The F1 feeder series has made significant changes to its format for 2021 highlighted by a move to three races – two sprint events on Saturday, followed by a longer feature race on Sunday prior to the Formula 1 race.
Forming the grids for the races involves an unconventional system, as Friday’s qualifying session sets the grid for Sunday’s feature race, while the fastest 10 drivers from qualifying are inverted to form the starting order for race one. The results from race one form the grid for race two, albeit with the top 10 inverted.
Labelled the biggest format shift in both F2 and Formula 3 history, the changes have been administered as a cost saving measure, with the championship maintaining its 24 race schedule, while reducing the number of events from 12 to eight.
While the changes raised eyebrows in the off-season, Michel believes a trio of exciting races at the Sakhir circuit proved the format was a success.
Felipe Drugovich, Uni-Virtuosi, Marcus Armstrong, Dams and Guanyu Zhou, Uni-Virtuosi Racing
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“One of the biggest talking points from the opening round of the 2021 season has been our new weekend format,” said Michel in his event debrief.
“It is safe to say that it was a success: we saw two amazing races, Sprint Race 2 and the Feature Race.
“To be honest, there was less show in the first Sprint Race, but having talked to some drivers, they all said that the high temperatures made it difficult for them.
“The following two events, which took place in cooler conditions, delivered some incredible fights throughout the field. Fifteen drivers have already scored points.
“People were worried that the grid system may be too complicated, but now that we have gone through one race weekend, they can see that it is quite simple and brings a lot of fun on the track.”
On the whole drivers agreed the format produced exciting races, but it has increased the importance of scoring points consistently through the year.
“It is making exciting races for sure,” said pole position and race three winner Guanyu Zhou.
“I think pole position is quite important but on the other hand P9 to P10 is a little bit less of an issue. If you had a struggle in qualifying you can definitely make up for it.
“Obviously, you want the four points for pole, but if you end up starting P9 or P8 on the reverse grid it’s quite easy to get into a collision in Turn 1 which can damage your race quite a lot too.
“At the end of day, it’s the same for everyone, so I’m not complaining we just have to cope with it.
“I think the guys who can be the most consistent over the whole weekend can win the championship at the end of the day.”
Feature race podium finisher Dan Ticktum added: “I think on Saturday consistency is key, if you have an incident in the first race, you’re then at the back for the next one.
“I think consistent and measured aggression on Saturday, and then on Sunday on you can attack a bit more. It’s definitely exciting.
“I quite like it so far, but I’ll give you my verdict at the end of the season.”
Meanwhile, F2 rookie and winner of the opening race Liam Lawson believes the extra track time is highly beneficial for the new faces on the grid.
“For me, it’s more races and more time in the car on a race weekend so I like it,” said Lawson.
“One of the things about racing on a Formula 1 weekend is that the there’s limited track time, so it’s awesome to get more time racing. The way we’ve done the format makes it quite interesting.
“Obviously for me it’s worked out great this weekend after a bad qualifying. People were talking about trying to be strategic, and I guess we actually did it by qualifying toward the back of the top ten and starting at the front on Race 1.
“This weekend it served us well, but I think it will be quite interesting to see over the year as people try to get really smart with it.”
The format will face a crucial test when the championship heads to narrow streets of Monaco on 20-22 May.