Following the recent Formula One commission in Bahrain there has been a renewed push to create more competitive track sessions during a typical race weekend.
However, to move the mountain that is Formula One tradition, Stefano Domenicali has targeted the Sprint weekends as the next step of the revolution.
Extra qualifying session for Sprint weekends
The Sprint was taken from the junior formula and the shorter race introduced to F1 in 2021 at three race weekends. For 2023 this has been doubled to six Sprints and the first is next time out in Azerbaijan.
Currently a Sprint weekend sees the regular FP1 session on Friday followed by qualifying which determines the order for the Sprint start on Saturday afternoon. The result of the sprint then sets the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday.
Gunther Steiner revealed during the team Principal’s press conference the potential revision being discussed for the Sprint.
“Instead of FP2 on a Sprint event on Saturday morning, we do a qualifying and then we are in a situation to evaluate whether one FP [free practice], which would be FP1 [is] enough to get out what we want and go from there.”
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Saturday Practice 2 ‘pointless’
Pirelli’s Mario Isola observed the current problem of having cars in parc ferme following Friday qualifying at Sprint weekends.
“I believe the discussion started from the role of FP2 during the Sprint events,” said Isola.
“With the cars that are in parc fermé – so, very limited possibility for the teams to react to any change. That was still interesting for us [Pirelli], for the tyre, but it’s not enough [for the teams or fans].
It appears Domenicali has launched a charm offensive over the ‘pointless’ nature of FP2 first up on the Saturday with a number of drivers backing the plan for an extra qualifying session.
Russell believes its VITAL
This would mean after FP1 on Friday, qualifying for the GP would take place and on Saturday th qualifying session would set the grid for the Sprint in the afternoon.
George Russell who speaks for the drivers’ association was surprisingly positive when asked about th eproposed changes.
“I wasn’t in favour of the sprint races initially, but having done – how many have we done now? Six, nine, maybe over the two years? I really enjoy the sprint races and having action on a Friday, I think, is vital for all of us and also for the entertainment factor.”
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However not all are in favour of tinkering with the F1 weekends further, and the current world champion issued a stern warning to those who govern the sport.
“I hope there won’t be too many changes, otherwise I won’t be around for too long,” said Max Verstappen ahead of the meeting in Melbourne to decide whether to implement the new format next time out in Baku.
“I am not a fan of it at all. When we do all that kind of stuff, the weekend becomes very intense and we already do a lot of races. But it is not the right way to go about it.”
“I understand they want to make every day at the track exciting but they should reduce the weekend, and only race on Saturday and Sunday and make those two days exciting.”
Two day F1 weekends
While two day F1 weekends were under discussion before the latest Concorde agreement was signed, that ship has passed given the recent boom in F1’s popularity.
At this weekend’s Australian GP, the Friday practice sessions saw 130,000 in attendance, just 10,000 short of the capacity expected for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Verstappen is concerned at the amount of racing the drivers’ are being asked to perform.
“We are heading into seasons where we could have 24 or 25 races and if you then start adding more it is not worth it for me. I will not enjoy that.
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What is F1’s DNA?
“And even if you change the format, I don’t find that is in the DNA of Formula One to do these kind of sprint races.
“F1 is about getting the most out of it in qualifying and have an amazing Sunday over a long race distance. That is the DNA of the sport and I don’t understand why we need to change that.
The argument about Max’s view of F1’s DNA has already been lost with the advent of the Sprint races which are here to stay and becoming more numerous each year.
Verstappen wants closer racing
Given the all dominant RB19, Verstappen suggests with some irony closer racing should be the focus of F1.
“How do you get even more action? Get the cars closer, and have more teams fighting for the wins. The show would then be great if we had six or seven teams fighting for the win.
“That would be insane and then you wouldn’t need to change anything.”
In reality Verstappen is unlikely to retire anytime soon and take up WEC. Yet to change format for the upcoming Baku weekend, the meeting in Melbourne will require unanimous agreement and as yet Max Verstappen’s boss – Christian Horner – has not declared his view on the matter.
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As Director of the GPDA, Russell should be reflecting the views of all drivers rather than thrust his personal views on the proposed changes. In its greed, Domenicali and F1 care little for the drivers’ health or safety. These changes will have an adverse effect on Hamilton because of the age factor. As he pulls considerable influence on FIA and F1, Hamilton must resist Domenicali’s proposals and take a firm stand.
Simply determine what mAXY believes will be so unacceptable that he “won’t be around for too long'” (and hopefully disappears for good), and do it. Now. He is utterly immature.