LONDON: Formula 1 teams have backed a plan to hold shorter ‘sprint races’ at three Grands Prix this season.
Details are still to be ironed out, but all teams gave their support to the idea at a virtual Formula One commission meeting yesterday.
“All teams recognised the major importance of engaging fans in new and innovative ways to ensure an even more exciting weekend format,” the FIA said.
“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 with the aim to reach a final decision before the start of the 2021 Championship.”
Formula 1 teams and manufacturers also agreed unanimously to freeze engine development from the start of the 2022 season in a move that paves the way for Bed Bull to continue using Honda-designed engines.
Honda are leaving the sport at the end of this year and Red Bull had said their continued use of the Japanese manufacturer’s engines depended on a freeze because they could not afford to develop them.
The governing FIA hailed the vote at the commission meeting as “a significant development for the sport” that reflected “the unity and collaborative spirit between the FIA, Formula One and the teams.”
Talks on ‘sprint’ races will include whether and how many points should be awarded for the sprint race; whether it would mean two ‘winners’ each weekend or just one; and the financial, legal and contractual implications of the plan.
F1 had proposed an idea to try out sprint races of about 100km – a third the distance of a Grand Prix – at the Canadian, Italian and Brazilian races this season.
These would take place on Saturday and the result of the sprint race would set the grid for the main Grand Prix on Sunday.
The grid for the sprint race would be set by moving qualifying to Friday.
The prospect of a freeze on engine development from the start of 2022 had been tabled as a means of reducing costs ahead of the introduction of a new engine design in 2025 or 2026, and to facilitate Red Bull’s desire to continue with Honda engines.
The Japanese company is leaving F1 at the end of this season, but Red Bull would prefer to take over the intellectual property of the Honda and maintain the power-units themselves rather than become a customer of another manufacturer.
This is because it gives them the prospect of independence and perhaps even manufacturing their own engines when the new rules come into force in the middle of the decade.
But to make the plan work, Red Bull needed a guarantee that their rivals could not develop their own engines and establish a growing advantage over the years from 2022, leaving Red Bull falling further and further behind.
Talks on the issue have been ongoing for months and a freeze from the start of the 2022 season was agreed by the F1 Commission.
However, there will not be a means of equalising the performance of the engines should one or more turn out to be less competitive once racing starts in 2022.
Red Bull had wanted this to be introduced but Mercedes have reservations about the idea.
The teams were told that the Portuguese Grand Prix would go ahead on May 2, a slot on this year’s calendar left vacant by Vietnam.
There was also discussion of a ban on the use of wind tunnels for aerodynamic design from 2030, but this was opposed by Mercedes, Aston Martin (formerly Racing Point) and Williams.
The number of days allocated for tyre testing was increased from 25 to 30 this year at Pirelli’s request, with Formula 1 switching to 18-inch tyres in 2022.