Drivers admit concern at Shanghai Sprint


Drivers have expressed unease that the forthcoming Grand Prix at Shanghai will feature a Sprint.

The last time F1 raced at the circuit was in 2019 and drivers are concerned that following a four-year absence they will have just one hour of practice to prepare for the Sprint Shootout, with the Sprint taking place the following morning.

Adding to their fears is the fact that since the last race there the track has been resurfaced, and the lack of fresh data could cause teams to run their cars too low which could in turn lead to excessive plank wear and possible disqualification, as was the case with Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc at last year's United States Grand Prix.

"What we said in the drivers' briefing, we said 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 us under, 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 choose to hold a sprint after four or five years absence," said Carlos Sainz.

"We also heard there's been resurfacing going on, so Istanbul 2.0 maybe on the cards," he added, referring to the issues drivers faced when a resurfaced Istanbul Park was brought back to the schedule in 2020 as F1 sought to put a calendar together in the wake of COVID. "I hope not.

"It just shows the uncertainty," he continued. "Maybe for you guys at home it's exciting, but for engineers and drivers, it's something that for me, in my opinion, we shouldn't take the risk and have a normal weekend.

I think Shanghai as a race circuit is a great one," he insisted, admitting that he is only against a Sprint at the track because of the long gap since F1 last raced there. "I think it's one of our favourite ones for everyone, 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."

"I just hope that there are no issues with the track, any drain holes, any issues like that," said Sergio Perez. "That will just put us out of sync.

"For the show, probably it's a good thing," he added. "But I think from the preparation side, it's going to be definitely one that is going to be really hard.

"I've never raced there, for example, with Red Bull so it's going to be quite a lot to do in a single practice."

"When you have been away from a track for quite a while, I think you never know what you're going to experience, right?" added teammate, Max Verstappen, who is no fan of the Sp[rint in the first place. "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 perspective, the performance perspective of the sport, I think it's not the smartest thing to do.

"We'll see what we get there. 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."

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Published: 12/04/2024
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