Formula 1 has approved the introduction of Saturday ‘Sprint Qualifying’ races at a trio of grands prix this year in the biggest shake-up to the format in years.
Championship organisers have been keen to amend the structure of the weekend for several years and previously floated the idea of a reversed-grid Saturday race at select grands prix.
This proposal was twice rejected and organisers focused on a different approach for 2021.
The overall concept has been in the public domain for several months but the finer details – including the financial implications – have been under discussion between teams and championship officials.
The amended format has now been ratified and while precise locations have yet to be outlined, it is set to take place at grands prix in Britain, Italy and Brazil this year.
The usual qualifying format will be shifted to Friday afternoon, with Sprint Qualifying taking place on Saturday, after a second one-hour practice session.
A race, of length approximately 100km, will take place, with the outcome determining the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.
Three points will be awarded to the driver in first place at the end of Sprint Qualifying, with two for second and one for third spot.
“We are excited by this new opportunity that will bring our fans an even more engaging race weekend in 2021,” said Formula 1 chief Stefano Domenicali.
“Seeing the drivers battling it out over three days will be an amazing experience and I am sure the drivers will relish the fight.
“I am delighted that all the teams supported this plan, and it is a testament to our united efforts to continue to engage our fans in new ways while ensuring we remain committed to the heritage and meritocracy of our sport.”
FIA president Jean Todt welcomed F1’s move to seek new and exciting ways of engaging new and existing fans.
“I am pleased to see that Formula 1 is seeking new ways to engage with its fans and enlarge the spectacle of a race weekend through the concept of Sprint Qualifying.
“It was made possible thanks to the continued collaboration between the FIA, Formula 1, and all of the teams. F1 is showing itself to be stronger than ever with all stakeholders working together in this way, and much has been done to ensure that the Sporting, Technical and Financial aspects of the format are fair.”