The F1 Sprint makes its third appearance this weekend, shuffling the schedule and deliver another mini ‘race’; But what have we learned so far, why have Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collided, and what will happen in Brazil?; Watch every session live on Sky F1
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 12/11/21 11:25am
What’s happened so far?
The Sprint format debuted at the British GP in July with a 17-lap mini race before an 18-lap race at the Italian GP, both of which delivering fast and furious racing and impactful moments in the season.
At Silverstone, Max Verstappen benefited from a poor Lewis Hamilton start to streak away from his rival and win the maiden event and thus take pole for Sunday’s showpiece Grand Prix. Hamilton also got away poorly at Monza, dropping from second to fifth, with Valtteri Bottas winning the Sprint after also topping qualifying.
F1 Sprint: Results so far
|1) Max Verstappen, Red Bull|
|2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes|
|3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes|
|1) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes|
|2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull|
|3) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren|
With pit-stops not necessary and ill-advised, and tyre strategies in the most part identical, on-track overtaking hasn’t necessarily been the easiest (although say that to Fernando Alonso with six places gained in the two races), but what the Sprints have delivered in replacing Saturday qualifying is another big variable in terms of the race starts, both of which have had pivotal influences on the weekends, and the championship, as a whole…
- There is a qualifying hour and it retains the usual format (Q1, Q2, Q3), but it is taking place on Friday evening rather than Saturday, and sets the grid for the F1 Sprint on Saturday. The one major change is that drivers are only allowed to use soft tyres for the session.
- F1 Sprint is a race over 100km – around a third of the distance of usual F1 races – and there will be the least number of laps that exceed 100km. It should therefore be a 24-lap race.
- The top three drivers from the Sprint will be awarded points; three points to the winner, two points to second place and one point for third.
- The finishing order from F1 Sprint will then set the grid for Sunday’s Sao Paulo GP – which is still the main event for the weekend with the usual race format and points system.
- There are practice sessions for the weekend, but just the two rather than the usual three. They take place on Friday before qualifying, and Saturday before F1 Sprint.
Verstappen vs Hamilton collide – twice – as McLaren profit
While both drivers have a point to deny that their collisions had much to do with the Sprint themselves, the fact of the matter is that title rivals Verstappen and Hamilton have crashed heavily twice this year – both times on the Sunday following the Saturday Sprint.
Now let’s explain how the Sprint had a part to play.
At Silverstone, the seeds were sown for that big Sunday collision by Verstappen and Hamilton’s tussle on the first lap of the Sprint. Verstappen moved ahead of Hamilton at the start before the pair battled fiercely through the next corners, with Hamilton then getting a sniff of an overtake into the high-speed copse. However, Verstappen forced the home favourite all the way around the outside by blocking the inside, making a pass all-but-impossible. He would go on to comfortably win the Sprint.
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Max Verstappen hit the barriers after colliding with Lewis Hamilton during the first lap of the British GP, resulting in a red flag
So that was very fresh in the memory for Sunday’s race – less than 24 hours later – and the pair, knowing track position was so important, were even more hostile in their wheel-to-wheel scraps through the opening corners. Then came the lead-up to Copse, and Verstappen again placed his car towards the inside, encouraging Hamilton for that tough move around the outside again. But this time Hamilton squeezed his car to that inside, and as he almost got alongside his rival, did not back out. The pair made contact with Verstappen sent shunting off into the barriers and out of the race.
Hamilton was given a time penalty but still went on to win, delivering a huge 25-point swing in the drivers’ championship which is still well and truly alive today.
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Max Verstappen moved alongside Lewis Hamilton after his pit stop and the pair collide at the first chicane, causing both to be beached in the gravel!!
Admittedly their Monza crash was less to do with the Sprint and more on a very slow pit-stop for Verstappen, but the title rivals still would never have been in those track positions without the Sprint, which shuffled the qualifying order.
And McLaren would very likely not have won the race.
Daniel Ricciardo qualified fifth on the Friday in Monza but rose to third in the Sprint via a flying start, and that grid position became second on the Sunday thanks to Bottas’ penalty. After another strong start to pass Verstappen, and Verstappen and Hamilton’s collisions, the Australian would take McLaren’s first F1 victory since 2012.
So there lies the impact of the new-for-2021 so far.
The key stats so far
Thanks to his first place in Great Britain and second in Italy, Verstappen has collected the most points from the Sprints with five – with only four drivers taking those top three scoring positions so far.
F1 Sprint: Points scored
|Max Verstappen, Red Bull||5|
|Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes||4|
|Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes||2|
|Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren||1|
Verstappen has also made the most of the Sprints compared to Hamilton in terms of gained positions from qualifying, on both occasions moving up one place while Hamilton lost one at Silverstone (1st to 2nd) and three at Monza (2nd to fifth).
But the aforementioned Alonso is the big winner in that regard, moving up a total of six positions through the two events. He started 11th at Silverstone and masterfully managed the soft tyres to finish seventh, while went from 13th to 11th in the second Sprint.
Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly have lost the most positions because of their respective DNFs.
F1 Sprint: Positions gained/lost from qualifying grid slots
|Fernando Alonso, Alpine||6|
|Esteban Ocon, Alpine||4|
|Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo||4|
|Nikita Mazepin, Haas||4|
|Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren||3|
|Lance Stroll, Aston Martin||3|
|Nicholas Latifi, Williams||3|
|Max Verstappen, Red Bull||2|
|Charles Leclerc, Ferrari||2|
|Lando Norris, McLaren||1|
|Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin||1|
|Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri||1|
|Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo||1|
|Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo||1|
|Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes||0|
|Mich Schumacher, Haas||0|
|George Russell, Williams||0|
|Carlos Sainz, Ferrari||-2|
|Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes||-4|
|Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri||-14 (DNF at Monza)|
|Sergio Perez, Red Bull||-15 (DNF at Silverstone)|
What to expect from Brazil?
The Interlagos circuit is steeped in history and a big favourite with the drivers, particularly Hamilton and Verstappen who have typically gone well – and had big moments in their career – there. The title rivals have both won two of the last four races in Sao Paulo, although Hamilton and Mercedes expect the layout to suit Red Bull more this season.
But Hamilton wasn’t massively optimistic about the weekend when speaking the media on Thursday.
“It doesn’t play into your hands if they’re quicker,” he retorted to a question.
Four to go: How it stands in the title chases
|1) Max Verstappen||312.5|
|2) Lewis Hamilton||293.5|
|2) Red Bull||477.5|
He then added: “This is not a very good track for overtaking. Of course you’ve got that long straight, but I believe it’s close to one of the hardest places for overtaking of the year.
“I think you’ve got to have something like 1.1second advantage to have a 50% chance of overtaking the car ahead.”
What Brazil has told us over the years is that drama is never far around the corner, as Hamilton will know from his incredible last-corner title win back in 2008, and Verstappen from his 2018 crash with Esteban Ocon.
With just 19 points splitting the title rivals and 29 points to play for in Interlagos this weekend, don’t be surprised to see Saturday’s Sprint make another big impact.