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Explained: Formula One's new sprint qualifying

Get the lowdown on Formula One's experimental 2021 Sprint format with our in-depth guide.

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With the recent cost cap announcement and an upcoming technical revolution heralding new cars in 2022, Formula One is evolving.

But while finances and aerodynamic philosophies have changed relatively frequently over the years, a somewhat rarer innovation will debut this season.

For the first time in World Championship history, Formula One will debut a new sprint qualifying format on Saturdays at select Grand Prix.

Similar to the sprint race seen in feeder series Formula 2, sprint qualifying will be run at one-third of a Grand Prix distance, with the grid set by a traditional qualifying session taking place on the Friday.

The idea is that the new schedule, featuring two practice sessions, qualifying, sprint qualifying and the race, will offer more excitement and value to fans at the track and around the globe, without detracting from the traditions of a Grand Prix.

The traditional qualifying format will remain, but instead of informing the Grand Prix grid, the newly re-homed Friday session will provide the sprint qualifying line-up.

Unlikely to feature any pit stops due to its short length, sprint qualifying will provide 25-30 minutes of pure track action, with points awarded to the top three finishers on a scale of three-two-one.

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There will not be a podium ceremony, to avoid detracting from Grand Prix honours on a Sunday, but a trophy will be awarded to the sprint qualifying winner.

More importantly, the finishing order in sprint qualifying will determine the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix, potentially creating some surprises on the grid.

There are further knock-on effects to the usual format too with all teams using soft tyres in qualifying and being permitted to start the Grand Prix on any tyre compound of their choice, adding a new layer of strategic intrigue.

Practice will be reduced to two one-hour sessions, meaning any disruption could prove costly to the whole weekend. Allowances have been made for technical elements such as the power unit, gearbox and brakes, as well as spare parts, to avoid teams being unfairly penalised as a result of the condensed timetable.

Silverstone is the first of three Grand Prix weekends to host sprint qualifying in 2021 and will help inform whether Formula One carries the format into 2022 and beyond.

Regardless of its success this year, Formula One intends to use sprint qualifying sparingly in the future, with circuits such as Monaco unsuitable due to a lack of overtaking opportunities.

With Silverstone confirmed, Formula One has suggested the Italian Grand Prix and "a flyaway event" as potential additional candidates for the experimental format in 2021.

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