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Reverse grids, $1m, standalone title among ideas for F1 sprint race revamp

Formula 1 chiefs are ready to consider a radical revamp of the sprint race format amid growing acceptance that the current system is not delivering enough excitement.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, the rest of the field at the start of the Sprint race

Another boring sprint race at the United States Grand Prix, which had triggered a surprising lack of interest from fans as ticket sales took a hit, has prompted a belief that something needs to change.

And while F1 is wholly committed to keeping sprint weekends as part of the championship longer term, sources have indicated that grand prix racing's bosses are eyeing a bold shake-up.

While formal proposals have not yet been put forward for potential changes to the sprint format that could come as early as 2024, Autosport has learned that informal discussions have begun in the paddock about what can be done to spice things up.

Sources have indicated that F1 is not afraid to be aggressive in totally overhauling the sprint rather than just playing around with the edges.

It is understood that several radical ideas are already being floated around for consideration.

These include turning the Saturdays into a standalone F1 Sprint championship, so any points earned on a Saturday do not count for the main F1 championships.

This would also help avoid a repeat of the scenario in Qatar where the drivers' crown was won in a sprint event rather than the main grand prix.

One idea to encourage drivers to take the sprint format more seriously could be to get a sponsor on board and offer a major cash prize for the winners – that could stretch to $1 million.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Further elements to make the sprint stand out from the main grand prix could include a reverse grid format, with either the top ten being switched or even the entire order being shuffled back to front.

Grid positions for such a sprint could be decided by reverse championship order, or based on a qualifying format that still encouraged teams to push for a good lap time.

The growing momentum behind the need for a change to the sprint comes after Red Bull team boss Christian Horner suggested in Austin that the current rules were not good enough.

He said: "I think you have got to add a bit more jeopardy to it.

"Whether you do a reverse the top 10 or something, you've got to add enough points to it to make it worth the drivers to really go for it."

But not all team bosses are so open to such a dramatic change of format to the sprint.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff felt going down the reverse grid route was not right for F1, which had long been known for its purity of competition.

"I'm conservative in racing," he said when asked by Autosport for his views on the matter.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, the rest of the field on the opening lap of the Sprint race

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, the rest of the field on the opening lap of the Sprint race

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

"I'd rather have no sprint races than if you start to meddle. Even more with reverse grid races, we are going towards junior formulae where sport follows entertainment, while entertainment should follow sport.

"Creating artificial gaming around the sprint race on a Saturday is not the way that I would favour personally. But that's my opinion.

"All teams, together with Stefano [Domenicali, F1 CEO], we just need to think about what is best."

 

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