Teams still to agree on sprint races


Though the matter was discussed over the course of the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, F1 and the teams still haven't reached an agreement on sprint races, with money one of the main sticking points.

At the start of the weekend, Haas team boss, Guenther Steiner claimed there were just a few details to be "ironed out", but as the teams left Bahrain to begin their preparations for Imola and beyond, the sport appears to be no closer to agreement.

"I think we have got enough information now that should help more," said Steiner, "which I think it will, that we can get ready. I don't see a big issue.

"There's a few details to be ironed out," he added, "but I think we're in a fast moving world and we just need to adapt to it to stay current."

As ever however, one of the main sticking points is money, and while Formula One Management is offering more money to the teams they argue that it isn't enough.

FOM is understood to have suggested an 'insurance policy' style scheme, whereby teams could claim for wear and tear and damage incurred in the addition events.

With the budget cap now in place however, teams fear that, having agreed their budgets, those teams that incur unexpected damage in the sprint races would need to reassess their spending which could lead to even more redundancies than those that have already taken place.

"It definitely needs to be addressed, that sprint racing/sprint qualifying will cost more money and can cost significant more money if there's accident damage," said Zak Brown.

"I think there are some different proposals on the table," he added. "We just need to make sure that we address that specific issue and that it doesn't create... we don't put a rule in place that creates an opportunity that starts expanding the budget cap that we've all agreed to."

"By the nature of things, I have a little bit of a different view," said Toto Wolff. "Christian (Horner) has described the difficulties for our companies to change the processes and the way we have operated over the last few years and we are really struggling to find... to just come in below the budget cap and we're talking about tens of thousands of pounds and not hundreds of thousands, therefore we would really like to support Stefano and Ross with the idea because I think it's worth trying.

"But we simply haven't got the margin to go for it and then find out that there is an extra half million pounds or more that we have to find within that budget cap, because that could mean looking at people again and that's not where I want to go any more, at all."

"We accept that cash in, for this, that what's been proposed doesn't match cash out at the moment," insisted Christian Horner, "so effectively it's an investment by the teams into FOM to say; OK, we support this in the hope that if it works it generates future revenue, future interest, future benefit into the sport in future years, but at the moment the cost benefit in terms of income in versus what it costs to operate these cars... if you divide 145m by 23 events, you can see the kind of... you're in a crude basis what it takes to operate a grand prix car and of course, adding in, effectively albeit a shortened race is just more cost that we're naturally going to incur the usage of parts, etc, etc... So there just has to be a sensible allowance that takes that into account because as Toto says, we're chasing 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 savings at the moment to ensure that we're hitting the cap and to suddenly have a variable like this is something that just needs to be accommodated.

"We're keen to support it but there needs to be an accommodation."

However, it's not just about money.

"We share the mind-set that we are racing purists," said Wolff, "and we know of the importance of the grand prix. It's always been like that and we mustn't dilute the attraction of that singular event happening Sunday afternoon as somehow a cornerstone of everybody's weekend.

"We have always been very reluctant to change that traditional format and I have seen some experiments in other race series where they have put in a second race on Saturday and the audiences were actually quite interested. Having said that, it by far didn't have the importance and tradition like Formula 1, so we need to be really careful of how we are testing things.

"We are in a data-driven world. We simulate, and here we are talking about going live with something that hasn't been simulated properly. So, I don't think we want to block anything - it's worth the experiment - but we need to be very careful with it, with the format that we have and with the responsibility we carry for Formula 1.

"A mixed opinion," admitted Christian Horner. "It's something that the Commercial Rights Holder is keen on and I think, if you don't try things, you never know.

"So, I think we're keen to try to support the Commercial Rights Holder in having a look at it.

"Is the format right? I mean, it could just be a static Saturday race that creates a static Sunday race - but it's another start, there's more jeopardy, etcetera, etcetera.

"I think we have to give it a go. We're interested to look at it - but what we can't ignore is that, to run and operate these cars is extremely expensive and we need to find a solution how to combat that, in particular in a season where the budget cap is having a significant impact on how we operate."

Asked what constitutes a Formula 1 winner, Horner was in no doubt.

"It has to be a Sunday afternoon," he replied. "It's almost like a pre-final, this race concept that you're winning a qualifying race; effectively you're not a grand prix winner.

"As Toto has said previously, we need to protect the DNA of the sport, the history of the sport. A grand prix winner should only be a guy that prevails on a Sunday afternoon. A pre-final on a Saturday is not a grand prix."

"I agree," said Zak Brown. "I think there's general support among all the teams. The Commercial Rights Holder wants to do it. I don't see much downside in trying a few times - and potentially there's a lot of upside if it's very exciting and, if it doesn't work, we'll maybe try something else in the future and not move forward. We're supportive of giving it a go."

F1 bosses are hoping to hold the first sprint event at the British Grand Prix, followed by the Italian and Brazil races.

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Published: 31/03/2021
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