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Formula 1 Australian GP

Wolff: F1 must shape rules with 'Stanley knife' not 'baseball bat'

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff says Formula 1 bosses should resist taking a “baseball bat” to the weekend format and instead make more precise rule tweaks with a “Stanley knife”.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG, in the Team Principals Press Conference

The timetable of a race weekend has been thrust into the limelight following comments from F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali that he is in favour of scrapping free practice sessions.

This has been followed by drivers and championship chiefs pushing to revise the structure of a sprint round by ditching the unpopular Saturday FP2 session in favour of a separate qualifying shootout.

While Wolff said the main priority should be to continue to grow F1’s popularity, he stated a preference for a more traditional grand prix weekend and warned that bosses should not take a “baseball bat” to the setup. He instead called for a more precision tool like a “Stanley knife”.

The Austrian, who placed his trust in F1 chiefs to use data to shape decisions, said: “I think we all share the same objective that we want the sport to continue to develop well and grow its audiences.

“We just need to find a common denominator what the best principle is.

“I’m more on the conservative side, I like qualifying, I like the grand prix, the great prize.

“But we have to also be open minded about where the sport is going to go and some of the sprint races have been fantastic.

“So whatever Stefano decides is good, I think he will have all the data on the table what is good for the audiences, what is good for the brand and then we just want to maybe try and tweak things without using a baseball bat, but a Stanley knife… a more precise way to cut it.”

Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1

Stefano Domenicali, CEO, Formula 1

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Meetings were held during the Australian GP weekend to try and implement a second standalone qualifying session in time for the Azerbaijan sprint round later this month.

However, the four-week gap in lieu of a Chinese event means many parties are on holiday while tyre manufacturer Pirelli faces a race to supply extra tyres in time.

It is more likely, therefore, that a revised sprint race structure will wait until Austria in July.

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Asked for his opinion on running two qualifying sessions during a sprint weekend, one to decide the Saturday race and another to independently form the GP grid, Wolff said: “I think two qualifying sessions per se is not something that's bad.

“If we stick with the current format, I think we wouldn't be able to do this with the engine mileage and I think Pirelli's hasn't got enough tyres. That's something that needs to be solved.

“In qualifying, you have less opportunity to put the car in the wall. But with two races, which we always knew, there's more at risk and you're back-to-back with [the next race in] Miami so that can be a problem [with replacing damaged parts].”

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