Wolff airs sprint concern should Baku bite back
By Ian Parkes
Saturday 22nd April, 2023 - 10:33pm
Toto Wolff has become the latest F1 team principal to voice his concern over the potential consequences of next weekend’s sprint weekend in Azerbaijan.
For this season, F1 has chosen to expand its sprint offering from three to six, which adds pressure on the teams and drivers to avoid conceivably expensive incidents that would have a greater impact in a cost-cap era.
Worse still for the teams, is that the opening sprint is around a street circuit, with the propensity for an accident in Baku high given the number that have taken place in recent years.
There is the added jeopardy of an additional qualifying as F1 shifts toward having standalone sessions for the sprint and grand prix.
At present, Friday qualifying in a sprint weekend sets the grid for Saturday’s shorter race, with the result of that event determining the line-up for the grand prix.
Assessing the additional risks, Wolff said: “Two qualifying sessions per se is not something that’s bad.
“In qualifying, you have less opportunity to put the car in the wall, but with two races, which we always knew, obviously there is more at risk.
“And back-to-back with Miami (staged the following weekend), that can be a problem.”
F1 needs Stanley knife not baseball bat treatment
The F1 team bosses initially green-lighted the sprint weekend changes that will go before the F1 Commission on Tuesday, and then the World Motor Sport Council to fast-track the plans in time for Baku.
By his own admission, Wolff is a traditionalist and favours a more routine weekend, although recognises the need for F1 to continue to provide entertainment.
Wolff has suggested if tweaks are to continue to be made, they need to be more finely crafted than bludgeoned into place.
“We all share the same objective that we want the sport to continue to develop well and grow its audiences, and we just need to find a common denominator as to what the base principle is,” suggested Wolff.
“I think you know I’m on the conservative side, that I like qualifying, the grand prix.
“But you also have to be open-minded about where the sport is going to go, and some of the sprint races have been fantastic, so whatever Stefano (F1 CEO Domenicali) decides is good.
“He will have all the data on the table – what is good for the audiences, what is good for the brand – and then we have just got to maybe try and tweak things without using a baseball bat, but a Stanley knife – a more precise way of cutting.”
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