Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2021

Verstappen expects Sprint Qualifying format will make it ‘more difficult to nail the set-up’

2021 British Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s drastically reduced practice time ahead of qualifying today will make it harder to perfect set-ups this weekend, says Max Verstappen.

Drivers will have just one hour of practice before qualifying this afternoon, ahead of the series’ first Sprint Qualifying race on Saturday.

The world championship leader arrives at Silverstone having won all of the last three races. But he’s alert to the challenge presented by this weekend’s new format.

“We are very focussed, just ready for the race weekend again,” said Verstappen. “Of course we have been happy with the last few races but we always look on things we can do better and that’s what we’ll try to do this weekend again.

“I always say that we always have to work on trying to put the car in the best possible state on the track in terms of set-up. And of course now with the change of format it will be a bit more difficult to nail that. But I’m looking forward to start the weekend and then we’ll find out by itself where we are.”

Verstappen was never headed in either of the previous two races, at the Red Bull Ring. But he insisted he’s in no danger of allowing his concentration to lapse.

“It’s not something new,” said Verstappen, “I’ve been leading races before in other categories since I was young so the principle stays the same.

“There’s so many things that are going on. The car is going really fast over a lap so you naturally focus because it’s not easy to drive a Formula 1 car.

“People probably think you can fall asleep or something but I think if people would jump in that car, they would come out of it within two laps, three laps completely destroyed. Or six.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Verstappen expects Sprint Qualifying format will make it ‘more difficult to nail the set-up’”

  1. I know that the general belief often is that reducing track time & giving less time to perfect setups will lead to more unpredictability & stuff but is that really a good thing?

    Do we want the results to feel like more of a lottery?
    Do we want the championship to come down to who turned up with the best setup estimates which will essentially be those who have the best simulation tools?
    Do we want to see the best teams/drivers struggling all weekend because they have a tricky car & no time to figure it out?

    What other sport restricts actual testing/practice this much,
    Which other sport seemingly wants to give fans less chance to watch it because so much of the ‘running’ is been shifted to computer tools?

    As a fan I want more opportunities to see the cars on track, Not less.

    I’ve said before how I dearly miss the days of testing because I used to love going to the test’s & been able to see the cars in action many times a year. Now i’m limited to just 3 days over the race weekend if i’m lucky (Not always been able to attend all 3 days) with reduced running over that weekend which just also makes it less value. I feel more disconnected from this sport that I ever have before in part because i have no opportunities to actually go & watch it now when in the past we did with testing.

    It’s artificially trying to mix up the show at the expense of the sport, At the expense of fans actually been able to watch the thing we love & it’s just going to turn it more into a show of simulations rather than a sport of people.

    It’s going in the wrong direction & it’s going to do nothing but give people less chance to fall in love with it in the way many of us did.

    1. @roger-ayles

      Do we want the results to feel like more of a lottery?

      That would also be a concern.


      As a fan I want more opportunities to see the cars on track, Not less.

      I’ve said before how I dearly miss the days of testing because

      That I agree with.

      I would love for testing to return in some form as i’d love to be able to get down to Silverstone (Or maybe the closer to home Donington if they were able to run there) a few times a year & have an opportunity to stand trackside to watch the cars without having to spend a fortune & be around the sort of large crowds you get during a race weekend (I’m not good with large crowds so a less packed test would be perfect for me).

    2. RandomMallard (@)
      16th July 2021, 13:58

      @roger-ayles I disagree to an extent. I personally like the new shorter 1 hour practice session on Fridays as they encourage the teams to actually get out on track. It forces them to go out there and give something to show the fans because otherwise they used to just sit in the garages for a long time when they had 1 1/2 hours. I was at Silverstone on the Saturday of 2019 for FP3 when there was the lightest bit of drizzle early in the session, and because the teams had already gathered a fair amount of data on Friday, we only saw 2 cars (the Williams who needed every last byte of data that year) on track for most of the first half of the session, with the most cars on track at any one point in that first half hour being 5. Now, with less time on Fridays, teams would probably have to go out in that very, very light drizzle (easily dry enough for slicks) to finish their programs.

      I also wouldn’t argue that less practice time makes it entirely a lottery. It just becomes a sport of who can adapt and respond best, but I can understand your concerns with this. Personally, I think this year’s normal format (3 x 1 hour) is a pretty good allocation. With regards to testing, it would be nice to see it return. However, it is pretty costly to run the cars and transport them nowadays, so all it would likely do would make the top teams pull further away and the lower teams fall further back, depending on who had the most money. Especially teams like Haas and Williams, who already operate at under the maximum allowed under the cost cap anyway, so they would likely not even be able to test more than they currently do.

      1. Well said @randommallard, though I too do have a worry about it turning out as @roger-ayles and @stefmeister fear, as that’s one of the reasons that I sometimes find rain races etc. not entirely satisfying; yes, the suprise effect is somewe do sometimes lack, but I don’t really like it to become the new normal, that’s one of the things that I suffer with when I occasionally tune in to an oval race where yellows and luck of the draw on when drivers pitted can turn into such a lottery too.

        1. RandomMallard (@)
          16th July 2021, 14:57

          @bosyber Yeah I don’t think it should go any shorter than 3 x 1 hour on a normal weekend, though 2 x 1 hour on a SQ weekend is fine by me for now.

          With regards to yellows and lotteries, it isn’t a problem solely limited to Indy/America. While it is more common there, at the same weekend I was describing earlier (Silverstone 2019), Bottas lost that race due to pitting before a SC, while Hamilton hadn’t yet pitted and managed to get in front of him after putting under SC. Or Vettel vs Hamilton in Australia 2018. The problem is also there in Sportcars, especially at Le Mans where there are 3 safety cars.

          The problem is just that sometimes safety has to come above anything else, and if that means neutralising the race, then so be it.

          1. Yep indeed @randommallard, it can happen, but I certainly don’t want it to be the biggest factor in a lot of races, that would make it feel a bit pointless to me to watch as a race rather than a show.

    3. @roger-ayles

      I think that both complete unpredictability as well as perfect predictability are bad. Whether this ends up leaning too much to the unpredictable side is something that I can’t predict and am waiting to see.

  2. The problem with cutting practice time so much is that it’s just going to put more emphasis on the simulators which is not only something we don’t see but also something which gives the top teams who tend to have the best simulators the advantage.

    It also makes it harder for not only young drivers to learn but will also hinder any potential new teams who don’t have past data to look back on (And will also likely have less advanced sim tools) therefore making it harder for new teams to come in & be competitive.

    Yes having less time to perfect things can mix things up which could be fun, But at the same time i’m not sure having teams turn up & struggle all weekend just because they turned up with the wrong setup (Or just have a car that’s tricky to setup quickly) & had no opportunity to fix it is necessarily a positive.

    1. Yes indeed @stefmeister, though maybe the simulator is a cheaper way for teams to work on the setup than doing it on track (when they work, that is, otherwise a team might just be out of it for the weekend if there wouldn’t be any practice time left), for the audience it certainly isn’t a better way than having to sit and wait for them to feel the need to go out despite the circumstances being not ideal (bad weather etc), as it is even less visible to us.

  3. I can already see Liberty bigwigs cheering in joy when the lack of practice time results in a somewhat surprising grid, and claiming the new format ‘works’.

    I wouldn’t mind 2-day weekends if that brings more unpredictal grids and races. And if you want to keep the 3-day weekend for the fans, just organise something else on friday, with participation of the full grid.

    1. @montalvo I’d be completely against 2 day weekends even if they had some sort of other activities on Friday as it’s taking away what I go to a race weekend to see which is F1 drivers in F1 cars.

      I have said before that I love attending Friday’s because 2+ hours of Friday practice gives you opportunities to walk around the track & watch cars at different locations as practice been a more laid back thing gives you the opportunity to do that. You can’t really do that during qualifying or races as you need to be paying more attention to whats going on so want to be in your seat watching the screens & paying attention.

      If they were to ever drop all Friday running it would just immediately make attending a race weekend worth less value as your seeing less of what you are paying so much (In tickets, travel & accommodation) to see. Like imagine paying a few hundred dollars to travel overseas to attend an F1 race to only see 2 days/4-ish hours of track action, It simply wouldn’t be worth it.

      1. That’s my experience from being at a race too @roger-ayles (oh, yes I miss it a lot, and had to miss it in 2018, 19 already too for my own medical reasons, sigh).

  4. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad per se. But this may hurt Mercedes most because, even when they were competitive with RBR, they struggled to find a set up in practice, or at least one that suited both drivers. We saw Hamilton lost on set up in Monaco and Bottas nowhere in Imola. Also, for any team, it means binning it early in FP1 has huge consequences.

    1. That’s for this year, let’s say F1 had done this last year, when Red Bull had such a difficult time getting their car sorted, it would have been their problem.

      Hum, come to think of it. Does that generalize: if we have one driver/team ahead bc. they can be the consistent scorer due to the closest competitor having a good car, but not one as easy to set up as, then then likelyhood of less practice and disruptions from sprint races might easily extend that gap. Honestly this is one obvious posibility with the top three getting points there, and thus having points, fast car and sunday grid to skew them towards being conservative;I would expect the most to happen in the midfield in the sprint race (with the back hanging back and hoping for the spoils of others misfortune, as Haas has already indicated they will be going), which might then mean the race might be less eventful.

      Sigh, I guess we’ll soon see the first example of how it might turn out.

  5. Are they allowed a sprint mode, or will the mode they ‘qualify’ in become their race mode? The sprint should place them somewhere between race and qualifyiing, in terms of setup. Are they allowed to change that once they qualify or not? Or is it just the engine modes they can’t touch?

    Also what tyres will they go for? It would make sense to be on softs but would those ‘new’ softs last for lengtht of this sprint qualifier.

    In theory this sprint qualifier, on the back of less practice, should favor those who’ll adapt to the fastest to the track. It will also favour those who have the track ingrained in them. eg home advantage.

    1. Where’s the typical rainy british summer when you want it?

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