Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2023

Scrap sprint races and go back to the regular format, Verstappen tells F1

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen gave a withering verdict on Formula 1’s latest changes to its sprint race format after its debut today.

The Red Bull driver has often criticised the sprint race format since F1 introduced it two years ago. The series attempted to address some of the complaints which its revisions introduced this weekend.

They include making the sprint race a standalone event, which does not decide the starting grid for the grand prix. The sprint race also has its own qualifying session, which takes place on Saturday morning.

However Verstappen doesn’t believe the changes have made the format worth keeping. He urged F1 to revert to only using the regular grand prix weekend format and focus on making the field more competitive instead of resorting to gimmicks.

“Just scrap the whole thing,” he said. “I think it’s just important to go back to what we had and make sure that every team can fight for a win. That’s what we have to try and aim for.”

The sprint races only produce “artificial excitement,” said Verstappen. “I got bored through today’s qualifying, to be honest.

“I like to have one particular qualifying where you just put everything in it and that was yesterday, which I of course enjoy, and then they have to do it again today. I’m like, my God, another qualifying? I just don’t really enjoy that.”

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Verstappen finished third in today’s race behind team mate Sergio Perez, who won, and Charles Leclerc. While neither of the others was as critical of the format as Verstappen, both admitted there is still room for improvement and they do not want to see it used for all races.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix sprint race in pictures
“I think I don’t hate this format,” said Leclerc. “I think it’s a better format than last year’s sprint format. I prefer this one.

“I wouldn’t want this to be the standard format in the future. I think it’s fine if we have three or four races like that in a year.

“It puts a lot more pressure on the drivers because basically there’s only one session where you can do a mistake, which is FP1. After that every lap you do is really important. And you also have a lot less preparation. So the preparation for the race beforehand at the simulator is extremely important.”

Leclerc said F1 needs to change the rule which requires drivers to use new soft tyres in SQ3, which resulted in Lando Norris being unable to run in that session today. “It’s a shame, I think, to not see Lando drive this morning because he didn’t have the set of tyres.”

Perez believes drivers “don’t want this to become a standard weekend” format. “I think what we have in a normal weekend makes it really exciting and better for fans. This is what we’ve grown up with and it’s how it should stay.

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“But I’m happy if we have three or four races like this with the sprint format and just make sure we correct small details like the timing, like the usage of the tyre. I think it looked really bad to have [cars] without tyres in Q3.

“Just make sure that we correct that and have a few races like this in the year, maximum.”

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    42 comments on “Scrap sprint races and go back to the regular format, Verstappen tells F1”

    1. He is absolutely right.

      1. +1
        Verstappen is the most vocal about this and is completely right. Drivers must continue saying is not working even if Liberty say the opposite

        1. Whilst I agree I am afraid Liberty sees drivers as tourists. They pass by, Liberty makes money, the drivers leave. I dont think they care for a minute what a driver says. They’ll be replaced with a whole set of new drivers soon.

    2. I don’t mind having the sprint format, especially with Saturday practice replaced by a competitive session & wouldn’t mind having even more such events next season, but either way is okay. I’m largely indifferent.

      1. @jerejj Even though I don’t like it. I get the idea of the sprint. It sounds exiting. Still it just has become a one stint run or a mini GP. I think Sprint qualy is pointless. If they want to do at least reverse the grid or do another sprint to get the grid. But for me personally since the most exiting part of the season was to wake up in the middle of the night to watch brand new cars take the track on melbourne. I would lie if I would said I don’t like watching races. I do but does it suit the nature of F1. FE, F2, F3, Extreme E, F1 power boats is a different story. How does a 4h Le Mans sprint sound?

        1. Reverse grids just aren’t sporting, they’re pure gimmicks and misplaced fix attempts, imo. You qualify first, you start last? Imagine if Usain Bolt had to start from the worst starting position for an Olympic race because he was first in qualifying?!

          Would it be fair if the front cars weren’t so dominant and actually lost out on wins because they only were able to climb to 7th despite securing pole?

          Reverse grid suggestions remind me of the times when I’d play games and reach mastery level that I’d replay levels from a handicap position just for the fun of it and still drive circles around the competition rather than just moving to a higher difficulty.

          The reality is winning a race doesn’t start in those 90 minutes. It’s the culmination of the driver and team’s efforts from the season development. You earn your qualy position and your win. Ruling bodies should focus on keeping a level playing field for competitors, not influencing the game.

          1. They are somehow going to change the core of F1 that is for sure. Whatever they are going to do it will be a gimmick. F1 founded working solution in the 50s. Do some practice then do the qualifying to set the grid and then do the GP. It has been a working consept almost from the beginning. Sprints are sprints they are not real GPs. I’m not a fan of reverse grids but it is an option for the sprints! They could do a burnout competition, donut competition, one lap reverse race, no braking race, biggest slide competition, get three laps as close as possible qualifying… there are endless options. World will and need to change but some things are working as fine as they were back in the days. You only need to call from your phone but nowadays it’s a computer. You only need F1 to see who is the best driver but nowadays it is about the show.

    3. Couldn’t agree more with Max here. I was watching the sprint race with my dad and and right at the chequered flag we both said immediately how boring and pointless this event was. And we turned the stream off immediately. The only excitement was having “a race start” and then it was pretty much predictable driving for mostly no purpose at all.

      Having had the thrill of a race start already this weekend, I’m not sure how to build up the excitement for tomorrow’s main race which used to be something that everyone in my family used to really like to watch but those days are slowly fading away, unfortunately.

      1. Davethechicken
        29th April 2023, 18:50

        I disagree. It is infinitely more interesting to watch a sprint, than watching a practice session, which is after all what it is replacing.

        1. @tomez + Davethechicken Weirdly it’s kind of both. I tuned in thinking well it will be more exciting than a practice session, but really it wasn’t. Practice sessions match expectations, the sprint race was well below them. I did enjoy the proper GP qualifying yesterday, but maybe just because it was after just 1 practice session, not the usual 3. If FIA decided to simply drop Fridays and have one practice and then qualifying on Saturday, I’m not sure I’d mind much.

          1. Davethechicken
            29th April 2023, 19:03

            I thought the excitement similar to have the actual GP, which admittedly can often be dull. However practice for me is dull. It is data gathering pure and simple. Except as fans, we never get to see the data they gather.

            1. True but practice sessions do give some idea of setups, especially when they go wrong, and any new parts. I felt like the sprint race today just seemed utterly meaningless to the drivers. OK so Russell and Verstappen had a brief skirmish, on and off track, but that was about it. I dislike qualifying not setting the race grid, as happened previously. But – admittedly – the sprint race seemed even duller when nothing save a one or two point difference was at stake.

            2. Try Multiviewer for F1. It won’t get you the level of data that the teams do, but I find it has been a game changer for me while watching any of the sessions, especially practice.

    4. Formula 1 is made good by the long Grand Prix, which is the right length to develop and with all the interesting strategies.

      But a short Grand Prix like this has absolutely nothing going for it compared to every other motor racing series, apart from obviously that it is drivers and teams you know. Why watch a qualifying session the same as the day before and a race on a street circuit with cars that cannot race each other with little side-by-side action and just DRS passes on the main straight, little to no strategy, and the race being over before it has time to develop into something interesting? Compare that to a touring car race, for example, or a junior formula, which is of similar length but with far more entertaining racing.

      And the sprint race also has its downsides, as shown last season, in that it makes the anticipation of the start of the Grand Prix the next day less. And over the course of the season, many complain that having too many races dilutes each one, and the sprints just add to that.

      Overall, I like this new format much more than the last one because it has no effect on the Grand Prix (the points awarded are a little annoying but largely irrelevant, and recording the qualifying and watching on Friday night is fine for me), so I was able to completely skip the Formula 1 today and miss nothing in terms of the Grand Prix weekend.

    5. I find these races pointless. They do t seem to be pushing hard, maybe saving the car for full points? Seems like after 5 laps everyone is in parade mode or test mode.

    6. The format this weekend is great.

      Friday: F1 Qualifying
      Saturday: 6 Hours of Spa
      Sunday: Grand Prix

    7. I’m conflicted. Max said something I agree with.

      Of course his reason for wanting them scrapped is purely self-interest because he sees the risk vs. reward not being a good equation for him.

      My reason is that I regard them as a Mario Kart gimmick, designed to appeal to people with a short attention span.

      1. Your reason is the same as Max’s. he’s never been a big fan of them and articulated it.

        1. Hey Alan, you usually have insightful comments on here. So I was wondering if you would care to make a comment regarding how you feel about Sprints now and what the approach F1 should take (in your opinion) would be?

          1. The approach I would take? :)

            I would start conversations about developing a new set of Technical Regulations aimed at rivaling F1. Smaller cars, 600kg weight limit, naturally aspirated engines and a traditional weekend format. I think F1 is vulnerable and playing with fire it the fan base. I think sprint races are alienating enough of the fan base that it could easily be taken by something else. I just need a few million, maybe billion to get it off the ground. If Gould can smash out fantastic high-end hill climb cars, I am sure we could find 8-10 teams willing to build cars for this new F1-rival project. I think this is where the discussion should be. Personally I don’t enter the conversation about how to fix the specifics of sprint weekends, I think we’re at the stage of wholesale change somewhere else.

            My views on Sprint Races within the context of just F1 are not particularly insightful, though thanks for the comment :) . I’ve never liked them. They are devaluing the F1 experience. Within reason scarcity breed value, and I wonder if F1 is pushing its look on a bell curve popularity type trajectory. The polls are all riddled with the immediacy bias as well and generally don’t observe how we perceive things and behave over a long period of time. If we have a ‘good’ sprint race then the polling will look positive, but we really need to observe behaviors over a long period of time. It’s like Coke Vs Pepsi. Pepsi is more sweet, so on one sip a person may pick that over Coke, but that’d be a mistake to judge overall experience because the Coke might win out if it’s who is more likely to drink and enjoy the full can.

            I think they’ve opened a Pandora’s Box and allow a never ending stream of suggestions and fixes that are just an awful discussion to be part of. I also think they take up so much of the weekend it’s borderline impossible to enjoy other motorsports. F1 doesn’t care about that as that’s the aim for them, but this year F1 has 29 races. MotoGP have made the grave error of doing sprint races to and they now have around 40 races per year now. In 2001 it was 17 and 16 respectively.

            I could be way off-base and Sprints accelerate F1’s popularity, and that’s fine. I am just saying in terms of discussing approaches I would take I can’t help but really say that something more fundamental and holistic should change.

            1. MotoGP going all in into sprint races might have been a bit too much, but the MotoGP sprint races are normally quite exciting. Normally, in a MotoGP race, you see someone start running away in the 2nd half of the race, in sprints you do not get that far. The only thing there is, that the riders are risking way too much and are falling quite a lot – i guess no cost caps there, cause there has to be a lot of spare parts used too.

              I watched yesterday’s F1 sprint only a few hours later. I felt a bit weird not watching it live, but ok. Overall for me it’s not bad that F1 has a few sprints, but I think it needs to happen at the right tracks. Imola for me was never a good venue for a sprint – i would definitely take Spa, Monza, Canada, Austria, maybe Silverstone. But also tricky with these tracks..

              Let’s see what is going to happen. I will watch F1 regardless, so I don’t feel the need to criticise everything.

            2. @milansson

              The MotoGP sprints might be exciting in the moment, but we’re now 7 or 8 races in the season and I can’t remember individual events nor who won what. This is what I mean about the immediacy bias. Exciting in the short term might come at the cost of long term interest. I watched MotoGP religiously since the 90s and now barely catch it. The sprints have collapsed my interest, and I don’t think this is something unique to me. it’s evident in the coverage it receives on traditional motorsport media sites that the interest isn’t there any more, and this is somewhat reflected with declining audiences. MotoGP is very very difficult to follow now as a coherent sport. Who’s leading the championship and why? I have no idea. I say all this with care because we’re in post-Rossi era and that’s effected things quite a bit, and we might see an uptick this year. Who knows.

              I could be wrong and MotoGP and F1 are securing their long term future with these gimmicks, but I am not so sure. I think in F1’s case there’s a risk we’re in bubble territory. I think part of the issue is the review culture that’s developed around motorsport that echoes film and TV. Rather than just watching the ebb and flow of a season, each race has to be rated as a whole. Take football as something very different. A game is a game. If it’s exciting great, if it’s dull, fine. That’s the game. Imagine how awful it’d be if the commercial owners started saying “we need to spice the show up a bit”.

              And the risk here is once you treat F1 like a TV show, then you expose yourself to the risk TV shows face that lead them to be cancelled. If interest is based upon ‘entertainment’ and not deep cultural relevance (take football as an example) then you’re more at risk than you may realise.

            3. I have no idea where this comment will show up :)

              Alan Dove, of course, you are right, I agree with you. And I am not entering any argumentation or anything, am just adding my perspective – but appreciate your deep analysis, really a good read, thanks :)

              MotoGP this year – with the MotoGP theme which is very much comparable to the F1 theme, sprint races.
              Just watching the race and another crash and a red flag – that’s not so nice. Somehow this year the riders are taking way too much risk.

              Whether people are Max’s fans or not, I appreciate that he is vocal about the fact he does not like the format. It’s absolutely his right to do so.

              I actually started watching MotoGP this year a bit more, trying not to miss any race. I think the hype they are building around it looks really good. You see lots of interest from fans, packed tracks, fantasy game (i actually entered the MotoGP fantasy game, but did not enter F1s – that’s weird to be honest) – i am pretty sure they found inspiration in F1 in some aspects.

              We’ll see what will happen with F1’s format. It really looks like people are trying to find the right set-up, maybe it will take some time.

              But for instance, today’s F1 race was very boring, honestly, I almost fell asleep. Does not happen very often..

      2. I agree with SteveP.

    8. Proesterchen_nli
      29th April 2023, 19:23

      This new format moves the probably most exciting session of the meeting off the weekend and onto a weekday.

      How that is not an overall loss, regardless how Saturday’s sessions turn out, I will probably never understand.

      1. Absolutely. Qualifying is an art in an of itself. It’s the single moment in the entire weekend when all systems are on 100% and the drivers are trying to squeeze every bit of performance out of themselves and their cars.

        I get that they can’t do it much later than they did, due to Baku being east of Baghdad and sessions having to start a certain time before sunset (they already cut it quite short). But still, it’s disappointing.

      2. This particular thing can be changed however, I personally don’t see a reason why they can’t swap this week’s friday and saturday schedule around and have quali saturday as it’s always been and have friday be a practice + sprint day.

    9. Sergey Martyn
      29th April 2023, 20:22

      Nearly dislocated my jaw, yawning during this pointless attempt to add artifical excitement for dim bulbs who find FP’s boring.
      They need some sort of hogwash like American “wrestling”, whose description on wikipedia matches the bleak spectacle we saw today at Baku pretty much exactly:

      “…a form of theater, that revolves around mock combat.”

      If Liberty media like such things that much, isn’t it better to manage those clowns?

    10. Agreed. Plus, moving Grand Prix qualifying to a weekday is nonsensical for TV audiences.

    11. I honestly think Practice sessions are viewed more negatively than they should be. They never claimed to be adrenaline packed rollercoasters. They are data gathering exercises. Today I thought we went too far the other way – missing ‘proper’ practice and quali felt like a misstep. In practice you can always see new parts, drivers experimenting with new lines (remember Alonso in Zandvoort) or watch drivers pushing on different strategies or set ups. Part of the excitement of a weekend is building up a suspicion of who is where and then seeing if the practice confirms it or provides a counter-theory. With this sprint format, you’re watching the end of the movie without any context of the plot or character building.

      In truth, I’d limit practice too – I’d have 90 mins on a Saturday morning and a 15 min warmup on the Sunday. The Friday I would leave to the support races, giving them more track time whilst we’re at it. But on a street circuit like Baku, this Sprint format was only ever going to lead to a processional sprint race and a fairly mundane opening stint given we now know no-one will run the softs and the Ferraris will deg up on full tanks around lap 15, likely on the 2 stop. I’d rather have that as a guess than as a fact…

    12. Scrap Domenicalli and part ways with Liberty Media, they are the root cause of this.

    13. I find it kinda ironic when people say the sprint format is for the “low attention span generation” when I find there now far too much from this weekend format.

      Before you had:
      3 Practice sessions, with its combined story analysis as the weekend progressed.
      Qualifying, with build-up and analysis.
      And a Race, with build-up and analysis

      But this is:
      A Practise session, with analysis.
      A Qualifying, with build-up and analysis.
      Another Qualifying, with build-up and analysis.
      A Race, with build-up and analysis.
      And another Race, with build-up and analysis.

      It just comes across as a bombardment of stuff demanding more of my time if I want to stay in tune with what’s happening.
      And its having the opposite effect.
      Well that, and the WEC 6hrs of Spa was on…

      1. Try watching it without the build-up and analysis…

        1. I don’t. But isn’t the point of it all to get more people’s eye on the product and watching more content?

          Saturday is usually an hour slot. Done. See ya tomorrow.
          Instead its: “Okay, between main qualifying (which ya missed yesterday because it was a work day) and the race, we’re gonna have… a qualifying and race. But four hours apart from each other. So hope you have a big enough window in your day.”

          If I wasn’t already sat watching WEC today, I don’t think I would have bothered with F1.
          But then again, that could just be hindsight. Would I say the same thing if the sprint day was more entertaining(?)

    14. Anyone know how to notify the FIA and Liberty that I agree with Max?

      I mean really, how does they get feedback from fans?

      1. It’s about money. Don’t give them any. Don’t watch it or buy any products that they sell. If you watch it watch it on illegal streams. The survey the do every once in awhile is meant to give them the answer they want.

    15. He’s right.. im no fan of his driving.. but 100% correct.. all sprint racea are nothing but a 3 lap race and then just hold the position..


    16. The sprint race is just a preview of how predictable the race is gonna be in case some people haven’t kept up with the 2023 season so far

    17. I prefer the sprint race format as it makes the dull race weekends a bit more interesting. Dont care about arrogant Verstpapen’s oppinion, he can move to Nascar.

    18. For most of the teams this Sprint Race wasn’t worth participating in.

      1. From a sporting perspective – for most of the teams the GP’s aren’t worth participating in, nor the championship as a whole.

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