Motorsport News

A New Adventure at Baku

F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan - Practice

This weekend, Formula One experiments with a new take on the Sprint race format.

The new Sprint format that was announced on Tuesday, April 25, eliminates FP2 and replaces it with a smaller version of Sprint exclusive qualifying. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for the series. The FP2 session on Saturday mornings were basically made redundant on most weekends under the old format; now, at least, there will be something there.

Really, the only big issue is that smaller teams have no real incentive to use the Sprint as anything but a test session. Don’t expect teams like Haas or Williams to go for many moves on Saturday, because those teams are virtually guaranteed not to finish in the points on Saturday. So there’s really nothing they can get out of it except wrecking and ruining their weekend.

They could extend the number of cars finishing in points to 15, but that seems a little excessive and increases the likelihood late in the season for the championship to be decided on a Saturday.

F1 also chose to up the number of engine components teams are allowed to use this year, mainly due to the increase in Sprint weekends but also because the old restrictions were too tight. I wrote the qualifying recap for Frontstretch last season for Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, and it was a mess of a lineup to try and make out due to all of the engine penalties. Part of that is Spa being a very easy track to overtake at, but teams really shouldn’t enter the season expecting to take an engine penalty at some point in it.

Friday (April 28) at the track was an incredibly tense experience. With so many teams trying new components to their cars, the lone practice session prior to cars entering perc ferme at the start of the afternoon’s qualifying session became very crucial.

Alpine had a disastrous day in particular. Pierre Gasly’s power unit went boom and put on a smoke show that required a lengthy practice cleanup midway through the session. By the time practice resumed, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine was also on stands in the garage to prevent the same issue. Gasly would also DNF out of qualifying while Ocon failed to get out of Q2.

It was an up-and-down day for rookie

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