The return of the Chinese Grand Prix also marks the first F1 Sprint of the year. Originally conceived in 2021, the Sprint is designed to offer fans more competitive track action, with an extra qualifying session and a 100km race in place of practice. The Saturday Sprint is one-third of the distance of a Grand Prix and lasts for approximately half an hour.


Shanghai is the first of six events to host a Sprint, with Miami, Spielberg, Austin, Sao Paulo and Lusail the remaining Sprint venues this year. All tracks were chosen based on their overtaking potential, as drivers are encouraged to race flat-out to the chequered flag. The distance of the Sprint has been calculated to be equivalent to a stint on one set of tyres and features no mandatory pit stops.



Following discussions at the F1 Commission meeting last year, it was decided to update the Sprint format to streamline the timetable across the Grand Prix weekend. Sprint Qualifying (formerly known as the Shootout) will now take place on Friday afternoon with the shorter-distance race taking place on Saturday morning. Qualifying for the main event will continue in its usual Saturday afternoon slot, with the 56-lap Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday.



With no F1 running at the Shanghai International Circuit for the past four years it means they’ll be extra pressure on all the teams to setup their cars in the one FP1 practice session on Friday morning. Both FP2 and FP3 sessions make way for the competitive action.



Sprint Qualifying on Friday afternoon follows a similar format to traditional Qualifying, with five drivers eliminated at each stage, but with a shorter time for each session to increase the jeopardy. The three stages, SQ1, SQ2 and SQ3 last 12 minutes, 10 minutes and just eight minutes respectively. Medium compound tyres are mandatory for the first two sessions, while softs must be used for SQ3.



China will be the 13th Sprint to have taken place since it was introduced into the sport in 2021. Originally, the result of the shorter-format race formed the grid for the main event and only handed out points for the top three. It often meant drivers were unwilling to take risks, as any retirement would place them at the back of the grid for the Grand Prix itself. When the Sprint was expanded to six events last year, it became a standalone feature of the weekend with points now awarded to the top eight finishers. There are no points for fastest lap.



While the Sprint no longer determines the grid for the Grand Prix, it can still have an influence on the outcome. For example, drivers could still pick up a grid penalty for any on-track misdemeanour, which they would have to serve in Sunday’s race. It’s why you need to keep an eye on all the track action at a busy Shanghai International Circuit this coming weekend.