F1 still mulling radical reverse grid concept for sprint races next year

<span>Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP</span>
Photograph: Ariel Schalit/AP

Formula One is still considering adopting a reverse grid concept for its sprint race format next season, with the sport announcing on Tuesday the six venues which will hold sprint races in 2024.

F1 has confirmed that next season the sprint race format will be used at the meetings in China, Miami, Austria, Austin, Brazil and Qatar. Brazil and Qatar are at the end of the season and once more present the chance of the championship being decided in a sprint race as it was this year when Max Verstappen took the title in the short-format race in Qatar.

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How the weekends are structured remains to be confirmed, with discussions ongoing with the teams.

It is understood that the current format, which had been criticised this season once more, will be changed. This year qualifying for the grand prix took place on Friday, with sprint qualifying and the sprint race on a Saturday. There was dissatisfaction, however, that the GP qualifying was not the final event pre-race and that the sprint itself was too often a procession.

Next season qualifying for the sprint will take place on Friday as the second session after first practice, with the sprint race then taking place on Saturday morning and qualifying resuming its traditional slot on Saturday afternoon. Concerns remain nonetheless that damage endured in the sprint race would have a detrimental effect on qualifying for the GP.

The most radical move of introducing a reverse grid element to the weekend also remains under discussion. The proposal would be to use a reverse grid from sprint qualifying, either for the whole field or potentially just the top 10, for the sprint race. Doing so would require the rules to have to take into account teams attempting to game sprint qualifying in order to gain a better grid position.

Consideration is also being given to adapting the current parc fermé rules, set in place after first practice and after which teams cannot alter the setup of their car, with teams and drivers unhappy that they are locked in to making decisions too early in the weekend. This, too, is expected to be changed to allow the cars to be worked on after the sprint race and before qualifying to adapt better to expected full race conditions.

F1 has changed the format of the sprint weekends three times since their introduction in 2021 and is known to want to settle on a fixed format for 2024 that it will then maintain for several years to properly assess its impact and reception amongst fans, promoters and broadcasters.

The FIA president, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, said: “We must continuously develop and adapt to ensure we are doing what is best for the sport, and as such we are working with FOM and the teams to define the future direction of the sprint format.”