F1’s latest sprint race change is logical but not more exciting – Verstappen

Max Verstappen called Formula 1’s latest change to its sprint event format an improvement, though he still has little enthusiasm for the short races.

 

 

 

F1 has altered the structure of its sprint format every year since it was introduced in 2021. The latest revision is to the order in which the sessions take place.

 

Under the new arrangement, qualifying for the grand prix will always be the last F1 track action on Saturdays, as was the case before the sprint format was introduced. The sprint races will be held beforehand, meaning they will take place in the morning at some rounds.

 

Verstappen said the revised order has “a bit more logic” now. However the driver who has won more sprint races than anyone else added “for me, I don’t get more excited by winning a sprint or fighting for these kind of races,” he told media including RaceFans at the team’s launch event.

 

F1’s parc ferme restrictions have also been revised, giving teams greater freedom to adjust their cars during sprint race weekends than last year. Verstappen praised that change.

 

“That’s a bit better,” he said. “Sometimes you get stuck and you know that your weekend is ruined and you know you can’t really change anything. So for sure it will help.

 

 

 

“I think that was missing, definitely,” he said. “We ended up last year having amazing, brilliant genius guys on a Friday afternoon being forbidden to touch anything on our car. And that’s what they are paid for, that’s why they are the best.”

 

The previous sprint weekend arrangement left teams too little time to improve their cars, said Gasly.

 

“It was a bit sad because they have much more to bring to the table than just one or two clicks of front [wing] flap and tyre pressure. I think F1 is the top of engineering and I think it’s great we still give them the opportunity to always do these continuous improvements through the weekend.”

 

“You [didn’t] have time to try anything because you have one hour practice, you’re quite limited,” he added. “So it was always like try to do the work in the simulator and if you realise you didn’t start the weekend with the best set-up your window to react was extremely small. I just thought it was definitely the right change.”

 

 

Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 – when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring…

Read more about Keith Collantine, find all their articles and get in touch with them 

 

 

this adds the possibility of winning the championship on a saturday morning, and then being occupied with qualifying in the afternoon of the same day

 

 

I’m sorry to say, I think some people are determined to find every possible problem with sprint races and any suggestion on how to alter the current format for a weekend. They are against every proposal at all costs.

 

I remember the FIA played around with the qualifying format a lot in the early 00s and they went through several phases including one lap quali. If they didn’t have the GUTS to do it we wouldn’t have the exciting Q1 Q2 Q3 format we have today, we’d still have the two one hour sessions, one on Friday one on Saturday.

 

I think FIA/FOM need to stop worrying about the reaction of the fans and find a solution that makes weekends more interesting.

 

They know that the current format is not working as fully intended because the initial idea was to have a (partial) reverse grid sprint race. They were scared by fans reaction, complaining commentators and I think Toto Wolff also tried to stop it. Now we have a compromise solution that doesn’t add the jeopardy and intensity F1 was looking for.

 

 

The idea was that a sprint race would produce more exciting grids for the real race. The thee stage qualifying doesn’t do that at all, because it gives drivers over half a dozen chances to put in a lap, and the main protagonists always go through to Q3, no matter how much commentators try to pretend otherwise.

 

The problem is, racing is usually even more predictable than qualifying, especially when the drivers aren’t going to take risks due to a lack of rewards and potential for compromising their car. Plus they are all going to be nursing their tyres for a no-stop strategy.

 

 

It’s not about them being sprint cars or not, or even using sprint tyres or not – it’s about how risk-averse F1 teams are, and how much data they have access to to make decisions with. Their approach is for F1 to be as controlled and manageable as possible, which automatically means that the competitive aspect will always be minimised – especially on-track – regardless of how long the race is.

When they determine that a risk isn’t worth the reward, they don’t even bother trying. Not exactly the competitive spirit that some people still think F1 teams have.

 

One sure-fire way to make sprint races ‘work’ is for them to have only one qualifying session that sets the GP grid, and for that same order to be reversed for the sprint race. As in, a reverse grid sprint race – exactly as originally planned and exactly as per the way every other series that uses them does it. Unsurprisingly…

All this watering down of the sprint concept is what has ruined it for everyone – even those who vow to never watch it. Perhaps especially for those people.

 

 

I don’t recall any talk of reversing the order initially, when it was still called ‘super qualifying’ by some teams in early 2021. The idea was to have qualifying very early on, with little preparation, then have the ‘sprint qualifying’ to determine the grid. The idea being that skipping practise, having a less-than-ideal qualifying and then a short and somewhat frantic race would produce a very mixed grid for the race.

 

In reality, that doesn’t happen. Teams might be a little less prepared (Austria 2022 being perhaps the only time it cost a team the win) but the qualifying is mostly as normal, and the sprint qualifying was never really that frantic. The reaction to the race winner being the pole winner was also very unpopular, which eventually led to this silly seperation where there are two seperate qualifying sessions and two seperate races, with the reverse grid coming to the fore in 2023 because it was still such a dull event.

 

F1 cars, arranged by race pace thanks to qualifying and parc fermé, will never have a lot of racing for position. Especially not when they all have the same fuel level, same tyres, and no limitations on ‘push to pass’ type of systems. They can give the winner of the sprint race a thousand points, but that’s going to get an Alpine or Aston Martin starting in 8th to win it.

 

 

 

 

Earlier than that – when the initial concept of F1 using a sprint anything was being tossed about.

And then the problems started… Compromise took over, and surprise, surprise, nobody was satisfied with the resulting session format they came to.

 

They can give the winner of the sprint race a thousand points, but that’s not going to get an Alpine or Aston Martin starting in 8th to win it.

 

Absolutely – but that’s not what the big players in the F1 management game want, and why they won’t allow any conditions which encourage that possibility to be introduced.

 

 

 

 

 

That would be the most exciting spring race possible! 😉 But you need to also consider all the BENEFICIAL possibilities it brings!

A sprint race may also RE-ENABLE a final race show-down in the final GP! Instead of the WDC being decided in the penultimate GP!

 

If Verstappen leads Alonso by 27 points after the penultimate GP, the WDC would be decided there and then, making the last GP of the season would pointless.

BUT, with a sprint race, Alonso can shoot himself back to contention. In the best scenario he could lessen the gap to 19 points in the sprint of the final round and we would have the final GP as a WDC showdown.

 

 

If we are going to sprints in the morning, what about mid week at other track? Imagine, Wednesday evening sprint at Donnington Park (proceeded by half hour practise and half hour qualifying without q1, q2 or Q3). Normal weekend at Silverstone. Wednesday evening sprint at Brands Hatch. I know it would be logistically challenging.

 

 

The logistics are the biggest problem. The teams insist that they need 80 people and 40 trucks worth of stuff just to start the engine on their race cars these days, despite seeming to have no trouble having 3 or 4 people do it with 1 truck for demonstration events.

Then there are already constant complaints about how hard it is for the poor little dears having to work like this, as though there aren’t enough people in the world capable of doing such work. Even though they keep happily supporting the extension the calendar when offered more money….

 

If it were the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, this would absolutely be a great idea – but today, modern F1 (teams) simply wouldn’t accept it.

 

 

F1 team sizes today are crazy. In 1954, Stirling Moss’s team consisted of himself, Ken Gregory the manager, and Alf Francis who was the mechanic and also drove the van which took the car from circuit to circuit. Twenty years later, the Tyrell team which built its own chassis and won the championship with Jackie Stewart driving for them had about 12 members altogether, and Ken Tyrell had to drive the transporter to the European races because no-one else in the team had the right type of driving license for driving trucks in Europe.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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