LONDON: The United States will host two of next year’s six Formula One sprint races with Miami joining Austin’s Circuit of the Americas in embracing a format likely to undergo further changes before the start of the season.
Miami and China’s Shanghai circuit, the latter returning for the first time since pre-pandemic 2019, will be hosting a sprint for the first time.
Austin, Austria, Brazil and Qatar all hosted sprints this season and will do so again in 2024, Formula One said in a statement on Tuesday.
China, round five on the calendar, will host the first sprint in April with Miami in May, Austria in June, Austin in October, Brazil in November and Qatar in November/December.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen clinched his third title in the sprint in Qatar last October, the first time since the 1980s that a championship had been won on a Saturday instead of Sunday.
Brazil’s Interlagos in Sao Paulo is the only circuit to have hosted a sprint since the format was introduced at three rounds in 2021 as qualifying for the main grand prix.
The sprint format is expected to change next season, with the Formula One Commission set to vote in January on final proposals.
The changes are likely to see sprint qualifying revert to Friday, from Saturday, with the 100km race then held the next day and followed by a qualifying session for the main Sunday grand prix.
This year the sprint qualifying and race were both held on Saturday as a standalone one-day event with grand prix qualifying on the Friday.
Other format tweaks under discussion include reversing part of the starting grid for the sprint.
Formula One, whose calendar expands to a record 24 races next year, is unlikely to expand beyond six sprints in the near future while the sport assesses the viewing figures and engagement.
The sport’s own data showed bigger audiences for all the sprints this season, with the US Grand Prix in Austin showing 6% growth over the three days compared to the regular format in 2022.
The broadcast audience for the sprint race on Saturday was 31% up on regular qualifying the year before while the Friday qualifying audience was 139% up compared to that for the second practice session in 2022.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2023