Friday, October 6: As the dust settles on last weekend’s Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy and Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson celebrates a second UIM F1H2O World Drivers’ Championship title with one round to spare, H2O Racing has assessed the new race format that was used in Olbia and has been delighted by the initial feedback to the new qualifying, sprint and repêchage format.
The new concept went down a treat with spectators, media and the global television audience and enabled teams and sponsors to have more time on the water in a racing environment.
The opening extra free practice was split into two groups for odd and even-numbered boats, with one representative of each of the 10 teams in one of the heats in Olbia for safety reasons. Ideal weather conditions on Friday afternoon dictated that this session in Sardinia passed without a hitch and delivered some thrilling on-water action.
Saturday morning’s BRM qualifying for the sprint races delivered a pulsating duel for supremacy in heat one and sorted out the order for the afternoon’s two sprint races for the two groups, the result of which would determine the starting order for the fastest 14 boats, with the remaining six having the opportunity to race for two extra places in the Grand Prix in a repêchage on Sunday morning.
Seven boats from each group automatically qualified for the Grand Prix. UIM officials and H2O Racing opted to use individual fastest laps from qualifying to split the group winners, runners-up and so on from each sprint race and the line-up for the 14 places was finalised on a fair and equal basis. Saturday’s two qualifying sessions and the pair of sprint races also doubled the amount of time that racers were on the water to the benefit of both spectators and the television audience and gave teams the chance to try out new race strategies for the weekend.
A line-up of 16 boats for the main race and a staggered start with two groups of eight worked well and enabled race officials to best utilise the narrower race course in Sardinia. From the start onwards, the race format was the same as before, but came at the culmination of more hours of racing for the watching public and there-times as much live television footage over the course of the weekend.
On longer courses - where it is possible to see 20 racers or more on the start pontoon - the same format can still be used but with the repêchage not used to eliminate the slowest four boats, but used in a way whereby it can determine the start order for positions 15th to 20th on the pontoon.
Feedback from other race officials has been very positive, with social media comments coming out in favour of the new format and officials in Sharjah also coming out publicly and saying that they liked the idea and would be interested in implementing a revised system for the UIM F1H2O Grand Prix of Sharjah on December 8th-10th.
With a few minor tweaks, this exciting new race format could pave the way for an exciting and ground-breaking future for the UIM F1H2O World Championship.