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F1 must consult fans over sprint races and stop fiddling with format, say team bosses

Formula 1 should consult fans to ensure the next changes to the sprint race weekend format are much longer-lasting rather than regularly fiddling with the set-up, according to team bosses.

Mechanics on the Sprint grid with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Mechanics on the Sprint grid with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

The F1 Commission met for the final time in 2023 on Friday morning at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with further tweaks to the sprint race format high on the agenda. But stakeholders did not definitely conclude what the changes would be. As such, the discussions will be taken up by the Sporting Advisory Committee.

After complaints of dull sprint contests, with many saying they preview and therefore spoil the first stint of the GP, momentum has gathered behind the introduction of reversed grids or running the sprint race before GP qualifying to allow parc ferme to be reopened to mix the competitive order.

Whatever the outcome, F1 team bosses agree the format needs to be left alone after a series of tweaks. They have also pushed for fans to have an input in how the problems should be addressed.

Asked by Autosport whether reversed grids would be a step too far, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “This is where you’ve got to do the research.

“I think it’s very important the next step that we make is one that is fixed for a long period of time.

“The sprint concept is a new concept that’s been introduced and in some areas is very popular and to some traditionalists is very unpopular.

“Whatever it evolves to needs to be consistent for a long period of time.

“I think that fan feedback is going to play a crucial role in this, in terms of what is it actually that the audience want? Do they actually enjoy the sprint format as it is, or do they want to see a bit more racing?

“If we’re going to do [reversed grid], then how are we going to do the points? How do we incentivise drivers and teams?

“There’s many topics attached to it, but the most important fundamental thing is, what do the fans want?”

Christian Horner

Photo by: Erik Junius

Christian Horner

Sprint races were introduced in 2021. They officially only remain on a “trial” basis.

Originally, Friday qualifying set the sprint grid and the shortened race result then defined the starting order for the GP. But this led to drivers backing out of risky late overtakes to protect their position.

For 2023, Saturday was changed to run as a standalone, with Friday qualifying setting the GP grid before a Saturday shootout led into the sprint.

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella reckoned F1 needed a bigger sample size before taking further action.

He said: “There are positives from the sprint event that are confirmed even from the [TV audience] data that F1 circulated.

“We also need to give the time to absorb some different ways of interpreting Formula 1 race weekends.

“We need to make sure that we don’t change too often, too rapidly because then we wouldn’t have this time to adapt, absorb to a certain way.

“Improvements have to be made; they should be relatively incremental.

“A few more sprint races, then we can have better data, better information in which direction the business of Formula 1 should go.”

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