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Formula 1

Verstappen steps up F1 sprint criticism: ‘Scrap the whole thing’

by Josh Suttill
4 min read

Max Verstappen’s view of Formula 1’s sprint weekend format tweaks is that the series should “scrap the whole thing”.

F1 debuted its new sprint weekend structure in Baku on Saturday with an additional ‘shootout’ qualifying in the morning followed by the standard sprint race in the afternoon.

The format tweaks have made sprint day a standalone event with Friday qualifying now setting the grid for Sunday’s grand prix and Saturday’s running having no bearing on the grand prix outside of grid penalties.

Verstappen started F1’s first sprint race of 2023 in third place but had to survive a bruising battle with George Russell on the opening lap left him with damage to his Red Bull RB19.

He recovered to pass Russell and finish third but as well as expressing his anger at Russell he took his latest shot at F1’s sprint race format in the post-sprint-race press conference.

“Just scrap the whole thing,” Verstappen said when asked for his thoughts on the format.

“I think it’s just important to go back to what we had and make sure that every team can fight for the win, that’s what we have to try and aim for [rather than] trying to implement all these kinds of artificial excitement.

“I got bored through today’s qualifying. I like to have one particular qualifying where you just put everything in it, which was yesterday which I of course enjoyed. But then we had to do it again today.

“I was like ‘my God, another qualifying’. I just don’t really enjoy that.”

Verstappen has been a long-term critic of F1’s sprint race having previously said it goes against the “DNA of Formula 1” and that they’re about “surviving rather than racing” at the Australian Grand Prix earlier this month.

Verstappen added to that in Baku by saying the motivation for the sprints is all about adding to the show rather than improving the racing.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sprint Day Baku, Azerbaijan

“Yeah it’s hectic, I think it’s not proper racing, it’s more gambling, I’d have more success in Vegas if I go to the casino,” Verstappen continued.

“I like racing, I’m a pure racer and I think this is more for the show.

“Of course it’s important to have entertainment but I think if all the cars are close enough you create better entertainment anyway rather than trying to do it like this.

“It feels like you have a football match, and one team is 3-0 up and you just say ‘ah let’s just reset it to 0-0 and go again’.

“I find these things a bit unnecessary.”

Sprint race victor Sergio Perez was more supportive of the sprint weekend but believes the standard grand prix weekend must remain as it is for the majority of races.

He also criticised the tyre rule in the qualifying shootout that resulted in Lando Norris being unable to run in SQ3 as he had no sets of new softs available and used tyres were not permitted. That rule wording anomaly is set to be tidied for future events.

“We don’t want this to become a standard weekend,” Perez said.

“What we have in a normal weekend makes it really exciting for fans, it’s what we’ve grown up with and it’s how it should stay.

“But I’m happy if we have three or four races like this with the sprint format and just making sure we correct small details like the timing, like the usage of the tyres.

“It looked really bad to have [Norris] without tyres in SQ3.

“Make sure we correct for that and just have a few races like this a year maximum.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Azerbaijan Grand Prix Sprint Day Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku sprint polesitter and runner-up Charles Leclerc started by saying he “doesn’t hate this format” and it’s an improvement on last year’s but agreed with Perez that “three or four” is a good number of sprints per season. This year’s calendar features an increase from three to six.

“I think it puts a lot more pressure on the drivers because basically there’s only one session where you can do a mistake, FP1,” Leclerc said.

“After that every lap you do is very important and you also have a lot less preparation so the preparation for the race, the [race] simulations are extremely important.

“Things I would like to change is the rule of the new soft in SQ3. I think it was a shame to not see Lando driving this morning because he didn’t have a set of tyres.

“There are some things, the timing [a four-hour gap between the shootout and the sprint race] that can be changed to improve those weekends.”

Lewis Hamilton concurred with Leclerc’s stance on the weekend timetable, saying there is “a lot of time wasted on the weekend” and that the schedule could have been compressed into “a shorter amount of days”.

“Four hours of waiting between sessions today, today we could have done at least three sessions,” he added.

“I don’t know if it would be possible with all the other formulas going on.”

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