Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2023

New sprint race format is “a practice session with points at the end” – Hamilton

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1’s changes to the sprint race format won’t make a great difference to how drivers approach them.

The Mercedes driver backed the latest revision to the race weekends, which was announced earlier this week. F1 hopes drivers will be less conservative in their approach to the sprint races as they are now standalone races which no longer decide the starting grid for the grand prix.

However Hamilton doesn’t believe this changes the balance between risk and reward for the competitors. “I don’t think it makes really a lot of difference now,” he said.

“Obviously before, where you finished in the sprint was where you qualified for the race. Now it is a practice session but there are points at the end of it. I don’t think we’ll be going more [flat-]out than we normally have done in the past.”

Despite that, Hamilton is hopeful the changes will result in an action-packed event. “With the shake-up of the whole format of the weekend, it’s probably the most exciting weekend so far this year,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.”

Carlos Sainz Jnr echoed Hamilton’s words, doubting drivers will take more risks as a result of the changes.

“I still don’t think it will be like ‘win it or bin it’ for us,” said the Ferrari driver. “It will be still important laps, important points for the championship. Important learning for the main race.

“I don’t think an F1 driver will change massively the approach to the start, to the fighting. We will still approach it as a normal race.”

Points will continue to be awarded to the top eight drivers. Those who finish outside the top eight will gain nothing towards their championship position, but Valtteri Bottas doubts that will lead to drivers pulling out of the race in the closing stages if they believe they won’t score any points.

“For example, if I would be in the last laps in ninth position, which is just outside of the points in the sprint, then definitely you go for it. Obviously if you break your car or something, then that could have consequences for Sunday. But in another case, there’s not a huge difference, but I think a welcome one. So at least you know that you can try if you’re just on the edge of the points.

“[If] you’re like 15th or something, you still go for it, it’s the nature of us. You don’t give up and in this sport you never know what happens so you go ’til the end.”

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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  • 22 comments on “New sprint race format is “a practice session with points at the end” – Hamilton”

    1. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.
      Not normal for me to agree with Hamilton on much, but his comment, “practice session with points at the end”, couldn’t agree more.
      In Baku, the race will be 17 laps. Were I a Team Manager, if a driver is circulating in 12th or lower after 8 or so laps, and no real chance to make the top 10, either you find something to learn or you park the car.
      The back markers should be getting lapped near the end. Makes a case for pulling lapped cars rather than letting them get in the way of the leaders.
      I won’t be getting up early for this one, but the tape delay and FF button will suffice. And quick too.

      1. Backmarkers lapped by the end of the sprint race? No way, you need to have a serious problem to be lapped in 17 laps, you’d have to lose 6 sec per lap, they’re not that slow!

        1. Maybe not – all it takes is a nudge for a puncture or a wing change and then you are at the back and a closer to the leaders following you than the back of the pack.

    2. Nobody likes sprints and for some reason they keep insisting on it trying to find a sweet spot than doesn’t exist because the entire concept stinks.

      So annoying.

      1. I love sprints, the more races the better.

        1. I also don’t get the antipathy of some towards more racing sessions. I like watching racing. I don’t care so much about ‘fast cars do a few random laps and then randomly slow down or pit’.

          That’s not to say Sprint Qualifying (or since dropping the pretext, sprint races) is all that great as a concept. F1 cars are built and designed to do 305km races. This has influenced everything from the tyres and PUs to the size and shape of the cars themselves. So while short races are fun, having them with F1 cars makes both look worse than they could.

          1. Scarcity breeds value. The more races there are the less value they have. 17 races a year meant really every event was unmissable because each one had relatively a huge impact on the championship. The more races there are the easier they are to miss. more doesn’t mean better.

            While F1 is growing it may appear on the surface all it good, but “more racing is better” might turn to “well, it’s just another race, I can miss this” and then that could turn into a flood of people just not bothering any more. It’s a careful balance that has to be struck.

      2. Some people do actually, I believe it’s very evenly split, most of the people who like them do cause they prefer that to practice sessions; I do too, although they’re usually uneventful compared to normal races.

        1. Agreed. There’s a perception on here that nobody likes them, or only news fans do. However, I’m a long-time fan and I quite like the idea, just not the implementation (especially the latest bodge). I think sprints could be an amazing, exciting part of the weekend, if only they could stop screwing it up.

          1. The main race is already a sprintrace.
            What are you missing and what more do you need?

            Practice is there so we see feats of excellence and not a tombola.

      3. Some contributors feel they speak for everyone.

        So Annoying

    3. Not normal for me to agree with Hamilton on much, but his comment, “practice session with points at the end”, couldn’t agree more.

      It’s not usual for me to agree with comments from Verstappen, but he’s not impressed with sprints either.

      So it seems that we have split of opinion on sprints.
      Domenicali on one side; and the rest of us, including the drivers, on the other side.
      Is Mr. D. willing to admit he’s wrong yet do you think?

      1. Since the sprint was originally introduced to shake up the order of the racing grid, and now we’ve tossed that idea, they’re already admitting it’s not working the way they wanted it to.

        But when Hamilton and Verstappen are in agreement, something is seriously wrong with the fundamental concept.

      2. Domenicali is not alone here. He’s got the overwhelming support of all the people that took the polls he hascarried out.

        1. F1 polls look a lot like:
          A. Do you love sprint races?
          B. Really love sprint races?
          C. Absolutely love sprint races?
          D. Would sell your grandmother to prove you love sprint races.

        2. If they want to make it an spectacle, make money AND improve the sport then Sprint races on Friday with young/prospect (no main) drivers, same cars, points only valid for constructors championship and superlicense points. And then Saturday and Sunday same as always. You can actually make it standars format for all races.

      3. The only thing that matters to anyone in a position to make changes is money. It’s not pretty, but that’s the way it is. If they can sell a two-race weekend for more money to broadcasters and host nations than they can a one-race weekend, they’ll go with the two-race weekend every single time.

        Some people may complain online, and even the drivers can join in, but it won’t matter one bit if the numbers on TV and online say otherwise.

    4. At the moment, but I see it as the beginning of the end of the “Grand Prix”.
      Sooner or later I envisage a driver will be declared the winner of a “GP Weekend”.
      Obviously this will also allow for an expanded (almost limitless) array of activities for which points may be allocated .

    5. If they want to make it an spectacle, make money AND improve the sport then Sprint races on Friday with young/prospect (no main) drivers, same cars, points only valid for constructors championship and superlicense points. And then Saturday and Sunday same as always. You can actually make it standars format for all races.

    6. When Hamilton and Verstappen agree on something, then you could easily assume that those in charge might notice.

      Unfortunately the horse has bolted and there’s just no turning back the sprint abomination is here to stay and it’s quite plain that there will only be more of them in the future.

      It’s only a matter of time before reverse grids happen. Who knows – we might even get celebrity drivers, cheerleaders and all sorts of unimaginable gimmicks coming up.

      1. yep, the sprint races, imo, were all about cracking the door open. Changing the fundamental DNA of a race weekend to eventually allow for more radically ideas. We now see a plethora of discussion about how to ‘fix’ the sprint weekends. In my view the discussion shouldn’t even be happening in the first place. It’s a shame to have seen MotoGP jump into sprints as it’s properly devalued their product. They should have had the confidence int heir product. now we have 42 or so races per year for them, and it’s a mess.

        Back to F1. As you say reverse grids, and that kind of thing, is where we’re heading. not good.

    7. I wonder what happens to parc ferme rules? Are they expected to keep the car set up, the same now for sprints and the main race?

      That’s where the real changes are. do they still have a chance to tweak the car setup as they qualify for the sprints? Do they have to return the car set up the setup used now for the main race qualification?

    Comments are closed.