Thursday 15th July 2021
Skepticism about “new discipline”
Vettel calls pole “wrong” for sprint winner
There is a small Formula 1 revolution in Silverstone: For the first time, the pole position for the race on Sunday will be held as a sprint race. The motorsport premier class sells this as “innovative” and full of action. The drivers doubt or express – like Sebastian Vettel – clear criticism.
“New”, “innovative”, “more action on the track” – Formula 1 really went out of its way to stir up anticipation for this somewhat historic weekend at Silverstone. For the first time in the history of the premier class, a sprint race will decide on the starting grid; the pilots will fight for 100 kilometers on Saturday (5.30 p.m. / Sky and in the ntv.de live ticker) for pole position.
It’s just stupid that the drivers don’t really want to join in this song of praise so far. This is especially true of the spokesman. He doesn’t have the highest hopes, says Lewis Hamilton, “there will probably be a procession. Maybe there will be a few overtaking maneuvers, but it won’t be particularly exciting.” For the record world champion, what will happen in his home race is initially nothing more than an experiment: it is to be carried out a total of three times this year, and sprint qualifying sessions are also planned in Monza and at one of the overseas races. Then it is analyzed whether the format is future-proof.
If Sebastian Vettel has his way, the attempt remains. The “new discipline” does not suit the Aston Martin driver. In particular, he makes fun of the fact that the Pole man will be determined for Sunday: “I think that’s wrong.” The pole position should go to the driver who sets the fastest lap in qualifying. “It’s getting a bit confusing,” said Vettel. “If it’s a one-time thing, it doesn’t do much harm.”
Race weekend completely rebuilt
The race weekend will be significantly rebuilt for this. There is only one free practice at the beginning, the second Friday session is already a first qualifying: In the usual format with Q1, Q2, and Q3, the starting grid for the sprint is in three sections. Another free practice session will take place on Saturday, followed by the qualifying race.
A third of the Grand Prix distance has to be completed, 17 laps at Silverstone, and after about half an hour the starting grid for the British Grand Prix on Sunday should be completed (4 p.m. / Sky and in the ntv.de live ticker) stand. From the Formula 1 perspective, this approach outweighs the chances.
If Friday is only used for preparation, competition sessions on all three days should now enhance the weekend. In addition, the rulers are confident that they have laid the foundation for 30 minutes of tough racing. While in the Grand Prix, for example, tire wear often leads to a stalking tactic, in the sprint there should be full throttle over the entire distance.
Huge height of fall
This opportunity, so the thought, no longer exists very often in modern motorsport. And if you are a real racing driver, you have to appreciate that: “They would also race with a shopping cart in the supermarket,” says Formula 1 sports director Ross Brawn, “it is in their nature to beat each other.”
The height of the fall could become a problem for this very promising format: If you risk too much in the sprint, you could be eliminated or fall far behind – and ruin the Grand Prix at the same time. “If there are opportunities in the race, you will seize them,” says Vettel, “but the most important thing will be that you finish the race.
World Cup leader Max Verstappen is also not very euphoric, “neither for nor against,” said the Red Bull star: “But of course I want to win this race too. There are three points for it.” The second person in the sprint is credited with two counters, the third with one more. And Vettel also finds something positive: “Something new can always be exciting,” says the four-time world champion. He thinks that there are only two one-hour training sessions left. “In the end I like it because you hang out less in the garage and more on the track,” said Vettel.
Saturday at Silverstone will now bring the first answers. Even if the format is convincing in the end, it will probably never completely replace normal qualifying. “In Monaco, for example, it would probably not be a success,” says Brawn: “We want to distribute the sprint races as special events on the calendar.”