Motor racing-Champions Vettel and Rosberg criticise sprint pole decision

Austrian Grand Prix
FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Austrian Grand Prix - Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Styria, Austria - July 4, 2021 Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel before the race Pool via REUTERS/Christian Bruna

July 16, 2021

SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) – Formula One champions Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel have criticised the decision to award pole position at the British Grand Prix to the winner of a new Saturday sprint race.

The new format, trialled for the first time at Silverstone this weekend, sees a qualifying session on Friday for the 100km sprint event on Saturday that will decide the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

Pole position has been secured until now by the driver who posts the fastest time in final qualifying but in this case Formula One and the governing FIA are reducing the focus on a single lap and effectively rewarding a race winner instead.

The decision has triggered debate about the sport’s statistics, and whether it devalues past poles.

“Pole is the fastest lap time achieved, or the fastest lap time in qualifying,” Vettel, a four times world champion who has a keen interest in the sport’s history, told reporters.

“If this is a one-off then it doesn’t do much harm. But if we end up having 10 sprint races next year or in the future, then I think it’s just a bit weird.

“It’s a new discipline, so they didn’t have it 50 years ago and now we have it. So then we just add a new column to the statistics,” added the Aston Martin driver who has 57 poles to his credit.

Vettel said having only a one hour free practice session before Friday qualifying at least meant less hanging around and more action on track.

Now-retired Rosberg, who achieved 30 poles and was world champion with Mercedes in 2016, agreed with his fellow German’s stance in a post on Twitter.

“This is not the right decision. Pole 100% has to go to the fastest guy in qualifying. The sprint race winner should not be awarded pole position. That will totally cannibalise the historic F1 statistics,” he said.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris)