F1 team bosses agree to sprint change as Baku push set in motion

The F1 sprint is set for a format change, potentially in time for the Azerbaijan GP in Baku

The F1 sprint is set for a format change – potentially in time for the Azerbaijan GP in Baku

F1’s team principals have agreed to a change in format to sprint weekends in a bid to again spice up the entertainment.

The 10 team bosses met in Melbourne on Sunday ahead of what was a dramatic Australian Grand Prix at the end of which a number were left counting the cost from an array of incidents.

Whilst there was no specific vote that took place, there was broad agreement to the changes that have been proposed by F1.

The decision will now go through the normal governance processes, initially the F1 Commission and then the World Motorsport Council, notably with approval required from FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

Whilst such regulatory matters would ordinarily take weeks, there is apparently a desire to rush through proceedings in time for the first of this year’s six sprint race weekends at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku at the end of the month.

The changes would see the sprint become a standalone event with its own qualifying format. Initially, the idea was for a one-lap showdown, akin to what was seen in F1 in the early 2000s.

It is now understood the qualifying session will run to the current format, albeit with the times of Q1, Q2 and Q3 shortened by a number of minutes, likely halved from its current 18, 15, and 12 system.

The Friday qualifying session would then set the grid for the grand prix on Sunday rather than the sprint as has been the case since the event was introduced in 2021.

Red Bull criticise sprint in Baku

The reasoning behind the move is to do away with the second practice session on Saturday morning as with the cars locked down under parc fermé rules following qualifying, it has become nothing more than a glorified tyre-testing session.

It is also a step towards adding further entertainment to the weekend programme.

The proposal for it to be implemented for Baku has, however, drawn criticism given it is a street circuit.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “The reality is it’s absolutely ludicrous to be doing the first sprint race of the year in a street race like Azerbaijan.

“But I think from a spectacle point of view, from a fan point of view, it is probably going to be one of the most exciting sprint races of the year.

“From a cost cap perspective, all you can do is trash your car and it costs a lot of money around there, so one race is enough in Baku.

“The fact that we’ve got two…there could well be some action there. But that’s part of the challenge and it’s part of the task that we’ve got.

“Hopefully, we can tidy up the format for the sprint races coming up, (that) they are a bit more dynamic. (But) a sprint race in Azerbaijan is something to be certainly wary of.”

Reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen made his feelings clear that a further format change to a sprint weekend he already derides would “not be the right way to go”, believing it again goes against F1’s DNA.

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