Barring a total shock, Max Verstappen will clinch his third world championship at the next round.
But Verstappen’s lead after 16 of this year’s 22 events is so large he doesn’t need to wait until Sunday’s grand prix for his first chance to take the title.
The grand prix on Sunday pays a maximum of 26 points. But Verstappen only needs three more to put the title beyond doubt. He can reach that by finishing as low as sixth in Saturday’s sprint race.
It’s the first time a sprint race could decide the world championship. But they haven’t been a universally popular addition to the calendar: Several drivers have criticised them and Verstappen himself is one of the format’s strongest detractors/.
F1’s 10th sprint race could be its most significant to date. Has the format won you over and is the prospect of a Saturday title-decider a welcome innovation? Or is the prestige of a grand prix lessened when a shorter, side-show event crowns the champion?
When the 2023 F1 calendar was revealed it seemed a title-deciding Saturday race was exactly what Liberty Media wanted to see. Three of the final six events include sprint races.
But this year’s title contest has long been a foregone conclusion. So what does it matter if it’s decided in a sprint race?
Unless sprint races are only going to be held in the early part of the season, or not award points, F1 will have to accept the possibility that one of them could decide the world championship. They have been added to the calendar in order to encourage people to watch more F1, and a championship-deciding sprint race may help persuade viewers they are worth checking out.
Several arguments have been levelled against sprint races, none of which are addressed by the possibility the championship might be decided in one.
The races themselves are still too short with too little at stake to provide real action. The departure from a regular race weekend format is an unwelcome inconsistency, as is arbitrarily awarding extra points for certain rounds of the world championship: What makes Qatar’s race more important than Japan’s?
If anything, the likelihood the next sprint race will decide the championship demonstrates F1 was wrong to insist the format would not diminish the significance of grands prix. What could undermine the main event more than the knowledge that the
If every round of the world championship had a sprint race, it would matter less to me if one of them decided the title. The race weekend format should be consistent, otherwise teams which are particularly competitive at certain types of tracks will benefit more than others.
But even if sprint races were ubiquitous, they feel too insubstantial to be worth awarding anything towards the world championship.
If F1 must have them, make them a separate series of events with their own championship. Then it can do whatever it likes with the sprint race format, and leave the classic world championship untainted by these insubstantial, desultory affairs which feel like they belong in a junior support series.
Would a title-deciding sprint race be positive or negative for Formula 1? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.
Is it positive or negative for Formula 1 if the championship is decided in a sprint race?
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