What’s the verdict on the new F1 Sprint format?

Formula 1 tried out a new sprint format at the 2023 Azerbaijan GP, but was it a hit or miss?

-

F1 Sprints have been Marmite with the sport’s fans since their introduction at Silverstone in 2021. Some fans love the excitement, whilst others believe it cheapens the spectacle of a Grand Prix weekend.

Regardless of what they felt after six sprints, Formula 1 decided to freshen up the format for the 2023 Azerbaijan GP with Saturday dedicated to the Sprint, whilst Friday’s Qualifying would set the grid for Sunday.

It meant teams and drivers would have only one practice session to fine-tune their cars before heading straight into Qualifying.

Although Friday’s Qualifying session was a classic dual between Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez, and Max Verstappen, Saturday and Sunday were spectacularly underwhelming, with a combined total of 31 overtakes during both races.

So what is the verdict on the new format?

Positives – Qualifying meant something again

Sprint winner Sergio Perez of Red Bull celebrates after the Sprint at 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Whilst the old format setting Sunday’s grid, Qualifying was effectively made redundant, such iconic moments like Kevin Magnussen’s fairytale pole in Brazil and Verstappen’s dual with Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone in 2021 were quickly forgotten.

But with Friday’s session now setting the grid for Sunday’s GP, it meant Qualifying after just one practice session was back to being the most important session of the weekend.

Qualifying didn’t disappoint Leclerc, now determined to get Ferrari’s season off and running, ended Red Bull’s grip on Qualifying whilst Yuki Tsunoda dragged his AlphaTauri into Q3 for the first time in 2023.

The only downside of Qualifying’s return was that a good chunk of F1’s fanbase couldn’t watch because it took place on Friday afternoon when fans were working, cutting the TV audience down.

Negatives – Everything else

Alexander Albon of Williams Racing at Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2023 | Williams F1 Team

Qualifying remained the sole highlight from Baku, as Saturday and Sunday rapidly became damp squibs with a lack of overtaking, unprepared teams and drivers causing a downtown in action.

The revitalised Sprint, hindered by a DRS line which was made shorted, only had 13 overtakes, and Sunday’s race didn’t do much better with 18.

Reducing practice from three sessions to one forced drivers to take a more conservative approach, whilst Carlos Sainz openly expressed a lack of confidence in his driving because of the new format.

It meant more discussion about why the new Sprint format had failed and whether F1 needed a rethink after a weekend where overtaking opportunities were barren. 

Verdict – Time to end the experiment

Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz in action at the Azerbaijan GP | Alex Pantling/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

He may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but Verstappen said it best, time to scrap the Sprint and refocus on how to get every team fighting for a win.

Gimmicks tend to have short-term gains, and the Sprint has showcased brief flashes of promise but little excitement on a weekend where 175 overtakes took place during Sunday’s IndyCar race at Barber.

The traditional format works much better, and even though some sessions are hardly classics, it’s stood the test of time for a reason due to its stability and giving fans plenty of on-track action.

Sprints have also become a sticking plaster to the real issues F1 faces, such as an overinflated calendar, cars too wide to pass with and a general lack of competition up front.

With F1 braced for six Sprints in 2023, a repeat of Baku would be a disaster as questions would increase over whether the sport needs a complete overhaul of its on-track product to keep fans entertained.

Ed Spencer
Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
- Advertisment -

LATEST NEWS

Max Verstappen in the F1 paddock ahead of the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix | Chris Graythen / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Mercedes chairman flirts with Max Verstappen: He’d look good in silver

0
One of the most important figures within Mercedes AMG, Ola Kallenius, has declared Max Verstappen “would look good in...
Carlos Sainz during practice for the 2024 Spanish GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Carlos Sainz hits out at Lewis Hamilton over unpunished Spanish GP move

0
Carlos Sainz believes Lewis Hamilton should've been given a penalty for his overtaking move that forced the Ferrari driver...
Max Verstappen during 2024 Spanish GP Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen warning to Red Bull and demands improvement

0
Max Verstappen demands Red Bull improvement as another tough race saw the reigning world champion have to really work...
Start of the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

LIVE F1 Spanish Grand Prix 2024 – Reaction as McLaren mistakes costly as Verstappen...

0
Welcome to Total-Motorsport’s F1 live coverage of the Spanish GP 2024. Held at the iconic Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, today’s race...
Lewis Hamilton during 2024 Spanish GP weekend | Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton brushes off furious Sainz after Spanish GP incident

0
Lewis Hamilton risked angering Carlos Sainz after claiming the Ferrari driver "left the door open" to overtake him during...
Lando Norris of McLaren after the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lando Norris: McLaren easily had the best car at Spanish GP

0
Lando Norris believes Spanish GP victory should have been his as McLaren had the best car in Barcelona, but...
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Christian Horner warns of Norris danger to Verstappen after Spanish GP battle

0
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner warned that Lando Norris and McLaren are their strongest competitors following a nail-biting...
McLaren team principal Andrea Stella at the 2023 Belgian GP | McLaren F1 team

McLaren chief pinpoints where 2024 Spanish GP was lost

0
McLaren's team boss they lost the 2024 Spanish GP by Turn 1 as a poor start saw Lando Norris...
Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton on the podium after the 2024 Spanish GP | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 Standings after 2024 Spanish Grand Prix

0
Max Verstappen showcased his racing prowess at the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix, clinching his seventh victory of the Formula...
Lando Norris during the 2024 Spanish GP weekend | McLaren

F1 Fastest Lap: Spanish GP 2024

0
The Spanish GP Fastest Lap award is given to the driver who posts the quickest time over one timed...
- Advertisment -