Formula One under the new commercial ownership of Liberty Media has successfully seen a huge growth in the fan base. The sport is no longer the peavey of middle aged petrol heads and partially due to Netflix “Drive to survive” has attracted a new younger audience. Sprint races have been part of the push to ensure race promoters can maximise their revenue across the weekend. But are they really delivering is the question?
For race promoters, a Sprint weekend means qualifying takes [place on a Friday when usually we would see the cars trundling around doing Free Practice 1 and 2. Friday qualifying means the tickets sold for that day mean the spectators see a competitive event and boosts the coffers of the promoters.
Yet given the format of the Sprint on Saturday questions are being asked as to the value of the ‘race’ fans are watching. The Sprint is a 100km race which means pit stops and tyre strategy are excluded as the teams run a no stop race to the finish.
Following the second Sprint of the season in Austria McLaren’s Lando Norris questions whether this flat out racing format makes for good racing.
After the second sprint event of the season in Austria, Norris said that although the short races have generally worked out well for McLaren, their flat-out nature doesn’t always make for good racing.
“In general they’ve just been good for us. We’ve always gone forward, I think, in every single one,” said Norris. “I wouldn’t say they’re the most exciting because they’re just like at a period where you can almost push flat-out the whole time and therefore there’s not as much tyre deg and things like that between teams for much to happen.
“When you push flat-out it’s harder to do something different to the cars ahead,” Norris explained. “Especially when, in qualifying you’re split by a tenth. You’re not going to be able to do anything at all.
“But obviously the only people you could overtake were people who are out of position. So people who crashed or people who got disqualified in qualifying.
“Half the time I think will be exciting and good and then half the time not as exciting,” Norris concluded. “But every now and then it’s all something different. Which I don’t mind.”
Liberty Media is pushing the boundaries of what an F1 weekend entails and the Sprint is just the first move in that direction. They want six Sprint events in 2023 though at present the teams and the FIA are demanding more cash from them before this can be agreed.
Whilst the Sprint weekend provides competitive action from Friday to Sunday for the promoters to sell tickets, as Norris observes the Sprint is more processional than the Grand Prix event on Sunday.
Maybe the powers that be should redefine the parameters of the Sprint, extend it to 150km and enforce a mandatory pit stop for a tyre change is is required in the Grand Prix on Sunday.