Reigning world champion Max Verstappen is bewildered by Formula 1’s decision to expand to six sprint races from 2023, believing the sport should “just stick to the main race.”
F1 will hold its final sprint race of the season this weekend in Brazil before the qualifying format expands to six events – whose locations are still to be confirmed – next year.
The F1 sprint is a 100km dash to the checkered flag with no mandatory pit stops imposed on drivers. The pole position for the sprint is awarded to the driver who tops the qualifying session on the Friday, while the results of the sprint race then sets the final starting grid for Sunday’s grand prix.
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Sprint races were scheduled at Imola, the Red Bull Ring and Interlagos this season after Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos hosted them last year.
But Verstappen has said he prefers the regular weekend schedule, claiming the risk of damage to the cars or dropping to the rear of the field during the sprint takes away from the competition.
“Every time I do these [sprint] races, it’s about, ‘Don’t get damage, make sure you stay in the top three,'” he said.
“For me, that’s not really a race, because you go into the main race and you know there are way more points available anyway, you just risk a bit more there.
“You do another start (in a sprint race), which is exciting, but it’s only really people who are out of position that move forward because you just put a tire on that lasts a whole stint and not much happens.”
Verstappen argued F1 should “just stick to the main race” as that is where the racing is best showcased.
“I don’t understand what the problem is with that, because we’ve had so many exciting races, so you don’t need to add one-third of a race distance,” he said.
“Everyone is so careful anyway because if you are fighting for third and you have a little touch and you drop to last, you know your Sunday is going to be tough.
“Probably you won’t risk it, so that’s not really a race.”
At last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton charged from last place on the grid to fourth place in the sprint race. He then went on to clinch the grand prix on the Sunday.
Hamilton felt F1 has to be “very selective” where it schedules sprint races – favoring tracks where overtaking is easier – but said he liked the format because it was “different”.
“We’ve had the same Thursday to Sunday for god knows how long,” he said.
“It was supposed to be a three-day weekend this year, and then they changed it back to four days, which I wasn’t too happy about.
“The races are not always the greatest. It does create a few more options, but sometimes there’s no overtaking, so we should hopefully learn from the races where there’s been no overtaking in the sprint races.
“Putting them in places like Brazil that creates a lot of opportunity, or somewhere like Baku, is going to be the best places for overtaking.
“I’m not against it. As long as they’re selective of where they put it.”
Teams and the sport’s owners Liberty Media unanimously backed the expansion of the sprint race format in April, but the matter was stalled until the FIA approved the plan at the latest World Motor Sport Council meeting.
F1 debuted the sprint race format at three races in 2021 before making adjustments to the pole position status, each team’s cost cap and the number of points on offer per sprint.
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