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Mercedes highlight the key to success as F1's Sprint format returns

Imola will host the first of 2022's three Sprint events this weekend, with the format remaining on the F1 calendar after successful trials last season.

F1 teams and drivers will face a bigger challenge than last year when F1's Sprint format returns at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, according to Mercedes. Under the special format, there is only one 60-minute practice session on Friday before car set-ups are locked in and the field tackles qualifying, which sets the grid for the 100-kilometre Sprint race the following day. Last season, the first Sprint event did not occur until the midway point of the season, while teams were working with a core car concept that had been in place for several years. But that's all changed in 2022, with new cars and bigger wheels - amongst other technical changes - arriving on the scene, and only three races being held before the opening Sprint weekend at Imola.

F1's rules reset only adds to the challenge

As such, Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin expects the Sprint environment to be even more demanding to operate in this time out. "If you consider the cars and the tyres we had last year, we understood them pretty well," Shovlin commented in a video on the Mercedes team's YouTube channel. "We could do work in the simulator, we could come up with a set-up, and we'd be pretty confident we could put it on track and it would work. "We're on very much a learning curve with the new cars and the tyres, so that Imola race is going to be difficult." Shovlin stressed that, due to these factors, starting the weekend with a solid set-up will be critical. He added: "If you hit the ground running, you're probably in for a good weekend. If you put the car on track and it's a difficult one to deal with, it might be quite painful. "There's a lot of focus there on making sure we can get that start set-up in the right place."

More changes to F1's Sprint format on the way?

Several changes have been made to the Sprint format for 2022, following last year's trials at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos. In more of an administrative tweak, pole position will now go to the driver who posts the fastest time in qualifying on Friday, though the winner of Saturday's Sprint will still start Sunday's main Grand Prix in first. However, there will be far more points on offer in the Sprint this time around, with the top eight finishers, as opposed to the top three, now scoring on a sliding scale (eight points for victory down to one point for P8). Shovlin suspects that more format changes could be on the way once this year's Sprints at the Emilia Romagna, Austrian and Brazilian Grands Prix have been completed. "It'll be interesting to see how that plays out," Shovlin said of the adjustments for this season. "The results of those races will get reviewed, [and] how exciting it is for the fans, and no doubt there might be some more changes going forward."

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