F1’s sprint race proposal “makes no sense” – Vettel

2021 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel has strongly criticised F1’s latest proposal to introduce sprint races at three rounds this year.

The short races would be held on Saturday, after qualifying on Friday, to decide the starting grid for the grand prix.

“I don’t know what’s the thinking behind it,” said Vettel at the launch of the Aston Martin AMR21 today. “I don’t like it.

“Why would you have a pre-final to a final? What’s the point of that? I don’t understand it.

“Obviously if there is a race on Saturday then will have to take part because I still want to drive on Sunday. But in my point of view, it makes no sense. You have the grand prix and it’s always been around 300 kilometres and the main challenge of the weekend, I don’t see why.”

While team bosses such as Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff have argued in favour of the plan, Vettel believe F1 should address other problems.

“I think if you have to introduce something like this then there’s something else you need to fix rather than the format, another race or another two minutes or Q4 or Q5, whatever,” he said. “It’s shifting or taking the focus a little bit away from the real problem. It’s more of a patch rather than really a fix.”

Vettel’s new team mate Lance Stroll echoed his view that F1 has “bigger problems to solve”, but is open to experimenting with a change of format.

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“There’s bigger fundamental issues that sport has to address,” said Stroll in response to a question from RaceFans. “It could be great, I’m not against the idea, I don’t think it’s ridiculous.

Aston Martin AMR21, 2021
First pictures: Aston Martin reveals its first F1 car for over 60 years
“Maybe we have to try and see what the fans think, what the drivers think, how it goes. It’s one of those things, just like every regulation change or format change that we do in Formula 1 it’s always a bit of a question mark until you try it and see for real how it impacts the sport.

“But I think there are some bigger fundamental changes that sport has to make. It’s not just the sprint race it’s making the grid more competitive, it’s getting all the teams closer together and giving us an opportunity, aerodynamically and with the tyres as well, to race closer wheel-to-wheel, fight harder.

“At the moment we can’t do [that] because we lose so much aerodynamic load behind the car. With these tyres we have there’s so much thermal sensitivity that as soon as we get behind a car load and we drop out of the temperature window, we lose grip and it just makes it really challenging to fight another car on track.

“So I think there are some technical issues that we’ve got to be thinking [about] which is bigger picture stuff than just a reverse-grid race.”

F1’s latest proposal for sprint races, which could be called ‘Super Qualifying’, does not include reverse grids.

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24 comments on “F1’s sprint race proposal “makes no sense” – Vettel”

  1. Vettel is a thoughtful, insightful character, and I totally agree with his view on sprint races. It detracts from, rather than adds to, the achievement of winning a Grand Prix.

    A terrible idea.

  2. For the sprint race, can they just turn damage mode off and turn tyre degradation off…
    It works in Sim Racing :)

  3. Yes, I agree with Seb too. It’s gimmicky and dilutes the attraction of the main event.
    I suspect other series’ introduced it to gain attention and F1 doesn’t need to do that.
    A bad idea born of the marketing narrow minded. F1 should think uniquely about how to develop, not roll out some stunt to “jazz up” the show.

    1. @f1frog Great feedback includes the negative side as well. It is how great decisions are made, when all angles are considered.

      1. @robbie fair enough, I was thinking of ‘great feedback’ to mean positive feedback, but you are right that it doesn’t necessarily mean that. It could be interpreted either way.

        1. @f1frog out of the two though, which one is Liberty Media rather more likely to bring the attention of the public to?

  4. As I stated in a previous article, it’s necessary to address the exact format of the sprint race in order to glorify or trash it. I prefer the current system (if it ain’t broken…), but if for some reason it’s inescapable to do the sprint race, I think it needs to be similar to current qualifying. That’s why I propose an elimination system:

    After, say, 5 laps, the bottom-5 of the race get knocked out, starting on Sunday at the position they were at “their end” of the race. Further 5 laps gone and 11th-15th get also eliminated. Last 10 laps and the top-10 decide their starting places.

    You can twist this even more: what about recreating something similar to the 2016 system? After every single lap, the last driver is knocked out. You can set different options: 2 by 2, 4 by 4… after every lap, after every other lap, and so forth.

    I think this can also engage with the younger fans, since it kinda resembles the Fortnite elimination method based on deliberated shrinking of the space, some kind of F1 adapted-Battle Royale.

    Anyway, I insist I back Seb on this. The real problems of the F1 are lack of hard-fought overtaking, Mercedes dominance, rigid statu quo… hope the budget cap and the new technical regulations fix it.

    1. As much of a mess as that system was in 2016, bringing it back with some tweaks and billing it as a “Battle Royale” format certainly makes a lot more sense in 2021.

      If we’re going to experiment this year, I’d rather see a bunch of different stuff like this trialled that really distinguish the qualifying format from the race, as opposed to the “pre-final to a final”, as Seb puts it, of the current sprint race proposal.

      We could try a Formula E-style superpole single-lap shootout at Monaco and Singapore. We could split the field up into heat races, US-style, in Austin. In addition to the variety, it also helps qualifying not overshadow the grand prix itself.

      1. @markzastrow I’ve been saying this for a long time too.
        Why does every event need the exact same format? Just because they’ve all been the same in the past?
        That’s a terrible reason.

  5. Are they going to allocate another engine to the teams? If they can only have three, the the Sprint Races will only serve as extra wear and tear. PT Barnum’s Formula 1 Extravaganza!

  6. As long as it’s based on merit and not completely manipulated for entertainment purposes the way reverse grids was thought up by Liberty Media & shamelessly pushed by Ross Brawn, then I can accept it! I’d suggest using the 2nd or 3rd practice times to form the sprint race grid, instead of running a needless qualifying session. Never allow media/marketing people too much say in sporting matters.

  7. I really like SV, and I respect his opinion, as I do everyone’s, and when he asks ‘what’s the point’, the answer is simply to see if qualifying can be more exciting. Personally I think it can be more exciting than the current format because too much of the hour is spent with little that is enthralling going on.

    I’m surprised at both driver’s comments though about fixing what is indeed broken, when that is the very thing Liberty and Brawn have been working on from day one of taking over, and is what is coming for next year and would have been this year if not for the pandemic.

    1. @robbie this gets back to what I’ve been saying all along.

      Liberty has indeed addressed (or at least has made big inroads) the major things that were “wrong” being budget caps and dirty air. Hopefully tyres are on their agenda but they’re probably wisely holding off on that until the impact of the new designs is known.

      Surely it makes sense then to discard the idea of “trialing” a new qualifying format until we see the impact of the new designs.

      You say that the qualifying races will make qualifying more exciting and until dirty air is addressed, I just cant see how that will be possible or even likely – I expect them to be more likely, under current conditions to be, pretty much like the first few laps of a current race where the leaders clear out and the rest of the field stays pretty much static other than 1 or two place changes at the start with no real “racing”. Again – if this were to be trialed in 2022, we should expect that there would be more chance of a valid assessment of it as a qualifying method.

      Personally I like the current qualifying in terms of “excitement” and they’re planning on keeping that too, and really can’t see that a race, particularly with the current car configurations, will provide anything remotely more exciting.

      Long and short – I continue to believe that they should pause the implementation of this type of gimmick until the impact of the good changes they’ve brought about are felt. then and only then can they be properly assessed on merit.

      1. @dbradock Absolutely fair comment. Good stuff.

      2. @dbradock it depends on who you ask about whether the rule changes really will “solve the dirty air problem”, as is quite often espoused.

        In terms of active designers, so far we’ve had both Newey and Prodromou openly state that, at best, the proposed 2022 rule package is a very clumsy and inefficient way of doing it. Newey is quite openly sceptical that it will work and that the main effect seems to make the design of the cars prescriptive by intent, whilst Prodromou feels the rules probably won’t be quite as effective as claimed either (with the likely side effect that the prescriptive nature of the rules will make it easier to copy bits from another car).

        There have also been some ex-designers, such as Dernie and Murray, who have also expressed doubts over whether the proposed rule changes are going to be quite as effective as suggested and are disappointed at the increasing restrictiveness of the rules (a philosophy that is being tied into the cost cap mechanism).

        As an aside, it is noticeable that the FIA and Brawn’s designers might not necessarily be quite as confident they’ve got the whole rule set properly defined either. The FIA issued their third iteration of the 2022 rule set in late February this year, and they’ve been redesigning part of the floor of the car (as well as finally getting round to properly defining the plank designs).

    2. What I really like is that Vettel is the first driver to openly speak that he disliked the idea of sprint races. Most of drivers are too. PR oriented on their responses, so it’s refreshing to hear him saying this makes no sense. F1 needs more attitude like this and not just corporate PR robots. History of F1 is just much more rich when we can see different characters and personalities from each driver sort out from the PR corporate crap. Huge respect for him to show his opinion.

  8. If Vettel was F1’s CEO, he would reject sprint races.

  9. I agree. The cars are more problematic than the weekend format. What is also problematic is F1’s need to throw something at the wall and hope it sticks.

  10. Coventry Climax
    4th March 2021, 18:58

    “F1’s latest proposal for sprint races, which could be called ‘Super Qualifying’, does not include reverse grids.”

  11. Domenicali “Everyone has been very positive about the proposals”

    Vettel “Actually, I’m …”

    Domenicali “Not now Seb.”

    Stroll “Can I ju…”

    Domenical “Press conference is over.”

  12. With the huge focus on reduction of cost. I have to ask how adding a sprint race is going to assist Teams in reducing running costs across a season?

    1. and of coarse there will be occasions where Teams/Cars are handicapped or miss the main event due to damage sustained during sprint races.

  13. R (@gunnarlowly)
    26th April 2021, 12:04

    It’s also going to mess up a lot of statistic records that have been going on for more than half a century. In a way this is not new, since points system have changed many times, and so have the number of races held per season and so on, but this seems like a drastic change in the whole formula and… I can’t see that we needed that. For what? What is adding another short race before the big one going to do? I keep thinking of the say “too much of a good thing…”. We already have (or did, can’t be sure with Covid) a 23-race calendar.

    So, yeah, I 100% agree with Seb. I’m not against change, F1 needs it big time. Just not like this.

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