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Verstappen: 'Not smart' to pick returning China for F1 sprint weekend

Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen thinks it was "not the smartest thing" to hold a sprint event at this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, which returns after a five-year absence.

China last hosted an F1 race in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic derailed its grand prix.

F1 now returns to the demanding Shanghai International Circuit after four seasons in which it didn't appear on the calendar, with teams facing several unknowns on how this generation of cars will perform there.

Furthermore, the circuit has since been resurfaced, meaning very little existing data is valid at the 5.4km track outside Shanghai and the weekend is harder to prepare.

To add to the teams' headaches, China has been selected as the first of six sprint venues this year, giving them only one 60-minute practice session to find the ideal set-up.

When asked by Autosport about the decision to hold a sprint at Shanghai on its first year back, Verstappen replied sarcastically: "Yeah, it's very smart to do that.

"It's not great to do that because when you have been away from a track for quite a while, I think you never know what you're going to experience, so it would have been better to have a normal race weekend there.

"On the other hand, it probably spices things up a bit more, and that's maybe what they would like to see.

"But purely from a driving and performance perspective of the sport, I think it's not the smartest thing to do. We'll see what we get there.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15, leads Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing C38

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15, leads Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo Racing C38

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

"I always loved driving there, so hopefully we can hit the ground running as well as we can, and hopefully we don't need to fine-tune too many things on the car."

The sprints will follow a revised format this year, with free practice and sprint qualifying taking place on Friday, and the sprint race on Saturday.

The shortened race format will precede qualifying for the grand prix, which will occupy its usual Saturday slot followed by the full grand prix on Sunday.

That tweak means parc ferme will open again after the sprint race for Saturday qualifying, addressing complaints that the original format was too restrictive.

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But the limitation of a single practice session remains, which according to Ferrari's Carlos Sainz goes a little bit too far in China's case.

"China as a race circuit is a great one, I think it's one of our favourites for everyone," he said.

"It's just a great racing track and a track that offers a good possibility to overtake, so a sprint makes sense to have it there.

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, 3rd position, in the Press Conference

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, 3rd position, in the Press Conference

Photo by: Motorsport Images

"At the same time, it's what we said in the drivers' briefing to the FIA and Formula 1.

"With these kind of cars, to go to a track with one hour of practice and straight into qualifying, with the regulations that they put on us, with the plank wear and things like this and how tricky one bump could make the car, I think it's not a good choice to put the sprint [there] after four or five years of absence.

"We also heard there's been resurfacing going on. Maybe for you guys at home, it's exciting, but for engineers and drivers, in my opinion, we shouldn't take the risk and have a normal weekend."

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