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F1: Could new sprint races boost Mick Schumacher?

February 12, 2021

Formula One wants to introduce a sprint race at some grand prix weekends. F1 debutant Mick Schumacher has experience of such races from his Formula Two days and could profit, but not as much as he would have liked.

Mick Schumacher
Mick Schumacher is the 21-year-old son of F1 great MichaelImage: Frank Hoermann/SvenSimon /picture alliance

The new Formula One season starts next month and, in typical style, bosses are planning to fiddle with the format at short notice.

While fans are repeatedly aghast at some of the gimmicks that have been brought in to try to make the world's premier motorsport class more exciting, debutant Mick Schumacher might have reason to smile.

F1 wants to introduce so-called sprint races to accompany qualifying and the main race at three grand prix weekends this season to see if the arrangements can be extended.

The fine print has yet to be agreed, even so close to the first race in Bahrain on March 28, but the governing FIA is clear about its aims.

"All teams recognized the major importance of engaging fans in new and innovative ways to ensure an even more exciting weekend format," an FIA statement said after a meeting of the F1 Commission, a selection of stakeholders in the sport.

"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 for the 2021 Championship."

But how might this help Schumacher?

Germany's Schumacher, son of seven-times champion Michael, is making the step up to F1 after winning the Formula Two Championship last season. He will race for the Haas team, who finished second from bottom last year and are expected to struggle again.

But the introduction of sprint races could play into Schumacher's hands. Unlike many in F1, he has vast experience of the format from F2, which held sprint races at every race weekend last year.  

Mick Schumacher in racing car
Haas F1's Mick Schumacher drove during first practice for the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix in DecemberImage: Bryn Lennon/AFP/Getty Images

But there is one key difference between the F1 plans and what has been used in the second-tier series. In F2, the starting grid of the sprint race is determined by reversing the top 10 finishers from the qualifying session, effectively putting weaker cars at the front of the grid and forcing the better drivers down field.

F1 had hoped to bring in a similar scenario. But world champions Mercedes were against the idea because they felt it would penalize the likes of seven-times champion Lewis Hamillton too much.

F1 president Stefano Domenicali told a recent a news conference: "Reverse grid is over. It's important to think of new ideas of being more attractive or interesting but we don't have to lose the traditional approach of racing."

So Schumacher's hopes of being rocketed from the back of the grid after qualifying to the front for the sprint race have been dashed, but his sprint race know-how should still be useful to Haas, especiall if there are any crashes or incidents in a sprint race - which often open the door for an unfancied car like Haas' to profit.

But what exactly is a sprint race?

In F2, the sprint race is 120 kilometers or 45 minutes, whichever comes first. F1 wants a 100 kilometer distance, a third of the length of a normal race. 

In F2, the winner of the sprint race gets 15 points and gets to keep those points whatever happens in the feature race on the Sunday, which rewards the winner with 25 points. 

F1 is set to partly follow F2, with qualifying moving from Saturday to Friday at three trial races and a sprint race being introduced on Saturday, before the main event, which will remain on a Sunday. Reports say Canada, Italy and Brazil are earmarked.

The likely difference in F1 is that qualifying will set the grid for the sprint race and, in turn, the result of the sprint race sets the grid for the main race. In F2, qualifying still sets the main race grid.

This could also benefit Schumacher, who hopes to spring a few surprises like his father did early in his F1 career.  

Explains: Schumacher Better Than Hamilton?

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