the normal Saturday morning free practice session where they have traditionally gathered their long run data to help with tyre strategies for the race.

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says losing that extra hour of practice will compromise race preparations in particular.

"When you've only got FP1, it's practically impossible to condense all the usual learnings across Friday and Saturday into one session,” he said.

“You lose the opportunity to focus on the long run and you've got to think about what the real priorities are."

Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows reckoned that one of the consequences of the revamp was that teams would have to sacrifice a lot of what they normally do in practice.

He said: "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."

George Russell, Mercedes W13, Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT03

George Russell, Mercedes W13, Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT03

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

The condensed action will also increase the risks of there being incidents.

Meadows added: “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.”

Shovlin also thinks that the way there is no practice build-up to qualifying will make the Saturday morning shoot out quite tricky.

And although drivers are limited to using just one set of tyres in each of the Saturday qualifying sessions, Shovlin does not think it will be realistic to expect maximum performance on a single lap.

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"The drivers will go straight into a qualifying session on Saturday, which is very unusual," said Shovlin. "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."

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