“They love it”: Brawn enthused by fans’ early reaction to sprint qualifying

2021 British Grand Prix

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Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn is encouraged by the positive early reaction he has seen from fans to the new sprint qualifying format.

The series held its first sprint qualifying race today, which saw Max Verstappen claim pole position for the British Grand Prix.

Brawn described the race as “sensational”, and said it disproved suggestions drivers would hold back to preserve their starting positions instead of fighting for position.

“I think one of the things we all saw today is a racing driver is a racing driver,” he said. “They’re never going to take it easy.

“So lots of action, through the field. That first lap or so was completely nail-biting. Sensational.

“Then we had the little duels in the rest of the race. Fernando Alonso’s performance today was another sensational part of the race. Got my vote for the highlight of the race. I’d buy a ticket for that every day. We’re very pleased.”

While F1 will look into potential improvements to the format, Brawn said the other two sprint rounds planned for this season will not differ considerably from this weekend.

“We’ll let the dust settle on this weekend and spend some time with the FIA and the teams and try and understand if there’s some evolutions we want,” he said. “We won’t be changing the fundamental format this year. I think after the three races we can sit down and decide where we go from here. But so far, very positive.”

Fans’ reaction to the new format “is the crucial thing”, said Brawn. “We’re already getting massive feedback, positive feedback from our fans on social media, they love it.

“But there will be fans who’ll make some comments, bits they didn’t understand or they didn’t appreciate, we’ll take that into account as well.”

However Brawn said he will reserve final judgement on this weekend’s experiment until after tomorrow’s grand prix.

“I think we’ve got to look at the weekend overall,” he said. “We need to view the weekend overall to see.

“I don’t see anything we’ve done which takes away from a normal weekend. I think it’s all additive. But let’s see the whole weekend. Let’s see the race and then at the end of it all we can do an analysis, talk to the fans, look at all the data in detail and see if there’s some tuning we need to do.”

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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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79 comments on ““They love it”: Brawn enthused by fans’ early reaction to sprint qualifying”

  1. Did they have an exit poll or what? I mean I kind of like it, but from what I saw most people were rather complaining about the whole thing (just look at the rate the race poll here, it stands around 5/10 at the moment and the action itself wasn’t too bad).

    1. And what was the question @hunocsi, because had I been there at Silverstone today, brilliant weather, finally able to see the F1 cars on track again, I’d be pretty happy with the experience too regardless of whether we had qualifying or a sprint today.

      Honestly, this gives me bad vibes similar to why I stopped doing those skewed/leading fan polls on their fanforum.

    2. @hunocsi they are apparently running one of their “Fan Voice” surveys on the event – however, if they repeat the tactics that they employed when they put a vote forwards for reverse races, we’ll only be told about the results if the results are what Liberty Media wants them to be, and taken offline if the results are not what they want to hear.

      Indeed, the tone that Brawn is taking is not exactly hiding Liberty’s planned marketing push – rather than saying that there might be negative feedback, note how he’s referred to “bits they didn’t understand or they didn’t appreciate”.

      The tone of that remark comes across as implying that it is the fault of the fans if they are not happy, rather than accepting the possibility that Liberty Media might be pushing an idea that might not be what the fans want.

    3. @hunocsi I think it might have been an aural poll. That is, Ross used the volume of the crowd to decide fan opinion.

  2. Not sure who he is fooling.

    1. The sponsors. That’s what this idea is for anyway.

  3. Ecuadorean Condor
    17th July 2021, 19:41

    Sensational? Was a procession after lap 1. As expected. And makes the race less exciting because they’re even more lined up in speed order. Perez apart and what happened to him means every sprint race in future will be even more processional.

  4. Ben (@scuderia29)
    17th July 2021, 19:42

    Only 17 laps and I still fell asleep, not that that’s a reflection of the experiment, perhaps if they did it again, less laps? race settled down into that waiting for a pit stop stage when of course there were no pit stops coming, If there is one thing I feel, it’s that I feel less excited for Sunday’s race than normal. I’m not saying it’s a failed experiment, it just felt unnecessary.

  5. Whatever Ross is smoking I’ll have some.

  6. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    17th July 2021, 19:47

    This is a woeful take and shows how f1 is out of touch with its fan base. This was a waste of time and completing confusing. How are you going to get new fans for this?

    Quali has never been the problem. Just need the cars to be closer in the races which should be sorted with 2022 changes.

    1. Perhaps it’s time to admit that F1 hasn’t been about fans for good few decades and it’s all just a millionaire business run by millionaires for other millionaires.

  7. What I heard from Brawn was untrustable lies.

  8. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    17th July 2021, 20:01

    Someone else and I joked about this in the Liveblog. It really shows how terrible it can be to be right sometimes even though you want to be wrong

  9. Well i can only guess he’s reading feedback from more recent fans. If this becomes the new format they’ll be gambling on gaining 2 new fans for every older fan lost…

  10. Every F1 fan that I know has basically said the same thing to me:

    What the hell was that?!

    If the idea was to render Hamilton’s Herculean effort in quali yesterday irrelevant then, job done. Other than that, I really don’t know what the Sprint Race achieved.

    Maybe an extra ‘race’ is a good idea but as a way of deciding the grid positions it sucks.

    1. Herculean effort ?? All he had to do was follow Bottas on Friday. But no one elsedid that in order to gain a unrealistic advantage. In a real race like today, shows he and Merc are much slower. Anyway Friday was NOT qualifying for Sunday, it was the start position for the sprint. Read the rules.

      1. You prove the point there by agreeing that the Mercedes is “much slower” if a driver gets pole with a “much slower” car I’d say that was an amazing effort. The whole tow debate is pathetic too. Every driver had a similar gap to the car in front. Verstappen was actually running closer to Hamilton than Hamilton was to Bottas, so I’m now sure what is advantage none-sense is?

    2. Disagree about the herculean effort but for different reasons: he had 2 tenths in hand as you can see on his last lap, so about 270 thousandths faster than verstappen, with bottas 400 thousandths slower than hamilton’s potential, perez nowhere, so merc a lot faster in qualifying and bottas was closer to verstappen than verstappen to hamilton’s potential.

  11. GtisBetter (@)
    17th July 2021, 20:10

    I’m sure that people liked it, but I neither of my friends did and it seems like divided opinions here on RF. Also “sensational” is not the word I would use for it.

  12. What’s worse is that Ross used to be a bit of a hero of mine.

    Right now he’s just a company man.

    I expected much, much more of him if I’m honest.

    1. I was about to mention the same thing. This is just pre-approved corporate PR spin, and a lazy attempt to give it credibility by putting Ross’ name under it. Just look at the quotes:

      “I think one of the things we all saw today is a racing driver is a racing driver. They’re never going to take it easy. So lots of action, through the field. That first lap or so was completely nail-biting. Sensational. Then we had the little duels in the rest of the race. Fernando Alonso’s performance today was another sensational part of the race. Got my vote for the highlight of the race. I’d buy a ticket for that every day. We’re very pleased.”

      Does any of that even sound like Ross Brawn? Calm, collected, somewhat grumpy Ross Brawn? Not to me.

      Hamilton’s pre-race (it’s not qualifying no matter how hard they try to spin it like that) comments were 100% true. It was just a short race, with all the same problems F1 cars have in the proper race. Worse, there was no real incentive for people to risk their car on gaining a single gridslot. With Pérez having a bad afternoon, the only point scoring positions were never in doubt.

      There are, however, two positive things to come out of this: it highlights that racing without caring for Pirelli tyres is better, and that F1 cars are way too heavy and much more fun to drive at low fuel.

    2. @sonnycrockett
      Ross Brawn has been talking nonsense since he was appointed the sporting director for F1. His job though is to make the most profit for the shareholders by any means even by introducing pathetic gimmicks and Liberty needed someone that understands F1 thoroughly to do that. The hardcore F1 fans are always going to be there, but Liberty are targeting the casual social media fans (Youtube, FB, TikTok… kids) to increase popularity and to squeeze more money from sponsors and promoters.

      1. @tifoso1989 It might be, but there’s good reason to think this idea will lose, rather than gain, money. Mostly what the casual social media fans are picking up from this is that 17 laps generated 3 interesting events, which is well below the average for this much standard-length race, let alone a qualifying.

        1. @alianora-la-canta
          +1. Nevertheless, I expect them to keep trying till they figure out which gimmick will attract more the casual social media fans.

  13. Fans’ reaction to the new format “is the crucial thing”, said Brawn. “We’re already getting massive feedback, positive feedback from our fans on social media, they love it.

    “But there will be fans who’ll make some comments, bits they didn’t understand or they didn’t appreciate, we’ll take that into account as well.”

    No, you won’t. Ross, just admit this was a grand marketing exercise pre-destined for success. An exercise that could only be improved with reverse grids. And maybe sprinklers.

    1. Coventry Climax
      18th July 2021, 0:09

      Agree with you @jimmi-cynic.
      In the paragraphs before that, he says, ‘We’, ‘we’, ‘we’, ‘we’, ‘we’, ‘we’ and ‘we’, only to continue that of course, what ‘they’ say is also mighty important. Maybe it’s just me, but I already have huge problems with just his use of ‘they’. So fake.
      Disgusted, actually.

      So tell me, mr. Brawn, which part is it, you think, that I don’t understand?

      1. Agreed. Very adversarial. Your customers should not be your enemies.

  14. Not sure whether to laugh or cry. It wasn’t just the race-not-race that gets a thumbs down from me but the earlier second practice session as well.

    1. True, seems more negative than positive to me, I gave it 5 cause I want to give it a chance, but if monza is again similar it’s getting an even lower score imo.

  15. With the exceptions of Hamilton’s pathetic start or Max’s great start – take your pick – and Alonso’s dash up the order, the sprint race woefully under-delivered. Furthermore, unless you’re the team tire engineer, FP2 is a complete yawner. I’ve never shut off a Free Practice before, but after 5 minutes of this one I was with Max in realizing it was dumb and disconnected. While the goal of increasing value for the buck is laudable, the next time Brawn runs this experiment he better have listened to his base and made some changes, else he’ll be inviting far more ridicule than what’s being written here.

  16. I don’t like it at all. Yes, the race itself can be a fun little gimmick to watch, because it’s F1 cars racing. But I don’t like how drivers are more hyped after quali than after this ‘race’.

    You can only rate the sprint race after we’ve seen the full Grand Prix weekend. And since we already know how th cards are dealt, I expect it to be very predictable.

  17. richEQ (@richcaldwell)
    17th July 2021, 20:40

    I thought it was largely pointless, but did I hear Ted on Sky saying that the idea is to try and ‘engage’ with ‘the youth’.
    God that’s even worse! So to make it faster, more immediate and more exciting they add a needless half hour in the middle and leave everything else…

    More is less.. good grief… I despair…


  18. https://www.f1fanvoice.com/poll is split (question: First Impressions: What did you make of the Sprint Quali Race?)

    1. @balue Is that a real site? I don’t trust anything without crypto.com written on it.

      1. LOL, I guess I do sort of trust the truck that had it on it yesterday @peartree, since the drivers in it clearly were the three we saw start as the 1st three and also finish such (though 1st one swapped) at the end of the 1st lap of that sprint :) It’s apparently a sponsor now, which shows F1 keeps to tradition of liking sponsors when they bring money.

      2. @peartree It’s a real site, and crypto.com is an official F1 sponsor (it was all over the post-Sprint interview lorries).

  19. I can’t say I hated it. But the more I think about it, I like it less.

  20. So as predicted the fix is in.

    It was obvious as soon as they announced it that it wouldn’t just be a trial for a few races & that they would push it through more permanently regardless of how bad it turned out to be. It’s been done for commercial/marketing reasons, They have a sponsor for it so we may as well just accept that it’s here to stay regardless of how poor the format over this weekend was for many reasons.

    As I said a few days ago i’ve lost a lot of respect for Ross because it’s clear he’s just towing the Liberty line, They want this so he’ll do everything to try & sell it as the greatest thing ever going as far as lying & misleading to do so.

    1. Coventry Climax
      18th July 2021, 0:13

      + 10

    2. Even if it doesn’t rate a good, they’ll come up with the “well it’ll be a better race next year after the new cars come along” so they’ll already have tailor made excuses to cover off the fact that the race that wasn’t a race was pretty crap.

      And of course if you “trial” this stuff at places like Silverstone and Monica where the fans get excited about anything with 4 wheels being on track, they’re bound to react positively.

      Yep the fix is in – it’s here to stay.

      I’m still betting that they’ll conclude that at some venues the fans will be OK with 3 “short” races on a weekend (1 Saturday, 2 Sunday) as a replacement for the proper Sunday race within the next 3 years.

    3. @roger-ayles Technically speaking, Ross is the Liberty line. Of course he’s toeing it.

  21. What was he going to say anyway? That crypto.com truck says it all… They have more room for sponsors. If crypto is willing to pay F1, what was it? 100 million dollars? Of course “they are going to love it”.

    Everything good about sprint racing (light cars, no pit stops, no obligation to start the race with qualy tyres) could well be implemented to the main race. That’s what irks me… Fernando’s start could have happened anyway, it wasn’t specific to sprint racing.

    It was obvious they were going to shove it down our throats, good or bad…

    1. And the chances to see different starting tyres likely strongly reduced in ‘the race’ race of today, now the teams know the soft won’t last @fer-no65; yeah, seems the fix is in unless something dramatic happens with the other two that make it untenable somehow; doesn’t seem media is willing to tell truth, they seemed all rather hyping, while forgetting it wasn’t that much of a difference from what a normal race start can be, while possibly spoiling bits of that start for today (though let’s hope it still is a good race).

  22. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. There are things to improve on for sure but overall I think it was pretty good. The part that struck me was that this format rewards the drivers who are good racers rather than those who can be fast over just one lap. We saw Alonso finish higher than he typically does in qualifying for example. And I like that racers are rewarded rather than one lap specialists.

    I thought it was maybe a few laps too long though. The drivers seemed to settle in the last few laps and I would prefer just an all out sprint from lights out to checkered flag. I also thought that having tyre strategy as part of the sprint was probably not great. Ideally Pirelli would develop a Sprint tyre that could allow the drivers to push all out for the duration of the race. This tyre would be mandated and could only be used during the sprint.

    1. But some of that stuff happened because there was tyre strategy @g-funk, and as someone else pointed out, a shorter sprint would have likely made them all go for soft tyres instead of feeling the need for mediums. For me, the races themselves (when the car+track allow overtaking!) are where we see those (or their cars) that are better (set up) for racing than quali; I don’t need a first race stint under diffierent conditions for that all that much.

  23. pastaman (@)
    17th July 2021, 21:17


  24. Brawn says what Brawn believes.
    If you think he actually cares about what the fans want then you are as weak minded as he is.

  25. Just ask all the drivers on a racing weekend if they wanna have a reverse championship race instead of FP2.
    If all 20 say yes then have at it.

    Leave Saturday & Sunday as is for now.

  26. What else was he going to say? There was never to be an experiment. It was sealed from day one: permanent it is!

    1. I’m surprised though, is he lying? Or maybe the more casual fans actually liked this? I’m even surprised about the 50% appreciation rate it got here on f1 fanatic, seems high.

      1. @esploratore1, But why would you not like an extra, shorter race, it’s extra, not instead, unless you prefer practice.

        1. @hohum Because it takes away from the GP & qualifying.

          Qualifying on Friday is rubbish as not only can most fans no longer watch it live but it’s also far less relevant than it was so it’s lacks much of the tension & excitement it normally would. You have drivers pulling out mega laps which end up been irrelevant due to pole not been a pole or simply falling back in the sprint rending the GP worse.

          We have now already seen a start & seen where everyone’s race pace is which takes away a bit of the excitement for the start tomorrow & some of the unpredictability from the GP since we now have a better idea of how it will play out since we have seen everyone’s race pace.

          It’s an awful gimmick idea which has ruined qualifying & which will detract from the GP for many reasons.

          And outside of Alonso’s good start & getting overtaken by 2 much faster Mclarens & Sainz going off & having to pass some much slower cars nothing else really happened in this gimmick sprint. The order wasn’t changed much & everything was static.

          I’d have much rather seen a normal qualifying session decide the grid for the GP, That would have been significantly more interesting/exciting than this GP detracting gimmick race.

          It’s just another gimmick been forced through by the Liberty overlords pushing to turn F1 into a pseudo spec Indycar+ because they have zero understanding about the sport they want to get rich off.

          The fact Sky & Liberty have to constantly push how every element of it was mega super enthralling shows how bad it is. Something that is good will sell itself, If you have to work this hard to try & sell something then it’s not that good.

          #LibertyOut! #NoSprintGimmicks! #BringBackRealQualifyingForTheGP! #QualifyingIsPolePosition! #SprintDetractsFromTheGP #NoToIndycar+ #NoToSprints #FansAganstGimmicks #FansAgaiinstGimmickSprints #GetLetterboxesOffF1Cars

          1. And it’s still going off!

        2. If it was truly extra, and Qualifying session still determined the Grand Prix start positions with the sprint being a reverse grid for the top 10, and the finishing order awarded points but didn’t determine anything for the Grand prix, sure.

          But this is just a filter between ‘fastest lap’ qualifying, a revised format that has proven to work very well, and the race. It’s just part of the Grand Prix, sifting people back into race order from what may have been a thrilling qualy, making the race simply longer with a one day break in the middle and a standing restart. And that is simply pointless. So why bother watch the first half hour of the race if I have to wait a whole day to watch the rest? I won’t, personally. And the ‘pole’ for this felt hollow.

          1. That’s a well worded post @selbbin which also captures my worry; I’ll try to wait until we have seen the race to know whether it really just worked as a detraction or maybe added something, but it didn’t feel all that super to me, while it devalued the quali we had on Friday (which is a time and day that is bad scheduling for me personal because it falls during dinner time, just after work time for both me and my wife, ie. family time, not F1).

  27. 17 laps and still cannot complete them without having to worry about tire management..

    so much for pinnacle of racing!

    just as i predicted, a few corners of racing, a few laps of trying to overtake and then hold statiion for the rest of it!

    and brawn is faking sucess! amazine!

    1. Yep, as a previous comment pointed out, at 17 laps they’re starting to think about making a pit stop but there’s no point in this format so we got the expected stagnation. It was really just a frustratingly short gp. Unnecessary I would say given we have all that action on a Sunday already. I can certainly see the merit as an exhibition to attract new fans but (assuming no extra costs…) it would be good to be a non-championship event, perhaps with reserve/F2/W Series drivers. Of course that would never happen though….

  28. Surely we need to see what happens in the race before it’s a called a success or not. The first laps action from today was the normal first laps action from the race. As they are in parc ferme, no one can react to this with any meaningful technical changes so tomorrow will most likely be the processional bit we have in most races for the last 2/3 of a GP. What Ross is saying is what we all know which is the most “sensational” part of any GP is the first 10 laps. This time it’s over already.

  29. Well of course fans are going to like it. You’ve just run the opening laps of a race which is usually the most action packed with regard to position changes. Now someone needs to tell new fans that this is F1 and it is a lot of fun and worth investing 2 hours every couple of weekends, no matter how much we whinge sometimes.

  30. Neil (@neilosjames)
    17th July 2021, 23:45

    Liberty/Brawn have developed a wonderful ability to only pay attention to the fans who agree with them.

    Even the poll on the data collection and market research site (sorry, the ‘place where we listen to fans’), Fan Voice, is split. That place is nearly always pro-everything that F1 wants fans to like, so that says something.

  31. Like most of the other comments, I wonder who are the “they” Ross Brawn is referring to. F1 was in a bubble of it’s own before COVID and now it appears that bubble has isolated them from reality even more.
    Sure the first lap was exciting, but that is usually true for any race. The only part after that nearly got my pulse going was Perez’s spin — regular qualifying gets my on the edge of my seat much more often. Friday’s qualifying was much more exciting than today’s sprint qualifying.
    Lastly, I’m curious how fans on site feel about the amount of F1 track time they got today? I’d be disappointed: only 1 hour of practice, which is all about race-pace runs, and the 30-minute do-not-call-it-a-race Sprint qualifying race. (Yes, I have attended over a dozen full race weekends, all in Montreal, from general admission to VIP Loge.)

  32. Let’s see the race and then at the end of it all we can do an analysis, talk to the fans, look at all the data in detail and see if there’s some tuning we need to do.

    That’s at least better than straight up dismissing them as he did in his first interview on it. Gives me a modicum of hope.

  33. Absolutely pointless. It feels like a 1 day red flag break with a standing restart. They still need to have a qualifying session, so what’s the point? I won’t be watching these ‘initial’ races in the future. I’ll focus on Friday Qualy and watch the race resume on Sunday.

  34. “Fans love our new product and if they don’t it’s because there’s bits they didn’t understand or they didn’t appreciate.”
    -Ross Brawn.

    Woke Hollywood, is that you?

  35. It’s stage-one of a two-stage race. But Liberty does not want to admit they’re implementing stage racing, a la NASCAR, so they claim it’s part of qualifying, and not a “race”. As a result they’ve ruined qualifying, e.g., Lewis’ epic pole lap yesterday now counts for nothing.

    The start of an F1 race is always exciting. They could make a Grand Prix three times more “exciting” by breaking it into three stages with three standing starts. But just because they can doesn’t mean they should.

    The only “benefit” to this is that now there’s an “exciting” session on each of three days. But to me, this is a negative. I don’t want to have to commit three or four days to go spectate an F1 race and see qualifying. And on a Friday, the benefit was to be able to walk the circuit and see the cars at all vantage points during multiple practice sessions. With only one session on Friday this is no longer feasible.

    I don’t like this and hope it’s not a permanent change. That said, it looks like the Fix is in.

  36. It appears that Max “didn’t understand or didn’t appreciate” some “bits” of the qualifying, which doesn’t determine the GP grid, and the race which isn’t a race that does determine the grid.


    Max is going to require a talking-to from Liberty Media. They can explain to him that the needs of Liberty’s $9 billion invested capital supersede any sporting considerations.

  37. This is an absolute joke, but is not a surprise: since it was introduced, Brown said that they will judge on certain criteria, but he never said which. So angry with this, Liberty must step away from F1. I Hate all of this, stop ruins F1 please, is not an american film

  38. I think the success or otherwise of SQ does need to be looked at in the context of the whole weekend. So I agree with Brawn there.

    It sounded afterwards like the drivers overall opinion was, ‘well it’s alright but what is the point really.’ Some of course quite rightly point out, they are not the only parties involved.

    If today’s race is now quite dull it may change a few minds.

  39. I didn’t love it. It is nonsense.

  40. From the over-enthusiastic commentators to Brawn’s comments here, this is Liberty going all in on their attempt to gaslight anyone and everyone that their chosen solution was a success. His words here have made me really angry, actually.

    In reality it was a boring race that settled after the first lap (Checo’s spin aside) and gave tomorrow’s race even more chance of being a procession.

    It’s killed the impact of qualifying and reduced the potential of today’s race. Not a good trade.

  41. There are two types of fans. The fan who goes to the circuit to see maximum action after paying for the whole weekend. And the fan who sits on his chair at home with a beer and a bag of food. The former alway’s want’s to see as much racing as possible. The latter does’t care and get’s bored easely because they are not a part of the atmosphere which live racing creates. So it is difficult to put a poll on it.

  42. I think he means the shareholders love it.

    If you look at what has happened to Elite Dangerous recently your see what happens to something when the bean counters call the shots.

  43. This man is a clown.

  44. Oh come on Ross… “loved it” is not exactly the internet’s reaction is it?
    It was a useless, boring, completely unnecessary exercise in in you and Liberty Media seeking more advertising dollars that failed miserably.

  45. Abies de Wet
    18th July 2021, 13:21

    Fake News…. Boring as Hell…

  46. No, I did not like it. But here’s what I propose, which would include a sprint race (order/days of FP could be swapped; see details after): the Saturday (morning) qualifications do determine the grid for Sunday, and on Saturday (afternoon) there is also a sprint race with a half-reversed grid (say, the first 10, or the first 8 in reverse order), which would give some points (more than in the current test and to more drivers, but would not change the Sunday grid).

    _ Friday: 2 free practices;
    _ Saturday: 20/30 minutes warm-up & qualifications in the morning; sprint race awarding some points to the first 6 drivers, say, with circa half-reversed grid;
    _ Sunday: regular race (with grid as determined by the Saturday morning qualifications).

  47. I didn’t love it, Ross, although seeing Alonso go for it was kind of fun.

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