‘Greed’ was behind FIA’s decision to block extra sprints

Jamie Woodhouse
Picture of the Imola sprint from above. Italy, April 2022.

The Imola sprint race in progress, pictured from above. Italy, April 2022.

Sources are suggesting that “greed” from the FIA is preventing the sanctioning of an increase in sprint races, according to a report.

Sprint races first appeared in Formula 1 back in 2021, the events branded ‘sprint qualifying’ and used to determine the starting order for a grands prix.

Despite efforts to increase the number of sprint weekends for 2022, the schedule remained at three, the first sprint weekend having already taken place at Imola, with stagings in Austria and Brazil still to come.

However, the teams and Formula 1 are now said to be onboard with an expansion to six sprints from the 2023 season, but the FIA are proving to be the stumbling block as they are reluctant to give the green light to the agreement reached at the F1 Commission meeting.

The BBC reported that “several sources say the FIA asked for more money in return for its support”, with the governing body saying that the request was “not entirely money-related”, but they do need to be “properly resourced” and that more sprints mean “a significant impact on the workload of staff” and thus an increase in the operational staff needed.

Now, Sky Sports News reporter Craig Slater has been informed that “unjustifiable financial requests” are behind the FIA’s opposition.

Charles Leclerc leads in the opening stages of the Emilia Romagna GP sprint. Imola April 2022.
Charles Leclerc leads the field in the opening stages of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix sprint. Imola April 2022.

“The word ‘greed’ was actually used to me,” Slater revealed on Sky Sports News.

“And a couple of teams said that, in their view, the FIA do not incur significant extra costs by replacing a practice session with a sprint event. They’re shocked that the FIA has taken this position.

“What we’ve had at this Formula One Commission meeting is a very significant split at the very highest level of Formula One.

“Among the subjects discussed was increasing the number of sprints to six next year. Formula One, the sport’s commercial rights holder, was in favour of that – there was unanimity among the 10 teams in favour of that as well – but it has not happened because the FIA cannot support it at this point.

“F1 and the teams have seen how the sprint increased TV audiences and view it attractive to younger fans. They hope it could gain independent sponsorship and become an even bigger revenue stream.”

 

Would six sprints in a season be too many?

Sprint race weekends still divide opinions and with the notion of more being added next season, would six be too many?

 

In addition to the surprise over the FIA’s stance on sprint races, Slater said that “senior figures” in that meeting had told him they were perplexed by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s “general attitude” and focus on topics which seemed less important.

“A number of senior figures at the meeting also told me they were bemused at FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s general attitude,” Slater continued.

“They felt he was more interested in talking about issues like drivers wearing jewellery than some of the major concerns confronting F1. There is growing concern he is not aligned with F1’s direction of travel.”

 

Sky Sports News revealed that the FIA had told them that the “organisational requirements” are “significantly higher” for sprint qualifying weekends, so it is “far from a simple swap for a Free Practice session”.