Too much ‘wasted time’ in new sprint race weekend format – Hamilton

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Formula 1 fans may get to see more racing laps on weekends featuring sprint races, but Lewis Hamilton has pointed out the new format features less track running.

The FIA and F1 heavily revised the schedule just days before the first sprint event of the season at last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Friday’s second practice session was dropped and qualifying – which usually takes place on Saturday afternoon – took its place. The third practice session on Saturday was replaced by a new, shorter qualifying session to set the grid for the sprint race later that day.

Hamilton said he “generally likes the point” of Saturday sprint race events, but believes they are have some drawbacks. “I think there’s a lot of time wasted on the weekends, so I think we could do it in a shorter amount of days.”

Speaking on Saturday after the first sprint race of the year, Hamilton said: “You could still do three days, but I think the teams get here way early like Monday or Tuesday, and I got here on Wednesday. There’s four hours waiting between sessions today, today we could have done at least three sessions.

“We can do three sessions each day. There was so much time to [use] during this day. I don’t know if that’s possible with all the other formulas that are going on.”

Hamilton welcomed the move to hold an additional qualifying session specifically for the sprint race. “I like qualifying so it was pretty cool to have a second qualifying.”

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His Mercedes team mate George Russell, who is the director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, also praised the changes but saw room for improvement.

“We [the GPDA] weren’t necessarily pushing for this,” he said. “We were open to it, open to change, and, I’m not against it.”

Russell would like to see teams given more opportunities to adjust their car set-ups under the format. At present teams are locked into the set-ups they use from the start of qualifying on Saturday afternoon. If they choose to make any changes they must start the race from the pit lane, as Esteban Ocon snd Nico Hulkenberg did.

“I think it would be nice if the teams were allowed to make a set-up change, perhaps on a Friday night,” said Russell. “It was a shame that you’ve got all these until it engineers here and you’re just locked in after one practice session. I hope it doesn’t take any excitement away from Sundays. I think the best people to judge are the fans at home, how they feel.

“But I mean, from a driver’s perspective, it’s quite fun. You’re going out there, you’re racing more, [doing] more competitive laps. We don’t enjoy just tooting around in practice and testing. But as I said, I just hope it doesn’t take too much away from Sundays.”

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Ida Wood
    Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...
    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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    24 comments on “Too much ‘wasted time’ in new sprint race weekend format – Hamilton”

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      2nd May 2023, 14:18

      The rules are straightforward in how parts can be changed in parc ferme. It does seem crazy that a tweak to the rear wing or suspension isn’t allowed without a penalty especially with nothing allowed after the Friday morning.

      I did wonder how this might play out when it was first mentioned about a reduction of free practice time. Mercedes did say they went in the wrong direction with setup. An opportunity to correct that would have no doubt been helpful..

    2. We don’t enjoy just tooting around in practice and testing.

      I don’t understand why modern drivers don’t seem to enjoy driving the cars as in the past most drivers would take every and any opportunity to be in the cars be it at a race weekend or test session & drivers who didn’t like doing much were generally criticised for it.

      But I guess the younger generation are more interested in playing on computers & watching netflix than actually spending time in cars on a track in real life.

      Seems modern fans don’t like watching the cars on track either given how many constantly call for 2 day weekends, reduced practice time & backing the testing ban. It really is the complete & polar opposite to what fans used to think and maybe part of why there is such a vast disconnect between the longer time fans who just want to watch the cars and the younger fans who don’t want to spend as much time watching so they can get back to playing computer games with drivers and watching the streaming platforms.

      In the 70s/80s/90s/00s there used to be a lot of us who would be standing in a cold, wet & windy Silverstone grandstand loving watching testing on a regular basis. But now I guess such a concept would have modern fans asking ‘where is the fun in that’ because clearly they don’t enjoy watching the cars unless theres points on offer.

      1. Señor Sjon
        2nd May 2023, 15:02

        Funny enough, the 2000’s and earlier cars are much nicer to drive and race than the current hybrid ones, at least in sims. You’re constantly managing stuff in the current era. There is constant battery management and when to deploy. You can’t have a streak of multiple fast laps because your battery depletes to fast and tires won’t take it. Compare that to for instance 2004 cars which could pound on and on, lap after lap. Doing a fast stint in the current crop requires a lot more managing than it did.

      2. That’s because the modern cars are boring.
        I could watch 20+ year old F1 cars screaming and sliding around all day long, but the current ones just don’t bring anywhere near the same enjoyment.
        And the same applies for the drivers – cruising around at 80% pace gathering and correlating data in excessive practice sessions isn’t fun. The cars aren’t risky and exciting to drive either – they are as predictable as the race results are, with the engineers and all their computers having complete control over every aspect of it at all times.
        Unfortunately, no matter what you do now, that won’t change. The teams have too much knowledge about the cars and the tyres – even those of their competitors – and their basic approach to racing will never revert to the way it used to be, either. It is almost pure science now – the art has been engineered and computed out.

      3. We don’t enjoy just tooting around in practice and testing.

        I don’t understand why modern drivers don’t seem to enjoy driving the cars as in the past most drivers would take every and any opportunity to be in the cars be it at a race weekend or test session & drivers who didn’t like doing much were generally criticised for it.

        I’m not convinced some of the drivers would agree with Russell on this, especially Verstappen, who has repeatedly said F1 should stick to the regular grand prix format with three practice sessions.

    3. After having watched the qualifyings and the sprint race, I already had enough F1 for the weekend after the SC in the main race and I had to endure another 30 laps. This feeling was mostly caused by the race being this dull, but I felt saturated with F1 with more than half of the race remaining. The main race didn’t feel like the main event of the weekend.

      1. Yeah, the main race is more of an appendix now. Like I always say, I don’t have enough time (and when I do, I don’t like wasting it) to watch F1 five times in a week, and it’s getting dull this way as well. They forget that practise sessions were easy to skip, many didn’t watch them at all, and it’s not like we wanted a “fun” replacement. They have their purpose. Sprint kinda doesn’t. And now I have a choice, either to sacrifice my weekend watching “sprints” and “shootouts” and whatever the hell, or to skip competitive F1 sessions which I didn’t do. I’ve never been so bored to be honest. Over-saturation is a dangerous thing.

      2. @matthijs Exactly. I was already annoyed on Friday, having to watch the qualifying in replay instead of live. Then on Saturday, motorsports up to saturation as you say, F1 & F2 combined which was decent.

        And then there was that qualifying result from Friday, somewhat hanging around, waiting for the race to be settled. Come Sunday afternoon I’m already a bit past my hunger for motorsport, my weekend is wasted anyways and the excitement has gone away because premises to the race have been installed two days ago and feels cold. And the race is the most boring session of the weekend :/ It clearly didn’t work this time.

    4. The problem with sprint race is that there’s not enough many strategic options to mix things. That could be easily solved if Qualy for sprint was a single lap for every driver and the driver should start with the same tyre he did qualy. Slowers teams would try softer tyres to start ahead, for example.

    5. I do think it would be better if they mixed up the parc ferme rules for sprint weekends a bit to allow teams more options to tune their cars for the sprint properly or allow teams who had a bad sprint and qualifying to take those lessons and change up their car for the main event without being penalised. Perhaps even allow for example any car finishing outside the points on the sprint to have the option to change setup for the main event.

      I think the format change was good but it just needs a few more tweaks. It was certainly a better idea than previous efforts albeit somewhat doomed to failure given the racing at Baku over the weekend was limited.

    6. Kill the Sprint nonsense. We have been supporting F1 for over 50 years because they hold a RACE on Sunday. Why do we need all this other crap? If they are doing it to get cars on the track then give points for fastest laps in practice! What a Joke Liberty has turned F1 into. UGH!

    7. One of the many issues with the Sprint Race format for me is now Qualifying is on a Friday. When I (and presumably many others) are still working. So what happened this week was that the Grand Prix Qualifying was over before I finished work for the day (I am in the UK) and unfortunately I opened social media before I remembered that it was a Sprint weekend. Therefore I saw the qualifying order before I had the chance to watch the session (Sky+ records them all on series link), and decided there was no point bothering to watch, as the order was entirely predictable.
      Didn’t watch the Sprint Qualifying either (it was on on Saturday morning when my children have activities), so only watched the Sprint, and the Grand Prix.
      The Sprint was as dull as they all have been, and the Grand Prix wasn’t interesting either after the SC (although I did watch until the end).
      TL;DR I’ll watch less if it’s a Sprint weekend. Not sure that was Liberty Media’s goal, but as F1 is the only reason I still have Sky, there will soon be no justification to the £60/month that costs me

    8. Steve Holmes
      2nd May 2023, 16:03

      The new generation of Formula One owners seem greedy enough to roll the dice on supposed changes to such a unique form of entertainment. I’m now believing that tradition will disappear for the chance to make lotzabucks from ringing every dollar possible out of the wallets of fans. Then there is the factor of the actual event location and Baku ended up as the best sprint race so far.

      But at what cost? That cost is diluting F1 into a richer man’s sport. How can normal people attend the Vegas F1 race where ticket prices are many thousands of dollars. Is this because of the importance of Sprint

    9. TBH it sure felt like wasted time last weekend. 20 laps in I already wanted the race to be over so I could have lunch… I already knew what was going to happen because the sprint painted the picture almost completely.

      Because I love F1 and I just cannot not watch, I sat in front of the PC… but I so wanted it to end… Eventually I started doing other things with the race in the background, while Crofty and Chandhok talked about things outside of the racing that was happening, for 15 minutes straight…

      1. The only benefit of this weekend in my view is that I could pretend that Saturday never existed (I did not watch it) and just delude myself that it was a normal quali and race….with just a bigger gap.

    10. PARC Ferme rules need changed imo

    11. There are many very reasonable ideas posted here but the answer to all of our questions is…money. Aside from safety and a few technical issues, all Liberty cares about are short term profits, even if that comes at the expense of long term interest or the ultimate quality of the sport. They are proving this again and again and the Miami GP is a prime example.

    12. Here’s a suggestion for the weekend format:
      Friday: practice & Sprint Shootout
      Sat: Quali & Sprint Race
      Sun: Race

      If they won’t do reverse grids for the Sprint (which in some ways wouldn’t be right), how about this for the Shootout: SQ1, 2 & 3, each with one lap per driver, but drivers go in the order of the championship standings: Verstappen goes first, Perez second and so on, until Sergeant(?) goes last, thus getting a slight advantage. That would mix up the grid for the Sprint without making Verstappen start last. I mean Red Bull would probably still get to SQ3.

      1. I actually quite like this proposal. A LOT.

    13. Davethechicken
      2nd May 2023, 19:52

      Practice sessions are a borefest for fans (others may have different options of course!). Data gathering setup etc etc and all we get as fans is to see the cars running and speculation to who is fastest.
      The more practice replaced with actual competition like sprint qualy or sprint races is much more interesting in my view.

    14. Sprints really needs full reverse grid, at least it would be a chance for small teams to get big points and the fast teams would need to pass all the traffic in limited time, far better entretainment that the current short 0 strategy version of the full race complete with a short qualy.

      Would it be wrong to have a reverse grid in F1? yeah sure, but so are weekends that have more points that anywhere else for the sake of “fans” that hate practice, so may as well go all the way and get something different that a shorter more boring race.

    15. Tim (@tsgoodchild)
      3rd May 2023, 12:26

      I fully support a 2-day race weekend. Maybe have the Friday for a bumper-packed support race schedule and media day for F1. Then two days of F1 action. Drop parc ferme and bring back Sunday morning practice.

    16. F1 is obsessed with the Q1, Q2, Q3 format… Why not do a 15 minute single session SQ, 15 minutes to form the grid and then 30 minute sprint race.

    17. Fully agree with Lewis here. Listen to your champions please.

    Comments are closed.