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The sprint format was at the centre of discussions once again over the weekend at the Brazilian Grand Prix as the last of six alternative events came to a close. Some absolutely love the shorter races while others loathe it.
None more so than reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen, who urged the FIA to revert back to normal race weekends throughout the season after clinching his 17th win of 2023 in Sao Paulo. “I would just like a normal race weekend please, thank you,” he said. “I am not interested in any change. I don’t like it.”
But Martin Brundle insists the sprint races are drawing in more eyes and doesn’t expect to see the FIA bin off the format any time soon. “I see a lot of social media traffic, as well as talking with fans, friends, and media, where many say they don’t like Sprint format at all,” he wrote in his Sky Sports column.
“Despite being a pure racer and having won many of them, Verstappen says the same.That’s all valid opinion, but the TV audience numbers show a lot more eyeballs watching these ‘appointments to view’ live sport. And that’s fact.
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“As I said in our shows, the worst Sprint will always be better than the best FP2, because in free practices nothing is decided, and the teams need to keep the cars well apart on track and use as little tyre and power unit life as possible. The Sprints simply must be more entertaining trackside too for those splashing their hard-earned cash.”
The Sprint was introduced in 2021 in an attempt to add faster-paced action to the weekend. The original format started with one practice session on Friday followed by qualifying, another practice session, and then a sprint race on Saturday to decide the grid for Sunday’s full-length Grand Prix.
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In 2023, the second practice session has been changed to a sprint shootout qualifier on Saturday morning instead. The number of Sprint events was also doubled from three to six in 2023.
Brundle anticipates the format will be “tweaked” once again ahead of next season. “The Sprint format will be tweaked for next year and qualifying for the main race will revert to Saturday afternoon I suspect,” he continued. “Saturday will become a thrilling day should they schedule the Sprint race in the morning and Qualifying in the afternoon, although teams will be nervous of having sufficient time to repair any damage from the morning event.
“Friday will then be one practice session in the morning, which I believe should revert to 90 minutes, and the Sprint Shootout qualification in the afternoon. Another very decent day for the fans trackside and watching on TV or online.”
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