Horner criticises “ludicrous” decision to hold first sprint race of 2023 in Baku

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has slated Formula 1’s decision to hold the first sprint race of the new season at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan.

Formula 1 introduced its sprint race format in 2021, holding its extra Saturday races at three rounds. That has expanded to six this year, beginning in Baku at the end of next month.

The sprint races have only previously taken place on road courses. Horner is unhappy with the choice of the high-speed Baku street circuit as a venue for sprint races due to the increased risk of incurring car damage.

“The reality is it’s absolutely ludicrous to be doing the first sprint race of the year in a street race like Azerbaijan,” said Horner in today’s FIA press conference.

“I think from a spectacle point of view, from a fan point of view, it’s probably going to be one of the most exciting sprint races of the year. From a cost cap perspective, all you can do is trash your car and it costs a lot of money around there.”

F1 confirmed the six venues which will hold this year’s sprint races in December. After Baku, sprint races will also take place at the Red Bull Ring, Spa, Losail, Circuit of the Americas and Interlagos.

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Red Bull scored a one-two in Baku last year and were on course to do the same in 2021 until Max Verstappen suffered a tyre failure at the fastest point on the circuit, pitching his car into a barrier.

While there are discussions around changing the race weekend format for the first sprint event of the season, Horner is more concerned by the risk of damaging his cars.

“One race is enough in Baku, the fact that we’ve got two, there could well be some action there. But that’s part of the challenge and part of the task that we’ve got.

“Hopefully we can tidy up the format for the sprint races coming up, that they are a bit more dynamic. I know that the sporting director has been working hard on that and hopefully we can get that finalised. [But] a sprint race in Azerbaijan is something to be certainly wary of.”

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown echoed Horner’s concerns about the potential for damaging cars in Baku. “Any time you go to a street circuit, Baku creates some pretty exciting races and some big crash damage bills, same for everyone,” he said. “It kind of is what it is.

“It’ll be very exciting for the fans and hopefully all the cars will come back the way they started.”

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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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12 comments on “Horner criticises “ludicrous” decision to hold first sprint race of 2023 in Baku”

  1. sprint races need removing from F1.

  2. Nope we need more Sprint. And love it that it’s in Baku. More overtaking opportunities.

    1. Nope we need more Sprint

      You do realise that you’re not supposed to take all your medication in one go, don’t you?

      1. Oh excuse me for having a different opinion to you and the rest of the “fans” here.

    2. DRS isn’t overtaking and easy DRS-ing is basically all you ever see in Baku which is why the ‘overtaking’ is never what is remembered about the Baku safety car crash-fest’s.

      Seriously think back to all the races in Baku. The quality of the racing and overtaking isn’t what is ever remembered, It’s the show over sport chaos because the newer netflix nascar style fans that liberty are appealing to now are more interested in the chaos and other crazyness rather than the actual pure racing or sport.

      just wait for the casual viewers to start tuning out once they get fed up and liberty have to end up grovelling at the feet of the real fans that they pushed away with the show over sport gimmicks and other nonsense.

  3. He should’ve said that when the circuit choices got made.

  4. Big true

  5. I agree with him for a change, it’s ludicrous holding sprint races….

  6. Christian isn’t the only one.

    Most in the paddock were surprised and disappointed at the Baku selection as there is a lot of concern that it’s going to result in a lot of damaged cars.

    1. Adds more spice to the sprint if anything, and they badly need that!

      1. So we have a so far mediocre product, which then has to be made more dangerous and unreasonable in order to (try and) create entertainment value… seems all upside down.

        Worst case they’ll have a chaotic result and use that to push even more sprints on tacks not remotely similar to baku’s “chaos factor”, in turn creating more slightly too short and non-rewarding sprint races. How anyone can see this corpo-marketing for anything more than just added revenue baffles me.

  7. The drivers face basically zero danger these. The cars are insanely safe and Wittich throws a VSC, SC or RF for just about anything. You’re probably one of those fans who think they shouldn’t run in wet conditions either.

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