Formula 1’s sprint qualifying format expands to six rounds for F1 2023, but the first of those being in Baku has irked Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
The concept was first trialled back in 2021, and sees traditional qualifying come forward to a Friday to set the grid for this sprint race, rather than the main Grand Prix itself.
The finishing order of sprint qualifying will then determine the starting positions for the Grand Prix.
Additional reporting by Michael Lamonato
And after three sprint events were held in 2021 and 2022, the number now doubles for F1 2023 with the Baku City Circuit, host of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the first of six venues that will see sprint action this season.
It will be the first time that this format has been used at this fan-favourite street track, which combines high-speed with tight technical sections, a complete challenge for the drivers and one which regularly produces incidents.
And this real risk that drivers could “trash” their cars has Horner dumbfounded over this call for Baku to be the first F1 2023 sprint venue in a cost-cap era of Formula 1.
Speaking to reporters at the Australian Grand Prix, the round prior to Baku, 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’s 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 you know one race is enough in Baku. The fact that we’ve got two, there could be, well, some action there.”
The current sprint format and its place in the Formula 1 race weekend schedule still divides opinion throughout the paddock and among fans, with the series actively reviewing how sprints are used going forward.
The amount of on-track action produced by these 100km races has varied greatly, and appears very much to depend on the track where they are in use.
And going forward, Horner hopes tweaks can be made that will make these sprints a bit more “dynamic”.
“Hopefully, we can tidy up the format for these sprint races coming up, that they’re a bit more dynamic,” he stated.
The Baku sprint will take place on 29 April, with the format’s next outing coming at the Austrian Grand Prix at the start of July.
Later in the season sprint qualifying will then be used at the Belgian, Qatar, United States and Sao Paulo GPs.