New sprint format 'could certainly be improved', says Binotto

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-21 on the grid. 18.07.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone
ยฉ XPB 

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto remains cautious about Formula 1's new sprint qualifying format, and says that there need to be improvements if it's to become a regular part of the sport.

The new system was used for the first time at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last weekend, with Friday featuring a single hour-long practice followed by a qualifying session.

That set the starting order for a 30-minute sprint qualifying race on Saturday afternoon following a second final practice. The outcome of the sprint set the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix which was won by Lewis Hamilton.

While the new format was widely regarded as a success, Binotto was more reserved in his comments this week.

"The new format was an experiment for 2021 and we decided to try three races,โ€ Binotto said, in comments reported by Motorsportweek.com. โ€œI think after the first one it is a bit early to decide.

"We need a bit longer to digest it," he continued. "I think there are things that could certainly be improved like what could be done for Saturday morning, make it a bit more relevant."

The teams' main concern about the new format is that cars are effectively under parc ferme conditions from the start of qualifying, preventing them from working on any major elements of set-up.

That means the Saturday morning practice is effectively of little use, as the cars can't be tweaked in response to anything the teams spot in time for the sprint race without risking a pit lane start.

ยฉFerrari

Looking beyond that immediate concern, Binotto sounded as though he was yet to be entirely convinced about the initiative as a whole.

โ€œThe numbers from the TV audience will be important," he commented. "I donโ€™t think you can have a final judgement right now. You need to wait for the two more opportunities to have a better picture.

"The race - the mini race or the sprint quali - was a bit strange for me," he added. "But as I said, we need to digest.โ€

Ferrari's home race, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on September 12, has been confirmed as the second of the venues to host a trial of the new weekend format.

The third and final sprint weekend is likely to be a flyaway race late in the year, possibly at the Circuit of the Americas in the United States at the end of October.

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