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Formula 1

Did Baku's two-lap restart prove sprint qualifying will be a success?

It might have been controversial, but the decision to restart the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with two laps remaining provided an exciting finale. Damon Hill thinks this could be a positive sign for the sprint qualifying format.

Article
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

The eventful two-lap finale to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix following the decision to restart the race could be a sign of things to come with the new sprint qualifying format, according to Damon Hill.

Following Max Verstappen's tyre failure five laps from the end of the event, the Grand Prix was red flagged before a standing start took place for the final two laps. An exciting climax followed, with Lewis Hamilton making a surprise error at the first corner that put him out of the points whilst several drivers battled for the podium positions behind winner Sergio Perez.

Whilst the call to restart the race was slightly controversial, the finale proved entertaining and Hill believes that this could hint at some thrilling sprint races when the new qualifying format is tested out at the British Grand Prix in July.

"We got more bang for our bucks - two race starts," Hill told the F1 Nation podcast. "And of course this is a real good warm-up, a kind of suggestion of what it might be like when it comes to Silverstone when they have the new qualifying race.

"It's the pre-race to the main race, it's going to define the grid."

Hill and fellow pundit Tom Clarkson both enjoyed the restart in Baku after what had been a relatively quiet race at times.

"[It had been] incredibly quiet and actually there had been about 30 laps of not much going on," Clarkson said. "Everyone [was in] a DRS train, so they weren't getting the pass down that long straight, even at 378/235 mph.

"But then bam, it all came alive. I don't know, I loved those last two laps. I loved the fact they restarted."

Hill added: "[It's] got to be a standing start. You just cannot have a Formula 1 race finishing behind a Safety Car. We've seen that and it's a pretty dull anticlimax, so that was brilliant."

The sprint race qualifying format will first be trialled at the British Grand Prix. In a change to the usual weekend schedule, traditional qualifying will move to the Friday before the sprint takes place on Saturday afternoon. The results of this will determine the starting grid for Sunday's main race.

Two further race weekends will host the sprint qualifying format during the 2021 season, though the destinations have yet to be confirmed.

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