F1 announces its six Sprint races for 2023, the current ‘next big thing’ for the sport in a bid to attract new and younger viewers. Formula One has announced the six destinations on the 2023 calendar that will host a Sprint race format next year with the governing body pushing forward the format despite driver grumbles.
When the official calendar for the 2023 season was published, Formula One indicated that six Sprint races would be held next year, but no destination had yet been chosen. This has now been done, as the six events in the 2023 season where Sprint races will be held are now known. The confirmed events for Sprint events in 2023 are:
- Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku
- Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg
- Belgian Grand Prix in Spa
- Qatar Grand Prix at Losail
- The United States Grand Prix at Austin
- Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos
Decisions behind the choice of circuit
F1 says these events were chosen after research to calculate the most suitable tracks for the Sprint format, including overtaking opportunities, close racing and high-speed sections:
“This will ensure competitive action on track for fans throughout the three-day race weekend at the selected Grands Prix,” says Formula One.
“We have seen an extremely positive response to F1 Sprint events in the first two years of its operation, and we look forward to bringing even more action to fans with six events next year, including our first Sprint in Austin,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.
“The introduction of the Sprint has created a race weekend that includes three days of competitive racing action and brings more entertainment to fans of the sport as well as additional value for key stakeholders, including teams, broadcasters, partners and host venues.”
Drivers dislike the format
Introduced in 2021, the format introduces a 100km race on Saturday afternoon in place of a traditional hot-lap style qualifying session, which is moved to Friday afternoon.
The order set in Qualifying defines the order for the Sprint, the outcome of which sets the grid for the grand prix proper.
“I think we should just stick to one race,” said 2022 champion Max Verstappen.
“I don’t understand what the problem is with that because I think we’ve had so many exciting races, so you don’t need to add just, whatever, one-third of the race distance.
“Everyone is super careful anyway because if you are fighting for third, and you have a little touch and you drop back to be whatever, last, then your race on Sunday is going to be really tough.
“So probably you’re not going to risk it, and that’s not what a race should be about.”
Long time friend of Verstappen, McLaren’s Lando Norris, seems to be in agreement with the Dutchman, albeit less extreme of opinion saying:
“Growing up always just like having qualifying and then a race. Like that’s always what I’ve known Formula 1 to be, so in a way, I’m with Max on that,” he said.
“I love just to build up, the pressure of having Qualifying and one race, nothing coming in between, like that’s just the structure of it.
“But at the correct tracks, I also don’t mind it [Sprint Qualifying],” he added.
“If you want to put on a better show, which is what the whole point of it is, then that I understand it, but I like Formula 1 how is it is just because I’ve grown up watching it and being part of it.”
Verstappen also argues that it diminishes the value of pole position and its meaning.
“It’s just also because you know okay, I got pole, but then you have the sprint race, that’s the one I have to survive,” he said.
“And then they all celebrate, I didn’t know what it is but a podium after the Sprint has been so confusing because yeah, nice to get a medal but I mean, I don’t know what to do with it.”
Not only Max Verstappen is critical of the format, Alpine’s French driver also finds the sprint weekends difficult.
“It’s a very draining weekend,” said Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
“All the sessions, they count. Basically, when you do FP1, it’s the last time that you can touch the set-up of the car, so you need to be on it every run, every lap, you need to get the most understanding as you possibly can.
“And then all the sessions after that it’s Qualifying, so mega important. FP2 a bit less, but then you have to Sprint Quali, so again, super important.
“You can’t really do a mistake in that weekend because you are going to lose an enormous amount of points and it’s quite tricky.”