Formula One will hold its final sprint race of the 2022 season this weekend in Brazil. The sprint – a 100km dash – remains controversial in F1 land with a number of the drivers coming out this week criticising the format. Much of the negative attitudes appear to be based around the traditions of a Formula One weekend being altered. Yet the Liberty Media who own the commercial rights to F1 believe the sport needs to adapt as its popularity grows.
Lando Norris commented this week, “Growing up, always having qualifying and then a race, that’s always what I’ve known Formula 1 to be,”
F1 tradition being ruined
“I love just to build up the pressure of just having qualifying and one race with nothing coming between, that’s just the structure of it.”
However, traditionally each year a number of promoters of F1 weekends have struggled to sell out the Friday tickets given there’s no F1 competitive action on track.
So moving qualifying to session two on Friday, having Practice 2 Saturday morning and the sprint race replacing Saturday qualifying delivers on track excitement for fans across the entire F1 weekend.
Despite the criticism of the sprint Liberty Media are evolving the short format race by stealth. 2021 was the inaugural year for the sprint with just 3 events across the annual calendar. Points awarded were minimal and for the top 3 earning 3-2-1 respectively.
This season the points have been upped significantly and are awarded from 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 from P1 to P8.
Double the number of F1 sprints for 2023
For 2023 the sprint events will double from its current 3 per season to 6 but Max Verstappen is not looking forward to the additional events he revealed this week.
“No, I don’t like it,“
“The weekend format for me, I enjoy. I don’t mind the one practice [session] and going straight into qualifying, It is probably even better for me, but there is no feeling with it [the sprint],” said the double world champion.
The 2021 Brazilian GP weekend was awarded a sprint event which saw the controversy of ‘touch-gate’ dominate the headlines.
F1 Brazil GP schedule is lacking
F1 decided again to hold a sprint this year in Sau Paulo and probably because the Brazilian GP doesn’t have the best on-track schedule compared to other races. As has been the case in recent years this weekend will have just two local support categories on offer both of which feature Porsche Carrera racing.
The Porsche Sprint Challenge Brazil and Porsche Carrera Cup Brazil will each race twice over the weekend for the fans entertainment.
Lando Norris admits the sprint is acceptable but the venues need to be carefully considered. “At the correct tracks, I also don’t mind it,” said the McLaren driver.
“So when it was in Austria or Monza, tracks you can actually race on. Interlagos, reasonably, not the easiest track for most people to race on.”
Only two F1 drivers won all 5 sprints
Only two drivers have won the five sprint races held to date. Verstappen beat Hamilton in the inaugural event at Silverstone last season, but was bested by Hamilton’s team mate both in Monza and Brazil.
Max has won both sprints in 2022 held in Imola and Austria.
Yet are these one third GP distances F1 races actually exciting?
In this year’s first event in Imola the front row starters were 1-2 at the finish. The notable moments of the race was Verstappen overtaking LeClerc with the use of DRS and Perez climbing from seventh to third.
At the 2022 Austrian GP, the top three on the sprint race grid remained the top three at the end of the 23 lap dash. Again Perez impressed climbing from P13 to P5.
Schumacher shines in Austria
Probably the most impressive moments during the Austrian sprint was Schumacher holding off Hamilton for lap after lap.
Verstappen concludes his though on the matter suggesting, “We have had so many exciting races, so you don’t need to add one-third of a race distance.”
Max reveals his instructions from the team before each sprint are usually “Let’s not have any damage” and “make sure you stay in the top three.”
“You go into the main race and there are way more points available there anyway, and you just risk a bit more there.”
Lights out with 20 Formula One cars on the grid is always an exciting moment for the fans and Verstappen concedes, “So, you do another start and probably that is a bit of excitement, but then mainly throughout these races, it is only really people that are out of position who move forward because normally you just put a tyre on that can last the whole stint anyway, the whole race distance, and not much happens.”
Risks during the sprint too great
The risks for the main protagonists for the GP are greater in the sprint events because as Verstappen points out there’s too much to be lost for a much reduced reward of points.
“Everyone is super-careful anyway because if you are fighting for third and you have a little touch and drop back to last, you know your race on Sunday is going to be pretty tough, so probably you are not going to risk it.
“That is not what a race should be about.”
So over to you, the TJ13 commentators. Share your thoughts on the F1 sprint format in the comments section below.
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