Sprint race start, Interlagos, 2023

Team bosses will ‘dictate’ sprint format changes regardless of drivers’ views

Formula 1

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Drivers’ concerns over Formula 1’s sprint format are unlikely to factor in any future changes to it, says Lando Norris.

The series held its final sprint race of the 2023 season at Interlagos today. But the top three finishers, who were separated by 13.6 seconds after the 24-lap race, had little positive to say about the latest sprint event.

Amid reports the sprint race format will be changed again for the 2024 F1 season, today’s winner Max Verstappen reiterated his total dislike of the format.

“Just a normal race weekend, please, thank you,” he said. “I’m not interested in any change. I don’t like it.”

However Norris, who echoed Verstappen’s preference for the regular race weekend format earlier this weekend, said the drivers’ feelings about it will make no difference to what F1 decides to do next year.

“It doesn’t matter what we say,” the McLaren driver explained. “Our choices rarely have much effect with anything, especially with this. Everything seems dictated by team bosses and what they want to do and what they choose to do.”

While the format has been billed by F1 as an opportunity for drivers to push flat-out from start to finish without having to take strategy into consideration, Verstappen said he had to back off to look after his tyres on every lap of today’s race.

However Norris questioned whether the races would be improved by encouraging drivers to go flat-out throughout.

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“I think if everyone is pushing flat-out, I would say you’d almost probably see fewer overtakes than what you would today. So in that sense, you’re simply asking for a more boring race, which is not what you want.

“So I think what we had today is tough and maybe not the most enjoyable, you don’t feel like you’re pushing that much, but you’re still driving on the limit of the grip you’ve got and all of those things. It’s still a challenge for us behind the wheel. I think it’s exciting for the people who get it right and people who don’t get it right.

“But if you’ve got no degradation at all then I’d probably say you’re not going to have one overtake for the whole race.”

Sergio Perez also believes the format has not been a success in its current guise. He believes introducing reverse grid races, which F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has repeatedly called for, is worth considering.

“If they want to keep this format of sprint races, we’ve got to change it,” he said. “I would propose a reverse grid, something like that, to make it more interesting for the fans.

“Because I don’t think it’s working, what we want to achieve. Nothing really happens in these sort of races.”

Reverse grid races would “mix up things and create more opportunities, a lot more overtaking,” said Perez. “If we want to keep this format, give it a go on something quite different. Because I think for the last two years, this sort of event hasn’t brought a lot of good racing.”

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23 comments on “Team bosses will ‘dictate’ sprint format changes regardless of drivers’ views”

  1. They can do whatever they want with this. I just don’t even care anymore. In any normal situation they’d realize they’ve been fixing a broken machine since the beginning and they’d scrap it altogether but that’s not going to happen. So if they want to go bezerk with it, just do it. Force them to run rain tyres on a dry track, or maybe force the drivers to wear clown shoes and leg calipers. It’s not going to be any worse anyway…

    1. Billy Rae Flop
      4th November 2023, 22:40

      Which is why they should do something completely different to the GP. Aka reverse grid so that the top teams and drivers are forced to race. Also would give bottom teams a chance at good points.
      The issue of qualifying is real though. Separate quali for a reverse sprint would incentivise qualifying poorly. So a reverse of the GP grid makes sense. However some lower teams then may purposefully still qualify low for the GP to give a chance of more points in the sprint

      Therefore reverse championship order makes most sense.

      Now the issue of points. There needs to be enough to give the back starters something to aim for realistically but not so much that the GP is threatened. I’d say down to 10 or maybe 12th.

      Now another option is a separate sprint championship and then award points down to 20th for the reverse sprint races.

      The real problem is that they’ve taken 3 season to try out different ways of holding sprint races and in that time they haven’t managed to come up with a concrete format lol.

      They easily could have experiment with at least two different sprint formants this season in preparation for a solid format going forward next season but of course they did not.

      1. What has a reverse grid to do with sports performance? Reverse grid basically states F1 is 100% entertainment. And from there on you can literally then do anything which eventually will end up with them putting celebrities in the cars.

        1. Exactly. I think it’ll be evident when the ensuing chaos of Reverse Grids provides a lot of stories from Saturday we’ll see calls for Sunday’s GP format to change to keep pace with the new ‘exciting’ Saturdays. This was all set in stone when Sprints were first introduced. I guess it’s a form of iconoclasm to replace break Traditional F1 Format with a new paradigm, but it had to be done gently and in small steps. This is basic psychology 101.

          As you state if Reverse Grids do come in, which I think is likely, we really can expect radical changes soon enough.

      2. Reverse grids make no sense at all. What incentive is there to race in Grand Prix for bottom teams if they can decide their order and gain most of their points in sprints? What sporting value’s in it? Please, just stop suggesting fixes to what is inherently broken and unfit for F1.

        1. The Sprint introduction in 2021 meant F1 entered a state of perpetually being broken and in need of fixes. Especially since it’s a 6 events per year thing it invited criticism and ideation. Now it’s there, it needs ‘fixing’. And whatever fix that is introduced with have unintended consequences that again will need to be fixed. F1 will then train the audience to expect novelty and you get a downward spiral.

          Unless the traditionalists gain some traction F1 could be in for a real rough time from a Sporting perspective.

    2. I love the Sprint format, especially in tracks that allow for good racing, like Interlagos. One adjustment I think it could be made next year is to scrap the Sprint shootout and instead run the Sprint race in reverse grid order of the main race qualifying session. The weekend could run with 1 practice session and quali for main race on Friday, Sprint race on Saturday in reverse grid order, and main race on Sunday.

  2. Average new F1 fan (coming from the reality show/documentary from Netflix) is more interested in team principals than drivers anyway. Maybe they’ll get to enjoy a spicy five minutes segment about this in the next season of the show, when they argue about the format. As for me, I’ll be forced to endure six more sprint weekends next season (I hope “only” six).
    It’s not a particular sprint race, or how exciting/boring they are. I don’t want to spend my weekends watching two qualy sessions and two races. Practise I can skip when it’s not interesting, but if I skip sessions that count; that’s different (I like to watch the entire season, at least competitive sessions). So I’m kinda forced to choose between “enjoying” the crazy format or breaking my tradition and losing touch with the sport. If someone really likes this, couldn’t they just watch the replay? Do they really have to do things twice (but only once “for real”).

  3. It’d be interesting to see if a backmarker team with a limited budget could develop a pure sprint rocket that’s designed to go absolutely flat out for a limited number of laps (a bit like the old qualifying engines) so it could blow away everyone just for a sprint and be absolutely nowhere in a full race due to chewing tyres, limited power etc.

    Imagine if (say) Haas turned up at sprint weekends, won the sprint by 30 seconds and became a mobile chicane for races – they’d probably get way more points that they can at the moment.

    Unfortunately there’s just not the scope for development innovation to be able to do that.

    Of course the best solution is to not have them at all but that’s not going to happen so we’re just going to see more of these abominations in the future because according to Liberty that’s what the fans (well everybody really) wants.

    1. That’s a really interesting concept actually.

      The drivers say they both prefer the normal format AND want less practice.🤔

      1. The obvious answer to which would be two-day weekends – FP1 and qualifying on Saturday, race on Sunday. Might make some of the double- and triple-headers logistically easier, too, which could allow Liberty to expand the calendar even further.

    2. Belongs in Formula E, along with the Power Up Thing, FanBoost and all the other gimmicks. Not wrecking the sport that Fangio, Clark etc built.

    3. Billy Rae Flop
      5th November 2023, 1:19

      This could work really well if reverse sprints were introduced.

      1. Reverse, as in 20 cars driving backwards?

  4. The most recent sprint was decently good, yet some still complain.

    1. Well, the drivers complain they don’t want the sprint, so whether it was good or not is irrelevant; yes, the team leaders and FOM should take that into account, perhaps look at what caused that (changeable conditions in shootout, and Brazil being a pretty good track, I’d wager) and take it into account @jerejj

      As for me, I’m pretty happy just having the Saturday ‘off’ on Sprint weekends. I hope the circumstances today will be a bit different so that the race isn’t now predictable, apart from Verstappen winning, which is par for the course this year anyway.

    2. Over-supply of racing leads to devaluation. The more racing you have the less valuable it becomes. It’s like having your favourite dish every day, at some point it isn’t special any more. Things need to be balanced. So to say “it’s a good race why do people complain?” misses the point. The racing now isn’t as special or meaningful.

    3. It was no better than the first stint of a GP would have been under the same circumstances. We don’t need sprints when the main event is fine (or rather, it isn’t fine, but for reasons unrelated to the length of the races).

  5. The time investment is getting pretty insane for me. I’d like to see a much shorter raceweekend as they keep increasing the calendar length

    1 hour Free practice
    30 mins Qualifying
    1.5 hour Race

    I think they could maybe play with the format once both championships have been decided. Something like excluding the champions from qualifying.

  6. The drivers have much more power than what they think they have. They are the faces of F1 after all.
    If the pre sprint interviews always looked like this:
    Interviewer: You’re starting from pole, how do you see your chances into the 1st corner against Leclerc?
    Verstappen: Hmm, who cares, whatever.

    …and the post sprint interviews looked like that:
    Interviewer: Congratulations on the win!
    Verstappen: Huh, ok… I don’t really care. Let’s wrap it up.

    …this would quickly resonate in the whole F1 world. And the F1 decisionmakers couldn’t be indifferent to it.

    1. Max is pretty vocal about Sprint Races, and has been consistently. Despite this Reserve Grids are back on the agenda somehow.

      sure, it’d not be a good look for F1 if it was even more front and centre, but at the same time I think there’s enough support within the drivers for reverse grids etc… that’d it weather the storm of Max saying it’s terrible.

  7. I would use the sprint races to experiment with the application of DRS. Try some sprint races using the Indycar push to pass format where they have a set allocation for the race which they can use within the DRS zones whenever they want. They could also, heaven forbid, try a sprint race without DRS at a track like Brazil or Spa to see whether it is still even needed at some tracks, or if we could get good racing without it. Then at least the sprint is offering something different to the grand prix, and they might find a better DRS format which they can then apply to grand prix as well.

  8. The issue is that the current Sprint format looks like a mini Grand Prix weekend. If they are going to press ahead with the Sprint format, do make it a distinct event:

    A reversed Sunday grid with no DRS, no pitstops, and perhaps special durable Sprint tyres would make this an event on its own. It would certainly spice up the midfield championship battle as they can fight for or defend the points that are usually reserved for the top three teams.

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