Sprint race start, Circuit of the Americas, 2023

F1’s latest sprint race change is logical but not more exciting – Verstappen

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen called Formula 1’s latest change to its sprint event format an improvement, though he still has little enthusiasm for the short races.

F1 has altered the structure of its sprint format every year since it was introduced in 2021. The latest revision is to the order in which the sessions take place.

Under the new arrangement, qualifying for the grand prix will always be the last F1 track action on Saturdays, as was the case before the sprint format was introduced. The sprint races will be held beforehand, meaning they will take place in the morning at some rounds.

Verstappen said the revised order has “a bit more logic” now. However the driver who has won more sprint races than anyone else added “for me, I don’t get more excited by winning a sprint or fighting for these kind of races,” he told media including RaceFans at the team’s launch event.

F1’s parc ferme restrictions have also been revised, giving teams greater freedom to adjust their cars during sprint race weekends than last year. Verstappen praised that change.

“That’s a bit better,” he said. “Sometimes you get stuck and you know that your weekend is ruined and you know you can’t really change anything. So for sure it will help.

Alpine driver Pierre Gasly called the parc ferme change a “great” move.

“I think that was missing, definitely,” he said. “We ended up last year having amazing, brilliant genius guys on a Friday afternoon being forbidden to touch anything on our car. And that’s what they are paid for, that’s why they are the best.”

The previous sprint weekend arrangement left teams too little time to improve their cars, said Gasly.

“It was a bit sad because they have much more to bring to the table than just one or two clicks of front [wing] flap and tyre pressure. I think F1 is the top of engineering and I think it’s great we still give them the opportunity to always do these continuous improvements through the weekend.”

“You [didn’t] have time to try anything because you have one hour practice, you’re quite limited,” he added. “So it was always like try to do the work in the simulator and if you realise you didn’t start the weekend with the best set-up your window to react was extremely small. I just thought it was definitely the right change.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “F1’s latest sprint race change is logical but not more exciting – Verstappen”

  1. this adds the possibility of winning the championship on a saturday morning, and then being occupied with qualifying in the afternoon of the same day

    1. I’m sorry to say, I think some people are determined to find every possible problem with sprint races and any suggestion on how to alter the current format for a weekend. They are against every proposal at all costs.

      I remember the FIA played around with the qualifying format a lot in the early 00s and they went through several phases including one lap quali. If they didn’t have the GUTS to do it we wouldn’t have the exciting Q1 Q2 Q3 format we have today, we’d still have the two one hour sessions, one on Friday one on Saturday.

      I think FIA/FOM need to stop worrying about the reaction of the fans and find a solution that makes weekends more interesting.

      They know that the current format is not working as fully intended because the initial idea was to have a (partial) reverse grid sprint race. They were scared by fans reaction, complaining commentators and I think Toto Wolff also tried to stop it. Now we have a compromise solution that doesn’t add the jeopardy and intensity F1 was looking for.

      1. The idea was that a sprint race would produce more exciting grids for the real race. The thee stage qualifying doesn’t do that at all, because it gives drivers over half a dozen chances to put in a lap, and the main protagonists always go through to Q3, no matter how much commentators try to pretend otherwise.

        The problem is, racing is usually even more predictable than qualifying, especially when the drivers aren’t going to take risks due to a lack of rewards and potential for compromising their car. Plus they are all going to be nursing their tyres for a no-stop strategy.

        Sprint races will never “work” because these are not sprint cars.

        1. It’s not about them being sprint cars or not, or even using sprint tyres or not – it’s about how risk-averse F1 teams are, and how much data they have access to to make decisions with. Their approach is for F1 to be as controlled and manageable as possible, which automatically means that the competitive aspect will always be minimised – especially on-track – regardless of how long the race is.
          When they determine that a risk isn’t worth the reward, they don’t even bother trying. Not exactly the competitive spirit that some people still think F1 teams have.

          One sure-fire way to make sprint races ‘work’ is for them to have only one qualifying session that sets the GP grid, and for that same order to be reversed for the sprint race. As in, a reverse grid sprint race – exactly as originally planned and exactly as per the way every other series that uses them does it. Unsurprisingly…
          All this watering down of the sprint concept is what has ruined it for everyone – even those who vow to never watch it. Perhaps especially for those people.

          1. I don’t recall any talk of reversing the order initially, when it was still called ‘super qualifying’ by some teams in early 2021. The idea was to have qualifying very early on, with little preparation, then have the ‘sprint qualifying’ to determine the grid. The idea being that skipping practise, having a less-than-ideal qualifying and then a short and somewhat frantic race would produce a very mixed grid for the race.

            In reality, that doesn’t happen. Teams might be a little less prepared (Austria 2022 being perhaps the only time it cost a team the win) but the qualifying is mostly as normal, and the sprint qualifying was never really that frantic. The reaction to the race winner being the pole winner was also very unpopular, which eventually led to this silly seperation where there are two seperate qualifying sessions and two seperate races, with the reverse grid coming to the fore in 2023 because it was still such a dull event.

            F1 cars, arranged by race pace thanks to qualifying and parc fermé, will never have a lot of racing for position. Especially not when they all have the same fuel level, same tyres, and no limitations on ‘push to pass’ type of systems. They can give the winner of the sprint race a thousand points, but that’s going to get an Alpine or Aston Martin starting in 8th to win it.

          2. * That’s not going to get an Alpine or Aston Martin to win it, obviously.

          3. Earlier than that – when the initial concept of F1 using a sprint anything was being tossed about.
            And then the problems started… Compromise took over, and surprise, surprise, nobody was satisfied with the resulting session format they came to.

            They can give the winner of the sprint race a thousand points, but that’s not going to get an Alpine or Aston Martin starting in 8th to win it.

            Absolutely – but that’s not what the big players in the F1 management game want, and why they won’t allow any conditions which encourage that possibility to be introduced.

    2. “this adds the possibility of winning the championship on a saturday morning, and then being occupied with qualifying in the afternoon of the same day”

      That would be the most exciting spring race possible! ;) But you need to also consider all the BENEFICIAL possibilities it brings!
      A sprint race may also RE-ENABLE a final race show-down in the final GP! Instead of the WDC being decided in the penultimate GP!

      If Verstappen leads Alonso by 27 points after the penultimate GP, the WDC would be decided there and then, making the last GP of the season would pointless.
      BUT, with a sprint race, Alonso can shoot himself back to contention. In the best scenario he could lessen the gap to 19 points in the sprint of the final round and we would have the final GP as a WDC showdown.

  2. If we are going to sprints in the morning, what about mid week at other track? Imagine, Wednesday evening sprint at Donnington Park (proceeded by half hour practise and half hour qualifying without q1, q2 or Q3). Normal weekend at Silverstone. Wednesday evening sprint at Brands Hatch. I know it would be logistically challenging.

    1. The logistics are the biggest problem. The teams insist that they need 80 people and 40 trucks worth of stuff just to start the engine on their race cars these days, despite seeming to have no trouble having 3 or 4 people do it with 1 truck for demonstration events.
      Then there are already constant complaints about how hard it is for the poor little dears having to work like this, as though there aren’t enough people in the world capable of doing such work. Even though they keep happily supporting the extension the calendar when offered more money….

      If it were the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, this would absolutely be a great idea – but today, modern F1 (teams) simply wouldn’t accept it.

      1. F1 team sizes today are crazy. In 1954, Stirling Moss’s team consisted of himself, Ken Gregory the manager, and Alf Francis who was the mechanic and also drove the van which took the car from circuit to circuit. Twenty years later, the Tyrell team which built its own chassis and won the championship with Jackie Stewart driving for them had about 12 members altogether, and Ken Tyrell had to drive the transporter to the European races because no-one else in the team had the right type of driving license for driving trucks in Europe.

    2. Logistically challenging is an understatement.

    3. Not to mention there would also be the problem of providing marshaling for the event; the track workers are unpaid volunteers.

      1. And despite being unpaid, they’d still be much more happy to do it than those who get paid.

    4. Some tracks have alternative configurations, so maybe there is some merit in having the Sprint Race on one of the other configurations.

  3. Coventry Climax
    18th February 2024, 9:15

    Gives me the option to just watch the GrandPrix’ again, and simply ignore all smallprix’, like they never existed.
    I’m tempted even, to keep track of the GrandPrix scoring only, and declare my own champions at the end of the season.

    Let’s face it: ‘Improving’ something means it wasn’t quite perfect before. They’ve changed it three times in a row now, attempting improvement, and there’s no signal whatsoever that they won’t change it again for the years to come.

    Shame on F1 for even introducing something that flawed to begin with, and shame on F1 for not just admitting it’s a failure and abomination, even after the changes.
    Sole reason they keep going? Money. In my book though, and certainly in sports, there’s many, many more parameters to measure success by, I’m not even sure gaining money is actually one of them.
    Proof? Not that I agree with the ideology, but just ask the Saudi’s why they poor money into so many sports these days.

    1. They’ve changed it three times in a row now, attempting improvement

      No – they’ve changed it to keep the complainers quiet for a while.
      F1’s fetish for constant compromise and attempts to satisfy all stakeholders at once is what makes everything less ‘good’ than it could – and should – be.

      Sole reason they keep going? Money.

      Sole reason F1 exists at all? Money. Find me a participant in F1 who is doing it for free.
      There are plenty of people who go racing in other categories of motorsport without accepting any financial incentives, though – and ‘F1 people’ typically look down on them as untalented and unprofessional…

      Why do the Saudi’s pour money in to sports? Because they have it – lots of it in fact, and they know how much other people want it.
      Their money is fundamentally no different to the money used in other countries for the exact same purposes, nor are their reasons for spending it on globally popular events such as F1.

    2. They’ve pretty much made it so these abominations are here to stay.

      It’s only a matter of time before some events will be wholly sprints, probably 3 of them with no actual Grand Prix race as we know it.

      Any they’ll make one of them reverse grid.

      1. Coventry Climax
        18th February 2024, 12:26

        That’s my fear too.

    3. If the competition for the top is as serious as the last 2 years, the champion and no-sprint champion won’t change at all, neither in the drivers’ nor the constructors’, you’d need to have a season like 2021 for that to make a difference, generally.

      1. Coventry Climax
        18th February 2024, 12:20

        Not sure what you’re trying to say here, @esploratore
        Smallprix are OK because one team happens to be dominant?
        We’re safe just following the GrandPrix because there’s no impact on the outcome?

        Either way depends on a team being dominant, but that makes it all OK?
        Sounds like death penalty is OK as long as we fail to succesfully execute it.

        1. I am unsure @esploratore1 is ‘trying to say’ anything? It just seem to be a simple clarification / statement of fact that there would have been no meaningful impact in those seasons, which doesn’t mean they think it is okay, or indeed not okay.

  4. This is the order, that me and just about every commenter here said would make the most sense when their ridiculous first order was announced. How it’s taken them this long to realise that the logical order of the event would be worth even trying is… I dunno, insert whatever superlative you want.

    How can F1 not be doing better than this with all the money involved? Seriously… Not even tried a race without DRS, spending years on a format that’s widely panned without trying anything else, never attempting any kind of fix for the pointless 5 second penalty which ruins the sporting integrity of the races…

    Sure it’s the biggest spectacle in the world, but is it there because of the management of the series, or despite it?

    1. How it’s taken them this long to realise that the logical order of the event would be worth even trying is…

      …is on a par with involving unproven, bleeding edge tech “AI” to assist humans in policing track limits when using cheap 1970s tech pressure sensors in the lines would do the job without the human error component.
      “Touching the lines is a penalty”, specify penalty, end of rule.

      Basically, they leap toward the new, shiny, glitzy instead of sitting back, pausing to think and doing an analysis of what is wrong and the simplest method of making it right.

  5. It’s the best possible order of sessions. Although I’d only put cars under Parc Ferme conditions after qualifying for the GP. Let’s handle the sprint events as practice sessions from Parc Fermé perspective.

    On an other note, I bet Sprint Qualifying viewership numbers will plummet. Sprint qualifying could be changed so that it’s a 60-minute session and everybody does whatever and whenever they like. Like an FP2 session.

    1. Coventry Climax
      18th February 2024, 12:35

      It’s the best possible order of sessions.

      In my opinion, the best order of sessions does not feature any sprint related things at all.
      It’s called a Grand Prix fcs, anything else simply isn’t and takes away from it.

      If you must race current F1 cars in something else than Grand Prix too, then fine, but don’t have it interfere with the F1 championship or any Grand Prix weekend in any way.
      My opinion: Go do your F1 Street Sprint Shait at other times and separately please.

      1. Yeah, I meant best possible order after not having a Sprint altogether.

        1. Coventry Climax
          18th February 2024, 15:39

          Glad we cleared that up!

  6. i didn’t watch a single second of any of the sprint gimmick friday or saturday stuff the last 2 years and won’t be watching any of them this year or in any future years.

    when you have gimmicky nonsense that is making avid fans who have been watching for decades not want to watch some of the track action over the weekend & skip days entirely then your doing something wrong!

    1. And that’s the only way we can get the message across.

      I go even further – I won’t watch any part at all on those weekends, including the main race.

      Unfortunately I believe F1 is now aiming at the highlights watchers on social media because they’re buying into the “fans want short exciting packages not long boring races” that our younger generations seem to want.

      1. @dbradock But “if” that is what the younger generations want, then are you not effectively saying they are headed in the correct logical direction?

      2. I go even further – I won’t watch any part at all on those weekends, including the main race.

        So, you’re a ‘real’ F1 fan then..?

  7. Sprint races were added, of course, to make the weekend more exciting for the fans. Problem is, the teams have little interest in making the weekend more interesting to the fans, their sole interest is maximizing their results at the end of the year. If they see the reward of winnning some points in the sprint as not worth the risk of compromising their race, they are going to be conservative in the sprint.

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