F1 sprint race plan for British GP weekend welcomed by Silverstone as final decision nears on radical concept

Silverstone is “totally supportive” of plans to trial F1’s new sprint race concept at this year’s British GP, as a final decision looms on the sport’s plan to shake up select race weekends.

Plans to introduce shorter races on the Saturdays in addition to the main Grand Prix at three events in 2021 received the broad support of teams when first discussed last month and appear likely to be signed off ahead of the start of the season in Bahrain at the end of month.

Silverstone had not previously been mooted as one of the three venues earmarked for a sprint race but F1 president Stefano Domenicali told The Daily Mail: “What I can say is that Silverstone will hold a sprint race.”

Sky Sports understands that a decision on sprint races is set to be taken either this or next week, with Silverstone to host one of the three should the plans get the green light.

Asked if they welcomed the plans, Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle told Sky Sports: “Absolutely.

“If F1 should decide that Silverstone is the right venue for a sprint race then we would be totally supportive of that and feel it would be fantastic spectacle for the fans.”

Canada’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Italy’s Monza and Brazil’s Interlagos – which are similar to Silverstone in being known for fast, exciting races with overtaking – are also considered to be in the frame for the two other sprint events.

This year’s British GP takes place on July 16-18.

After running two Grands Prix behind closed doors last summer due to the pandemic on F1’s rejigged 2020 calendar, Silverstone are hopeful they will be able to welcome back capacity crowds to an event that attracted a race-day crowd of 141,000 in 2019.

Explained: F1’s sprint race plans

What is the proposal?
F1 wants to trial three shorter-form Saturday ‘sprint’ races in 2021, lasting around half an hour each.

Reduced points would be on offer and the results of the Saturday event would set the grid for Sunday’s main traditional Grand Prix.

What would happen to normal qualifying?
This would move to Friday in place of Practice Two, with the results of the usual three-part knockout hour on these occasions setting the starting order for Saturday’s sprint race.

Hasn’t this been discussed – and rejected – before?
Sort of. In both 2019 and 2020, the idea of reverse-grid races – where the championship order would have reversed for the starting grid – was discussed by the sport’s stakeholders but never gained sufficient support on either occasion.

Mercedes were particularly opposed to the idea, suggesting the sport should not be looking at artificial means of increasing excitement levels and unpredictability at the pinnacle of motor racing.

The difference in this latest proposal is that the starting order would be set by the performance results of qualifying.

What are the potential stumbling blocks?
After the idea was first discussed at the F1 Commission on February 11, further talks between teams, the FIA and F1 have followed.

F1 and the FIA’s joint statement on the matter at the time said: “All teams recognised the major importance of engaging fans in new and innovative ways to ensure an even more exciting weekend format. There was, therefore, broad support from all parties for a new qualifying format at some races, and a working group has been tasked with creating a complete plan.”

McLaren chief Zak Brown told Sky Sports that “everyone is in favour of the concept of trying something new”.

“I’m encouraged,” he added. “Anytime you have something new you try it. If it works you keep doing it, if it doesn’t you either change it up or you don’t do it anymore. I think it’s only a positive for the sport.”

In a year when a budget cap is in place for the first time, the matter of spare parts for damage repairs is likely to be on the table, along with the more philosophical question of whether the weekends in question where the trials run would have ‘two’ bona-fide race winners.

Speaking in his interview with The Daily Mail, Domenicali said “for sure we do not want to take away the prestige of the Grand Prix itself” and that “there will be no podium celebration. That will wait until Sunday”.

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