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Ideas for Sprint changes revealed


As F1 seeks a means to 'spice up' the Sprint format, whilst making it more acceptable to the teams, some of the proposals being considered have been revealed.

While opinion among fans remains divided, the 'mini-races' introduced as a means of spicing up race weekends and increasing revenue are increasingly causing concern as far as team bosses are concerned.

First off there is the fact that in the current format the cars are under parc ferme conditions from the opening practice session, which means no further changes are allowed. Then there is the fear that cars damaged in either the Shootout or Sprint itself will be compromised in terms of the main event.

Also, many feel that with the second of these issues being of such a concern, drivers are afraid to take unnecessary risks in the Sprint, hence the fact that most of them are processional.

At Friday's meeting, The F1 Commission gave overall support for an update to the Sprint format "to further rationalise the weekend by separating Sprint activities from those for the Grand Prix".

Speaking at the subsequent press conference, team bosses shared their views.

"We think that some tuning in the sequence of the sessions, and some changes when it comes to the parc fermé rules is the right direction," said Andrea Stella. "We don't think that there should be some dramatic changes in the execution of the Sprint race.

"It's clear that the Sprints need to evolve a bit," added Christian Horner, whose driver, Max Verstappen has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Sprint, "in that I can understand the concept and it being action on all three days, which for the promoter and for the fans has an interest but I think the Sprints, in some cases, have been slightly underwhelming.

"There's no pit-stop, it's tends to stay in grid order and it's a little bit like getting a medal for a long run," he continued. "But I think if there can be a bit more perhaps, racing introduced, but then of course, you've got to look at what are the consequences with that: if you were to reverse the grid; if there were points involved, etc, etc.

"So, I think it needs a bit more work doing on it within the sporting forum. And then no doubt, we'll sit down at the next Commission meeting early in the new year and hopefully finalise a format."

Asked whether reverse grids might be a case of F1 'jumping the shark', Horner replied: "Well, this is where you've got to do the research.

"I think it's very important that the next step that we make is one that is fixed for a long period of time. This Sprint concept is a new concept that's been introduced. And in some areas it's very popular and with some traditionalists, it's very unpopular. And I think that whatever it evolves to needs to be consistent for a long period of time.

"So I think the necessary research - and I think 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 actually want to see a bit more racing if we're going to do a Sprint race? And if so, if we're going to do that, then how do we award the points? How do we incentivise drivers and teams? So there are many topics attached to it. But the most important fundamental thing is, what do the fans want?"

"There are positives in the Sprint events," said Stella. "They are confirmed even from the data that F1 circulated.

"But we need to give the time to absorb some different ways of interpreting Formula 1 race weekends. And 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 in which we intend a Formula 1 race weekend. And this is why we think that while improvements have to be made, they should be relatively incremental, have a few more Sprint races, and then we can have better data, better information to see in which direction the business of Formula 1 should go."

"I think as long as we keep on moving along and making things better and trying new things, I think we are on the right track," said (Mr Corporate) Guenther Steiner. "And also not being afraid to make changes but also not being afraid if the changes don't work to go back again, or do something, go in another direction.

"That is what we're doing at the moment and I think it's good for the sport, because the sport is growing massively. The audience is maybe a different one than it was 20 years ago. People want more entertainment, want more action and we need to provide that, to keep on growing as a sport, and growing as a sport is good for all of us."

"The only point I requested was that 30 minutes should be added to the FP1 session," admitted Franz Tost, "because if you have a rookie in your team, just to have one hour and then go directly to the qualifying, most often on new racetracks, it's really a big disadvantage.

"I think, for the future teams, will really very well calculate whether to take a rookie driver or not. We will see then whether this can be realised or not and the rest, Guenther anyway said everything."

"We need to make some fine tuning," agreed Bruno Famin. "We can change the sequence, you can change something to optimise everything, to have the best entertainment for the fans, not to make the life too complicated for the teams.

"One of the things I think which will be amended as well is together with the change of the sequence, if any, is the rule for the parc ferme, to make the team's lives a bit easier."

One of the ideas that has been put forward is to have the Shootout take place on Friday afternoon/evening, with the Sprint on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying for the Grand Prix.

However, even though the parc ferme rules would likely be changed this wouldn't help in terms of fears of damage to their cars in the Shootout or Sprint compromising them in in the main event, be it qualifying or the Grand Prix.

One of the reasons the Sprint was introduced, according to the likes of Stefano Domenicali, is that having three practice sessions only benefits the engineers not the fans. However, after yesterday's disrupted second session, there are likely to be all number of complaints from drivers and their bosses today about the lack of running on Friday.

Be it the TV idents or the "Must See" videos on the official F1 website, one of the main selling points of F1 is the danger, the risk of a crash. Consequently, an extra 'mini' race, and particularly the start, adds to the chances of an incident, as does an extra qualifying session.

If such incidents are the way the sport is being sold to its new generation of fans one can understand why drivers are unwilling to take risks that will impact them in the main event.

Either Friday should be given over to the Sprint, allowing the sport to get on with the serious stuff for the remainder of the weekend, or, as Pitpass has been suggesting for some time, serious consideration should be given to the introduction of a one-make series - such as the BMW M1 Procars of 1979/1980 - which would certainly level the playing field.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Yas Marina here.


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1. Posted by equator180, 26/11/2023 6:51

"Drop the sprint format all togather............"

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