For those unfamiliar with the sprint format, it was introduced as a way to shake up the traditional Formula 1 weekend.
In this new format, there is a one-hour practice session on Friday, followed by a qualifying session in the afternoon to determine the starting grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Saturday is dedicated to a slightly revised qualifying session and a 200km sprint race in the afternoon. This has led to mixed reactions from fans, teams, and drivers alike.
Not Enough Practice Time
One major criticism of the sprint format is that the single one-hour practice session on Friday isn’t enough for teams and drivers to properly prepare for the weekend’s races.
This also means that fans don’t get much time to see the cars on track, to see the little changes on the cars,and it’s more difficult to gauge the performance of the teams and the tires.
The limited practice time could potentially lead to less exciting races, as teams are less able to experiment with different strategies and predict how the tires will perform.
Another issue with the sprint format is that it can be confusing for fans, especially those who aren’t die-hard Formula 1 enthusiasts.
The sprint race on Saturday might be mistaken for a mini Grand Prix, and it can be difficult for fans to understand which qualifying session determines the grid for which race.
This confusion could potentially turn away casual viewers like some of my friends that didn’t understand at all the weekend and who might otherwise be interested in following the sport.
High Profile Criticisms
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has been one of the most vocal critics of the sprint format, calling the Azerbaijan Grand Prix “boring.”
He pointed out that there wasn’t much overtaking during the race, despite significant pace differences between the cars. Wolff believes that the sport needs to focus on improving the on-track battles, rather than trying to create artificial excitement through new formats.
World champion Max Verstappen has also expressed his disdain for the sprint format, going as far as to say he would consider leaving the sport if the number of sprint race weekends increased. Verstappen feels that the format is too artificial and doesn’t represent real racing.
His sentiment is echoed by other drivers like Williams’ Alex Albon, who feels that the sprint format only benefits the top teams.
Some Positive Perspectives
Despite the criticisms, there are some drivers who enjoy the sprint format.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has praised the format for reducing wasted time during a race weekend and bringing more excitement to the sport.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc also sees potential in the sprint format, saying that it’s better than last year’s version and could be an interesting addition to a few races per year.
My Opinion: A Mixed Bag
In my opinion, the sprint format is a mixed bag. While it does bring some added excitement and intensity to the race weekend, it also has its drawbacks.
The limited practice time and confusing format can be frustrating for both teams and fans, and there’s a risk of the sport losing its core identity in an attempt to create artificial excitement.
The sprint race also spoil the fun of the main race, we could see the pace from the red bull and no one was surprised on Sunday!
I believe that the sprint format could work as an occasional addition to the Formula 1 calendar, but it shouldn’t become the standard format for every race.
I believe the sport should focus on :
- Improving the on-track battles by becoming more strict on dirty air rules and appendices
- Downsizing the car size to allow more space in battle, they war so wide and long
- Not expand the calendar and even reduce it, bringing back the wait and the extraordinary feeling of a Sunday race rather than relying on gimmicks to boost excitement.