Sprint race start, Circuit of the Americas, 2023

Sprint format needs further ‘tuning’ with more points or reverse grid – Horner

Formula 1

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Formula 1’s sprint races need further changes, said team principal Christian Horner, after the series’ 11th running of the format yesterday proved an undramatic affair.

Max Verstappen cruised to victory almost 10 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who had a similar margin in hand over third-placed Charles Leclerc at the end of the 19-lap encounter.

F1 introduced sprint races in 2021 and has altered the format each year since then. Horner believes further changes are needed.

“I still think there’s things that can be done to evolve the sprint race,” he said yesterday. “I still think that there’s an element of tuning that needs to be done to the format.”

The sprint races originally awarded three points to the winner and were used to decide the starting order for the grand prix. The maximum score was increased to eight points last year.

Following complaints that the original system encouraged conservative driving, F1 made the races stand-alone events this year with their own qualifying sessions. But Horner believes they need to go further.

“I think you’ve got to add a bit more jeopardy to it,” he said. “Whether you reverse the top 10 or something – but then you’ve got to add enough points to it to make worth the drivers’ while to really go for it.

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“It still doesn’t quite feel like, when you win a sprint race, it obviously doesn’t mean quite as much as a grand prix.”

Race start, Red Bull Ring, 2022
Feature: Is there a ‘sprint’ format which can satisfy both the purists and the bean-counters?
While F1 has repeatedly insisted the format has been successful, the reaction from fans has been mixed and many drivers, including Verstappen, have criticised it. Nonetheless Horner believes F1 should persist with sprint races.

“We’re in a process where we need to be open to change and evolution. I think that the concept is fine, but I think the execution we can do a better job in making it more exciting for the viewer.”

“The concept of the sprint is still good, I just think the execution of it, it’s an opportunity to do something a bit different,” he added. “I think that there’s still more that we could do.

“I don’t know whether you found that entertaining race, but I think that if you were to have more points potentially available, if you were to reverse the top 10 or something like – I don’t know – it needs some thought to tune it up.”

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47 comments on “Sprint format needs further ‘tuning’ with more points or reverse grid – Horner”

  1. Electroball76
    22nd October 2023, 9:27

    Put the reserve drivers in for the sprint race. That would mix things up.

    1. What about having the reserve drivers for the Friday Practice sessions? It would add an element of mystery for Saturday, wouldn’t it?!

    2. I am not sure if it would be logistically possible but I like the idea. Maybe we could have a Sprint Championship – with junior, test or guest drivers – and a regular Championship. To make things more interesting the Sprint points will be combined with points of the main event for the Constructors Championship.

      1. Maybe we could have a Sprint Championship – with junior, test or guest drivers – and a regular Championship.

        I’ve been advocating that for ages. That’s the kind of “tuning” it needs. “Tuned” to oblivion as far as the GP drivers are concerned.

        To make things more interesting the Sprint points will be combined with points of the main event for the Constructors Championship.

        Now that might make the teams take interest, nice idea!

        1. Derek Edwards
          22nd October 2023, 19:05

          I’m another one who has been saying this. Make it a separate championship for drivers with less than two grand prix starts (or whatever other metric you want to use) and people at the race track get more of the on-track action that F1 is supposed to be providing. Better still, we don’t have to watch it and pretend to be interested. Honestly, it’s abundantly clear that the regular drivers could barely care less about the sprints when Piastri comes home first and his reaction is “Meh, doesn’t really count”.

  2. Reverse grid would be useful for sure, it was very clear this “race” how the top 4 just kept extending their advantage, till they were separated by 5-6 sec each, and even more in the end in verstappen’s case, so having the faster cars\drivers behind there would be more fights\overtakes.

    Obviously quantity doesn’t mean quality, but I also am against drs, so if you had verstappen starting behind without drs, he would still get past several drivers, but not just breeze past like he does nowadays.

    1. What about having the Sprint race without DRS? It would give the midfield teams a better chance to defend their position.

      1. And less chance to attack if behind.

    2. Coventry Climax
      22nd October 2023, 12:16

      Rverse grid is an absolutely great idea. But only if they only reverse the top 1.

  3. Instead of having a separate Sprint qualifying, simply reverse Sunday’s grid for Saturday’s sprint race.

    Here is how my ideal GP would look like:

    Friday: Practice session.
    Saturday: Qualifying for Sunday and Sprint Race with reversed Sunday grid.
    Sunday: Warm-up session and Sunday Grand Prix.

    1. Stephen Higgins
      22nd October 2023, 11:52

      Not a bad idea.

    2. Good idea to just reverse the GP grid. Ill also add the reverse grid will need to have points down to at least 10th but probably 12th otherwise there will not be much incentive for the last couple starters.

      But 12 points means half a gp so maybe it should be half gp length.

      One twist that would probably not be ideal is that any front runners having qualifying mishaps could find themselevs at the front of the sprint grid which would seal a win really and 12 points which is alot. Worse than this would be those taking engine penalties, would effectively get a free 10 or so points.

      So maybe keeping the 30 minute sprint qualy is not a bad thing.

      And although I do like the idea of the GP grid being reversed. Wouldn’t it mean that the lower teams could just purposefully start from the back for GP where they won’t likely get many points, and so give themselves a good chance of picking up a podium in the sprint? Which for a lower team is a lot of points

  4. I agree with Horner, reverse grid top 10 and more points, something like MotoGP (half points). Maybe also 50% race distance, bit more kilometers, still no mandatory pit stop.

  5. Every single bit of research F1 has ever done concluded that the idea of reverse-grid sprint races is overwhelmingly unpopular among fans. It’s gimmicky WWE-esque rubbish that simply does not belong in F1. That is why the idea was rightly rejected the last few times it was brought up in the Strategy Group and why it should always be rejected. But year after year it just keeps getting brought up.
    Liberty Media appears to operate under the assumption that as long as they leave the Sunday race alone, they can change whatever they want in pursuit of new casual fans and more money. Existing fans and especially enthusiasts may complain, but will still keep watching. The drop in engagement and viewing figures for sprint weekends compared to regular weekends this year should be a warning sign that this might not be the case. The novelty factor has worn off, and fans have started to tune out. Also, the CotA boss was saying that Friday and Saturday ticket sales actually dropped compared to last year while Sunday sales were up. He says they saw no benefits in having a sprint weekend and probably won’t apply for one again.
    Alienating existing fans in pursuit of new casual fans and more money never works out in the long-term.

    1. Spot on.
      Already happened for me.
      Cancelled my subscription to Kayo – don’t even bother watching highlights these days

    2. I don’t think people will care when they get to see more racing, especially in a horrible season like this. All drivers would be forced to race their rivals and even in closer seasons this doesn’t always happen much.

  6. Reverse the whole field based on championship order. Or make a fan vote and make up the grid based on the results. Or random draw. Whatever.

    The less points awarded the merrier as it affects the championship less, so less harm done.

    1. Or make a fan vote and make up the grid based on the results

      Oh, my, ***
      One step away from the electric Mario Kart “fan boost”
      What next? Pinball table style flippers built into the barriers to allow fans to modify the race?

  7. They have to do something, ‘races’ like the one yesterday will do nothing positive for F1’s reputation. Personally I never liked these sprint races, I would rather they just kept the practice sessions so the teams can be as competitive as possible on the Sunday. Also I think these double qualifying sessions are too much. I think this is the best qualifying format we’ve had in F1, but I get a bit tired of them effectively having the same qualifying twice on the same circuit on consecutive days.

  8. Bring back the grid girls while we’re at it, am I right Christian?

    Seriously though reverse grids are the pinnacle of manufactured drama, do it F1, jump that shark… Especially for the rest of this season, what is there to lose? Everything is wrapped up. I wanna see Verstappen carve through the pack like he’s playing against easy AI.

    1. Reverse grids, I suspect, were and remain the ultimate goal of the Sprint Race introduction. You introduce fans to the concept slowly. People are far more likely to accept radical change if you do it in small stages. Now people are calling for reverse grids who otherwise would’ve been opposed.

      1. Worked on me

      2. Pretty much this.

        They’ve wanted it since day 1 and they’ll get their way.

        F1 as we know it will slowly become something that we won’t even recognise.

    2. Well they better hurry up and do it for next year, or better than that just trial it this year

  9. Or maybe don’t do sprint races with endurance cars.

    That’s one circle that can’t be squared, no matter how many gimmicks they come up with.

  10. If F1 insists on having sprint races, I’d be happy with trying a reverse championship order grid.

  11. Coventry Climax
    22nd October 2023, 12:14

    Why on earth would you want to push during qualifying, if the result of that is reversed anyway?
    And if it’s ‘only’ the top ten that’s reversed, drivers will start to aim for tenth during qualifying. We’ve seen that before in other classes.

    1. Because the original result of the qualifying would set up the grid for the GP.

    2. Why on earth would you want to push during qualifying, if the result of that is reversed anyway?

      Amazing that people still don’t understand how a reverse grid system works…

      And if it’s ‘only’ the top ten that’s reversed, drivers will start to aim for tenth during qualifying. We’ve seen that before in other classes.

      Examples? And how successful are they? And finally, are they also doing it in machinery that is fundamentally unequal with no controls (such as BoP or success ballast)?

  12. I disagree. I don’t find anything wrong with the current format.

  13. We had sprint races for a few seasons. It is obvious that this thing isn’t really working. I just hope they don’t make it worse with reverse grids.

    For me, additional race would make sense if we have 30+ cars, like in the early 90’s, trying to qualify for a Grand Prix limited to 26 cars.

    For example, let’s say that there are 32 entries for a GP.

    On Friday there would be two practice sessions. Top 16 fastest from combined practice times are guaranteed to to take a place in GP. That way, Friday wouldn’t be “meaningless”, because drivers would need to set a competitive lap time.

    On Saturday, a sprint-like qualifying race (limited to 45 mins or 150 kilometers) would take place between 16 slowest cars from Friday’s combined practice sessions. Top 10 from that race would qualify for qualifying session, while for the slowest 6, theirs race weekend would be over.
    That qualifying race would actually have a purpose (unlike the current sprint race), and it wouldn’t diminish GP race (like the current one kind of does). Obviously, no points would be given for qualifying race.

    Then we would proceed to standard qualifying session later on that Saturday with 26 cars, and to a normal GP race on Sunday.

    Friday – FP1 & FP2
    Saturday – Qualifying race & Qualifying
    Sunday – GP race

  14. The current system sucks.

    Reverse grids artificially condense the competition, making the championship artificially tighter, particularly on tracks with limited overtaking. What’s better is random grids for sprints, without qualifying. Nobody needs two qualifying sessions in a weekend. But adding more fake randomess isn’t ideal. My proposal: before the season starts, allocate 1000 bidding points to each team. They can have a session where they bid on starting grid positions for each sprint race. This is totally fair and eliminates randomness and we get fun sprint races.

  15. I say, let’s give 25 points to the winner of the sprint to make it more interesting – and then of course also triple the distance, otherwise it’s unfair.
    Then move the whole thing to Sunday so that fans don’t have to tune in to 2 competitive sessions on the same day, which is rather confusing.
    Of course that way there will be no room for the Grand Prix in the schedule anymore, so just do away with that completely.
    There you go – everything fixed.

  16. If they introduced reverse grids i’d go from simply not watching the Saturday’s of sprint weekends to not watching any of the weekend.

    Reverse grids are the definition of show over sport, Quantity over quality fake ‘entertainment’ that ends up meaning nothing because of how contrived it is.

    If one of the mid-field drivers won a reverse grid sprint it wouldn’t be seen as that big of an achievement just as the drivers in F2 who have only won a reverse grid sprint over the years were never looked at as been as good as those who could win from pole in the feature.

    If you need to constantly mess with the sprint format every year to try & find something that works then it’s pretty obvious that the sprint format itself simply isn’t very good, Isn’t very popular & should be scrapped. If you need to go full artificial gimmick fake entertainment with it via reverse grids then it’s blatantly obvious that the idea of a sprint weekend format simply isn’t viable for F1.

    Just get rid of these awful sprint weekends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. The idea is inherently flawed. You want a mini race with mini points because you don’t want to dilute the Grand Prix event. But yet you want to be able to hype it up hard like it’s a knives out flat out battle when it will never be that.

    Maybe we end up with a double header on the weekend. Two practices in Friday. Q on Saturday morning. And a 250km race on Saturday and Sunday each. I would prefer that to this current approach. Maybe the teams are just not set up with consumables and equipment for two races.

    1. Maybe we end up with a double header on the weekend. Two practices in Friday. Q on Saturday morning. And a 250km race on Saturday and Sunday each. I would prefer that to this current approach.

      But that’d be like Indycar, and F1 can’t have that. Two proper races in a single weekend? How regional.

      One a more serious note – if F1 insists on having two races, then have two races. That’s cool! Races are much better than free practice for viewers. But they have to be the same race. Perhaps make them a bit shorter and adjust cars and tyres accordingly. But you can’t do two types of races with one car.

      1. Was just posting as you both wrote the above ! Apologies

  18. How about:

    – 2 Full Grand Prix some weekends.
    – Only pick tracks which have 2+ decent and different layouts, eg Bahrain.
    – Completely different tyres and different DRS zones so each race won’t suit the same setup.

    I did think the sprints would be good, but because there is less time for jeopardy to occur they are usually dull, particularly this year.

    1. – Only pick tracks which have 2+ decent and different layouts, eg Bahrain.

      This is an interesting one, there aren’t many of them but even a small change (like with or without the Paul Ricard chicane) could give two pretty different races.

  19. CaliFormula1fan
    22nd October 2023, 14:21

    Here’s how I imagine a reverse grid playing out on track: 15 cars arrive at turn 1-2 simultaneously, as the faster cars in the rear catch up to the slower cars in the front. Rookies in the front lose control and in less than five seconds $15,000,000 worth of F1 cars are scrapped 24 hours before the Grand Prix.

    Horner is just yanking FIA’s chain.

  20. When something completely sucks, just be rid of it. Reversed garbage is still garbage. And making the garbage more important by awarding more points… Yeah, that would make it stink less.

  21. Horner should listen to the driver bringing the championships. Scrap the sprint mess.

  22. I find more more entresting Shootout Qualifying instead Sprint, but I don’t want Sprint so Shootout Qualifying are useless. Just stop with it, it doesn’t have sense that one race value more than another, is a blasphemy.
    Stop with Sprint, is so difficult to understand?

    1. *interesting

  23. Thing with reverse grids is that your just going to end up with slower drivers getting meaningless wins/podiums that nobody will ever think of as been any real achievement.

    Even if you reverse the top 10 and you end up with Alonso hanging on to win having started 1st, Would that be a ‘win’ that anyone thinks of as been a big achievement or something thats looked back on as a real win or remembered in any way?

    You see it in other categories that do reverse grid sprint races. Nobody ever talks about the reverse grid sprint winner and nobody ever remembered the drivers who’s only wins in that category came in a reverse grid sprint. They are just not considered real wins.

    It’s meaningless action for the sake of action. Yes it may well create a lot of passing as the fast guys come through & yes it will create mixed up results. But at the end of the day none of it will matter, None of it will be remembered & none of it will be viewed as been all that great because very little of it will be actual exciting & competitive racing.

    Case in point would be Hamilton in the Brazil 2021 sprint, A drive that was used by Ross Brawn at the time as the reason reverse grids would be great. None of the slower guys put up a fight, None of the passes were that fun to watch & there was no competitive bits of racing to get excited about or remember after the fact. Yes he passed a lot of cars & the state will therefore show a lot of passing took place….. But it was all completely forgettable.

    It’s the same with the sprint as it currently is. It’s a race that means less, Which is basically forgettable & which does nothing but take away from the main race on Sunday by giving everyone a better idea of how the race will play out. And as we saw in Qatar it creates unnecessary things like Piastri winning something that F1 don’t call a race but where the media ignore that & still call him an F1 winner when in reality he isn’t as he’s never won a GP.

    The whole sprint race thing should be scrapped and deemed the total failure that is so clearly has been.

  24. I say we really spice up the sprints by requiring the drivers to complete one lap on a bicycle. Think of all the fascinating strategy angles that would introduce! Gamble on a safety car, and pit for your cycle lap while the other cars are at reduced speed? Command the respect of the crowd by taking the start on a bike? Pirelli can bring three of their cycling offerings for the teams to choose from to deliver maximum viewer interest! It might be rough for the first few races, but I’m sure it would work with “further tuning”. Unless of course they make the penalty for not completing your cycling lap a five second penalty…

  25. José Lopes da Silva
    24th October 2023, 11:16

    Making the sprint races as a separate marketing product from the Grand Prix would benefit everyone.
    Ideally with reserve drivers; if it has to include the Grand Prix drivers, make them race with reverse grids. No one would be against that – everyone would love to watch that.

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