While plans are in place to extend sprint qualifying into 2022 and beyond, Fernando Alonso thinks fans’ voices need to be heard regarding its future.
Three trial sprint qualifying sessions took place in 2021 with Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos hosting ‘races’ at one-third distance to decide the grid after a standard qualifying session.
Formula 1 introduced the format to have ‘meaningful’ action over the course of all three days of a race weekend, with Friday usually solely reserved for practice sessions.
The number of sprints in 2022 is set to double to six, but McLaren CEO Zak Brown has cast doubt over this possibility with teams yet to agree on the finances of how they will be incorporated into the season.
Alonso said he has a positive opinion of the sprints as a whole, but insisted fans must be at the heart of whether or not they continue – as he indicated the teams have no particular preference about sprint or traditional weekends.
“I think this format is made for the fans, to improve the spectacle and to attract different and new fans to the sport,” Alonso said, quoted by Motorsport.com in Spain.
“So I think we should ask them and see what they think. What did they think of the weekend, what went well, what didn’t go well? And if we have to change something, they have to decide.
“Because I think for the teams it wasn’t better, it wasn’t worse. It was just different. We prepared the weekend in a different way, but at the end it’s the same for everyone.
“So I think we have to give priority to the fans. And they have to tell us what they didn’t like and try to improve it.”
Alonso’s first lap at the Silverstone sprint became one of the moments of the season as he passed five cars and took advantage of the opportunity to improve on his grid position for the grand prix – as is the original intention for the sprint format.
Just one practice session takes place before the cars go into qualifying and it dramatically alters the structure of the weekend overall. While Alonso said it can be trickier to navigate with such little running, he enjoyed the trials last season.
“I’m happy because it changed a little bit the routine you are used to at the weekend,” he said. “It generates a bit more stress with only one free practice session before the cars come into parc ferme and then there are two races.
“Yes, it’s going well for us, and maybe that’s why I have a good opinion of the sprint races.”
Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali spoke positively about several aspects of Formula 1 last year, with a global fans’ survey of more than 167,000 respondents finding the sport is beginning to appeal to a younger audience – and he hopes sprint qualifying will add to that spectacle.
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