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The key change that will transform F1 Sprint

F1 Sprint has divided opinion ever since it made its debut in 2021, with the format undergoing year-on-year changes in subsequent seasons.

Japan start
To news overview © XPBimages

This weekend's Chinese Grand Prix will mark the first F1 Sprint of the year - the traditional format will be revamped to be replaced by a fast-paced, intense schedule.

The decision to host the F1 Sprint in China, five years on from the sport's last venture to the region, has been questioned by some drivers.

F1 Sprint was first used in 2021 and has undergone changes ever since - and this year is no different.

The weekend will once again open with FP1 to allow the drivers and teams to get up to speed, but the session will be followed by Sprint qualifying, rather than grand prix qualifying, which was the case last year.

The sprint race will open Saturday running before qualifying for the main race is held later in the day, while the grand prix itself remains unchanged from Sunday.

But switching around the order of sessions is not the biggest change made to the sprint this year.

In previous campaigns, parc fermé conditions were enforced before the start of the Friday qualifying session - that is, after the sole practice outing, the cars were no longer allowed to undergo substantial set-up changes for the rest of the weekend.

This has created a headache for teams in the past, most notably at last year's F1 Sprint weekend in the United States where Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were disqualified after their respective teams ran their cars too low during the grand prix.

The lack of data collected during the weekend and the limited time to get the car in the right window resulted in the skid blocks being too worn away during the grand prix.

However, teams will have such concerns eased this year.

New parc fermé regulations

While cars will once again be placed under parc fermé conditions following practice, they will only initially be in effect for Sprint qualifying and the Sprint itself.

The restrictions will then be lifted after the shorter Saturday race, allowing teams to make changes ahead of qualifying for the grand prix.

The cars will then be locked in place once again when they take to the circuit to decide the grid order for the weekend's main event.

Teams will now have more time to adjust their cars and get them into a stronger window for the final two sessions of the weekend should they spot any issues during the Sprint sessions.

It will also decrease the chance of a car getting disqualified for a technical infringement similar to those that occurred at the United States Grand Prix.

The extra opportunity to make changes to the cars could have a substantial impact on the pecking order and the form book between the sprint and the grand prix.

Timetable Chinese GP

Session Date Time
Free practice 1 Friday 19 April -
Sprint shootout Friday 19 April -
Sprintrace Saturday 20 April -
Qualification Saturday 20 April -
Race Sunday 21 April -

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