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F1 sprint races changes format by next season

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Formula One sprint races are set to be held before qualifying for the main Grand Prix race starting next season, after a proposal to change to the format was approved on Friday.

The decision to tweak the weekend schedule was reached following discussions with the F1 commission at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The commission includes governing body FIA, the teams and commercial rights holder F1.

“The commission gave overall support for an update to the sprint format for 2024,” the FIA said in a statement. “A final proposal will be presented to the F1 commission for the first meeting of 2024.”

Weekends that included a sprint race have previously seen qualifying for the main Grand Prix race held on Friday instead of the usual Saturday. A qualifying session — known as a shootout — for the sprint, followed by the sprint race itself, has been held on Saturdays.

That has proved unpopular with some teams because it leaves too much of a gap between Friday’s qualifying and Sunday’s main race.

Under the new format, the sprint shootout would instead take place on Friday with the sprint race then held on Saturday, followed by the main qualifying later that day.

The changes still have to be approved in the new year by governing body FIA’s World Motor Sport Council.

“The sprints need to evolve a bit,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “I understand the concept and action on all three days, but they have at times been slightly underwhelming.”

The F1 commission also approved an extra cooling duct to be fitted onto cars.

The change comes after several drivers struggled badly amid intense heat during the Qatar GP in October.

American driver Logan Sargeant retired with severe dehydration after almost losing control of his Williams car on track. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon vomitted into his helmet while driving as track temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during the second practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE on Friday. PHOTO: AP
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