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Sprint concept divides opinion

NEWS STORY
12/09/2021

Despite the best efforts of the Sky F1 team, which appears to have joined Ross Brawn in doing PR work for F1's latest 'innovation' intended to spice up the show, opinion over the Sprint remains divided.

It's "not fish, not meat", said Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, following the 18-lap 'race' that saw Lewis Hamilton finish fifth, which means he starts the Grand Prix from fourth, while title rival, Max Verstappen starts from pole.

"First of all, everybody is confused," said the Austrian. "I don't know how it is with you, but I don't know when each session is on," he added, referring to the timings of the session, which are deliberately timed in order to gain the best TV viewing figures.

"I believe that the sprint race format as it stands at the moment doesn't give a lot of benefit because nobody will take a serious risk," he added, no doubt a reference to the fact that, aware that leader Valtteri Bottas was going to start the Grand Prix from the back of the grid, there was no need for Verstappen to challenge the Finn.

"There are too few points at stake," he continued, "and the risk of compromising your Sunday Grand Prix, in which points are on offer all the way to tenth position, is just not worth the risk.

"What we have seen today is a combination of general difficulties in overtaking because the straight line speeds are very similar, but even Turn 1 and 2 nobody takes a risk.

"Let's give it another try in Brazil, let's see if there is anything that changes, and it was a worthwhile experiment. But for me, as a personal opinion and the opinion of the engineers here: 'not fish, not meat'."

While Verstappen may well feel the Sprint worked in his favour, teammate, Sergio Perez is clearly no fan.

"There's nothing happening in it," said the Mexican, "and I don't see the benefit of having the sprint race. I can imagine it's also boring for fans, boring for drivers.

"It doesn't bring anything to be honest," he added. "I think at the moment, how it is, the current format, I don't feel it brings anything. But obviously it's done to improve the show, and we'll see if the fans are happy with it.

"The problem that we have is with the current Formula 1 cars, to actually overtake, you need a very big delta across cars," said the Mexican. "To achieve that, you have to have some kind of degradation. I think they've probably taken the wrong tracks as well. But I don't know where it can be a good place to try it. The problem is it's too short and you don't hit any degradation."

Ross Brawn, who has championed the Sprint, and other innovations from the outset, naturally disagreed.

"We're optimistic that next year's car is going to help a lot," said Brawn, "but I must say, I was surprised how difficult it was to overtake, even with DRS.

"This was one of the races we selected because we thought there would be more opportunity, but as the race panned out that didn't seem to be the case.

Defending the Sprint, he said: "The whole weekend is evolving, we've got a three-stage event. We've got quite a different complexion on the race tomorrow than we thought we had after qualifying on Friday, so I think it's great in that respect. A little bit quiet at the front of the grid, but then you get that at races anyway.

"Plenty of action in the middle," he insisted. "Plenty of action at the start, we had a very exciting start, so I think it's added to it, I think it's added to the whole thing."

Fact is, F1 needs to monetise as much as possible and one of the best ways to do this is to hold two races as opposed to just one. It also explains the desire for the various other gimmicks, including Brawn's push for reverse grids and even the 'Overtake Award'.

However, as has always been the case, even under Bernie Ecclestone, what fans want is quality not quantity, and one good race is a whole lot better than two so-so events.

The sad thing is that Brawn, the engineer and racer, would have shared Toto Wolff's opinion, and have said that the Sprint, whatever the intention, is a distraction.

Surprisingly, nobody mentioned the naff medals that were given to the first three finishers. As the drivers sported them it brought back memories of 'Medallion Man' in the 70s, and as Bottas proudly held his aloft one wondered if they were in fact edible.

The Hotel de la Ville opposite the track places chocolate coins on guests pillows at night, one wonders if F1 got the idea there.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Monza, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by elsiebc, 16/09/2021 16:07

"@ Ed Awww... I didn't even know she was sick!"

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2. Posted by kenji, 16/09/2021 3:10

"@ Ed...Hahahaha..Yes Lassie may be physically 'mort' but Lassie and Bambi are both firmly fixed in my memory bank harking back to when we appreciated stunning sunsets and autumn leaves!!! NB Francis the Talking Mule was never a favourite!!"

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3. Posted by Editor, 15/09/2021 15:39

"@ elsiebc

Hate to tell you this but Lassie is dead.

How about a signed print of Roscoe?"

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4. Posted by elsiebc, 15/09/2021 15:33

"Make the sprint a standalone race with identically prepared vehicles assigned to drivers by lottery. Those race cars would change and run the gamut: AMG's to Formula V's. The drivers would have a blast driving different machinery, the fans get something novel, the organizers pay extra for the privilege, and the provider of the vehicles gets the publicity. And because it's all novel and for fun, the winner can get a medal, a laurel, a framed signed print of Lassie, whatever because in the end it doesn't really matter."

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5. Posted by stackvideo, 12/09/2021 11:36

"Wonder if Toto would have had the same opinion if Mercedes had finished 1st and 2nd "

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6. Posted by Mad Matt, 12/09/2021 9:54

"For me, I would agree with Toto and our editor here... it wasn't very exciting and didn't really add to the weekend. A sprint race, in my opinion, needs to be frenetic but there's nothing here to do that, in fact quite the opposite, drivers are risk adverse because they need to keep their eyes on Sunday.

Reversing the grid and hyper soft tyres which force at least one stop might help..... on the other hand I'd rather they worked on making the Sunday race better."

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