Formula 1’s new sprint weekend format has been the talk of the paddock ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where it will debut.
The new format will see just one practice session on Friday morning before qualifying for the grand prix on Sunday, leaving Saturday as ‘sprint day’ with a second qualifying session to set the grid for the 100km dash.
Overall, drivers have welcomed the change to the format in order to avoid the largely pointless second practice session under parc ferme conditions on a Saturday and the threat of losing grid position for the race.
“I prefer it,” Charles Leclerc said. “I don’t want it to become the main format in the future, but I think as few weekends like this per year, I think it’s quite good.
“I think in a normal season it’s not too bad. But knowing that the last time we were in the car was three weeks ago, it feels like a bit of a summer break.”
Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu would still prefer to race the usual format but insists this sprint idea is better than before.
“In general as a driver, I still like the normal format,” Zhou said. “But I think for the sprint races the format is better here.
“In Imola, for example, I got taken out at the first corner and had to start the race in last so it was all about damage limitation.
“For us, the shootout or the name of the sprint quali is quite crazy or weird because we’re using medium until Q3 so it will be new for the teams I guess.”
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the changes, though, as world champion Max Verstappen highlighted some of the issues.
“Looking at the weekend it will be a bit more chaotic,” Verstappen said. “There is a little bit more risk involved now with qualifying.
“When you look at the sprint race itself, I think the risk will be the same because you don’t want to potentially damage your car.
“I’d rather lose one point than lose development.”
Carlos Sainz also saw one issue that he would have to change his weekend for with no practice before qualifying on a Saturday.
“Waking up in the morning and going straight into Q1, that will be a challenge,” Sainz said. “I’ll need a wake-up like a cold shower to make sure I’m really awake to push in Q1.”