Sprint race start, Red Bull Ring, 2022

“We should stick to one race”: F1 drivers not relishing final sprint round of 2022

2022 F1 season

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Formula 1 drivers including Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Sebastian Vettel are underwhelmed by the prospect of the final sprint race of the season in Brazil.

This weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix is the third and final sprint weekend of the year. Traditional qualifying will be held on Friday afternoon after a single practice session, before a 100-kilometre race on Saturday which will set the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.

The sprint race in Brazil will be the sixth time Formula 1 has used the format since introducing it at the British Grand Prix last year. The 2023 F1 calendar will feature six sprint rounds, though the venues are yet to be confirmed.

World champion Verstappen, who has won three of the five sprint races held across 2021 and 2022, says that despite the format suiting him, he is still not a fan of sprints.

“I don’t like it,” Verstappen said. “For me, the weekend format I don’t really enjoy. I don’t mind the one practice and going straight into qualifying – I think it probably is even better for me. I just don’t like that there’s no feeling with it.

Verstappen says drivers are incentivised to race carefully in sprint races, as the reward of gaining a place in the sprint may not be worth the risk of a collision or mistake and falling heavily down the grid for the grand prix as a result.

“All the time when I do these races, it’s about, ‘oh, let’s not have damage, just make sure that you stay in the top three’,” Verstappen explained. “For me, that’s not really a race.

“I think we should just stick to one race. 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 one-third of the race distance. Everyone is super-careful anyway, because if you are fighting for third and you have a little touch, you drop back to be last and you know your race on Sunday is going to be really tough, so probably you’re not going to risk it. And that’s not what the race should be about.”

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McLaren’s Lando Norris agrees with the Red Bull driver, explaining that he remains a fan of the traditional race weekend format.

“Growing up always just having qualifying and then the race, that’s always what I’ve known Formula 1 to be,” said Norris. “So in a way, I’m with Max on that. I love the build-up of pressure of having qualifying and one race – nothing coming in between, that’s just the structure of it.

“I like Formula 1 how it is. Just because I’ve grown up watching that and being part of it. Sometimes I don’t like change, but I also don’t mind at the same time.”

Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher were among those who indicated they were more excited by the Interlagos track than the sprint format. The Sao Paulo circuit will become the first venue to have held more than one sprint race.

Last year Lewis Hamilton started from the back of the grid in last year’s sprint race and rose to finish fifth. He believes Formula 1 must only look to hold sprint weekends at circuits that are proven to offer many overtaking opportunities.

“I think we have to be very selective of where we have the sprint races,” Hamilton said. “You can look at the season and see where all the overtakes are and you can put the sprint races in those places.

“I like the format, because it’s just different. We’ve had the same Thursday to Sunday for God-knows how long. The race is not always the greatest, but it does create a little more option. But sometimes there’s no overtaking, so we should hopefully learn from the races where there has been no overtaking in most of the races and put them in places like Brazil, which does create a lot of opportunity. Or somewhere like Baku.”

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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34 comments on ““We should stick to one race”: F1 drivers not relishing final sprint round of 2022”

  1. Sigh
    I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again. As somebody with a full-time job, I miss every friday qualifying session on sprint weekends. The drivers don’t like sprint races, the fans don’t like sprint races. It’s just a money-spinner for the FIA and sponsors.

    1. I don’t think it even makes any money, though I imagine it’s next to impossible to prove either way.

    2. @Chris.
      The problem is that fans do like the format. All the new fans DTS brings that is. And with an action packed sprint they’ll argue that it was action packed because it was a sprint. The actual race after that is boring making the sprint look even better.

      Of course, without the sprint the feature race would be great, but we can just ignore that all grid irragularities were already set in the sprint just so we can call the sprint a success

      1. Imola was okay this year because of the Leclerc-Verstappen fight for the lead. Interlagos last year featured Lewis’s almighty charge from 20th to 5th. The rest have been meh. Austria this year had a good opening lap and that was it. Silverstone last year was okay just for Alonso’s start. Monza was the worst.

        1. So its only good when the regular front runners are out of place.
          But then they’re back in place for the real race.

    3. But.. but.. but FIA likes it..

  2. Just scrap Friday or replace it with a media/fanzone day with driver engagement. Then Saturday has a 90 minute practice followed by normal qualifying. Sunday brings back morning practice of 60 mins with the relaxation of parc ferme conditions, with the race later on that day.

    With the calendar expanding to 25 or even 30 races, having a more streamlined weekend I feel is the only way. Sprints just don’t add much.

    1. The race calendar won’t expand anymore, but your suggestions are decent & thus, I wouldn’t mind at least experimenting.

        1. I wouldn’t mind that, the more, the better, if someone wants to complain about more races, it should be the drivers, for whom it means more travelling.

          1. @esploratore1 or rather the team members that don’t get to fly in private jets and thus don’t see their family for the whole stretch of back to back races. But I personally prefer to have a week between events. And not just because it makes it easier to do something with my family.

    2. Do we really need more media or fan engagement from the drivers? I mean there is allready sooo much socialmedia and websites scrutinizing just about everything they do or say. I just want to watch races. I don’t need to know the color of their socks, what they had for dinner last night or having them answer the same questions over and over again. Let’s also not forget that they are also human beings that have a hard enough time driving in the absolute top of motor racing. There is no need to break them down mentally with dumb questions.

  3. The more races on the calendar, the less attractive sprint races become. I think when you put 23+ races on the calendar it lessens the value of holding sprint races on top of that.

  4. While I get the points against, I’ve been okay with the Sprint format.
    Only a shorter distance race-like session, after all.

    1. “race-like” being the operative term. Yes, it vaguely resembles a race, but it isn’t one for the reasons Max outlines in the article.

  5. If they want to give the fans something extra on the Friday then get current and past F1 drivers racing each other in the same vehicle. Even karts would do, but it could be a different vehicle every time – get creative. Do a ten race series over the year with no relation to the F1 standings.

    I think ultimately the fans want to see the drivers racing and having fun.

    1. @superman
      Yes, this please.

    2. I’d actually sooner watch current and past F1 drivers play Mario Kart 8 than watch a sprint race.

  6. If they’d do the sprint race in reverse direction, that would be great. Of course no all tracks suit driving in the other direction due to safety reasons, but there should be some where it can be made possible with bearable efforts.

    And they should make it a 50 % race distance, awarding 50 % of the points. They should also not allow the hardest tyre compound, and demand at least one pitstop with tyre change happening no earlier than lap 10.

    That way the sprints would be enjoyable to watch.

  7. Some people say more racing is ‘more bang for your buck’, but as long as the majority of the points are rewarded on sunday everyone will keep that in mind and take risks accordingly. If you want to spice things up: make the result of the sprint race a factor to multiply points on sunday, or something like that.

  8. I wonder if the Sprint Race would be more interesting if it DIDN’T set the sunday grid order.

    Instead, let them run Q trim for a short race (just like now) for points, but then let the teams work on the cars to reset them for Sunday. The GP goes back to the order from Friday Q.

    So this makes the sprint race a true sprint for points… with no sunday penalty for taking a risk and going for it.

    1. @gsimmonsonca I agree, i would prefer this format. Decoupling the sprint event entirely from the main race would mitigate any concerns of taking the conservative approach, and it would also to a certain extent appease the purists because they can ignore the sprint event entirely and have normal qualifying and the race unaffected (championships will still be affected because of the points of course). They would need an extra qualifying session to set the grid for the sprint though, or some other means to set the grid.

      It doesn’t solve my main issue with the sprints, which is that the single stint nature means that there is no variation in strategy which is what usually brings about racing opportunities, but it is an improvement over the current format i think.

    2. The only way I can see drivers and teams not being incentivized to race carefully is if the results of the sprint race were used to increase wind tunnel and CFD time. It couldn’t be overall results because that would just make the top teams even harder to catch, it would have to be something like positions gained.

    3. This would be better, yes.
      People site F2 sprint races as a reason for, but they forget that until 2 years ago, the main race was Saturday, then the (partially reversed)
      sprint race was Sunday, when no one had to protect the car, hence it was always lively.
      F1 can’t do that.

  9. It doesn’t matter.

    On Monday the folks at Liberty will tell us that the sprint format weekend was super successful just like the other two this year and that it’s clear that everyone loves it.

    Ross will of course mention that it would be even better if the sprint was reverse grid.

    Expect even more of these abominations next year.

    1. Reverse grids with sprinklers, @dbradock! And free overtakes for the kids with Toddler Fan Boost! (Available to F1TV+++ app subscribers only.

      1. Ahh @jimmi-cynic love your work as always. You forgot exploding mushrooms and oil slicks.

  10. My main issue with sprint races is that almost everything that might make a sprint race exciting is something that would’ve made the race more exciting, but is taken away from the race instead. Lewis’ amazing fightback last year? Would otherwise have happened in the race.
    It also means great qualifying performances or shake ups are ruined because the sprint race will just restore the ‘normal’ order. Imagine if Russells amazing P2 last year in Belgium would’ve been reduced to a P11 after a sprint race in the same way his Silverstone stunner that year was worthless because of a sprint race.

    1. Indeed, those are definitely low points of the sprints.

  11. The only thing these sprint races ever did was to make it more difficult to understand the points system whenever it happens. Why should someone bother to learn it if it only happens a few times each year?

  12. Sprint races don’t really work because it’s F1, not because sprint races are inherently a bad idea. Many other racing series demonstrate that. To race for position in F1, you need a big speed difference, and also a slower car behind a faster car. Since the sprint race starts after qualifying, that second part is already rare.

    The first is also a bad fit for short races. F1 drivers rarely make mistakes, so the chance it of happening in a shorter race is smaller. Thus the cars will rarely be significantly down on speed compared to their rivals. The tyres are usually all the same so there are no differences there either. There is also only one setup for the whole weekend so a fast car in quali is a fast car in the sprint and a fast car in the race.

    It’d be even more fun if they just had two full races, but yeah.

  13. Max has a point, it’s not worth risking starting from the back for the big points paying Sunday race just to gain a single grid spot with a risky Sprint Race overtake.
    This could be resolved by not having Sprint Race results determine Sunday grid. Then we’d just have an extra (Sprint) Race with the incentive for action being chance of extra points without jeopardising the result of your entire weekend.

  14. The general theme is that the drivers are not fired up about sprints, the regular race fans are somewhat blasé about the idea and have a host of alternative suggestions, where the teams stand seems to be a bit of an unknown. Likely they are hesitant to take a stand one way or another.
    The one group not represented are the actual Race Promotors, the Track Owners. These groups likely love the idea as it is a way for them to get more bums in seats on Friday and Saturday. This is their main (and in many cases only) way to make $$$.
    Naturally FOM makes $$$ on the Sprint by some means, so in spite of what Race fans may say or want, expect more Sprints until the format become boring and totally predictable. Then they will add mote points and reverse the grid.

  15. Sprint races are the most stupid idea in F1. BTW had all these clowns forgot about green agenda, carbon footprint, hundreds of extra tyres and all of the wet dreams of Greta Tunberg?

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