Famed F1 designer makes Sprint race plea as polarising concept resurfaces

Thomas Maher
Oscar Piastri leads at the start of the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint.

Oscar Piastri heads into Turn 1 at the start of the Qatar Grand Prix Sprint.

With Sprint races headed for a major shake-up in 2024, a former F1 car designer is eager to see a particularly controversial idea rolled out.

With six confirmed Sprint races being held next year, all eyes are on what changes will be agreed by the F1 Commission after recent agreement that the Sprint format will be tweaked further for next season.

The exact nature of the changes are not yet agreed, but are likely to focus on the scheduling and the timing of the introduction of the parc ferme conditions that has taken some of the sting out of Grand Prix weekends using the format in 2023.

Gary Anderson makes the case for reverse grid races

Former Jordan and Jaguar F1 designer Gary Anderson believes that F1 needs to go radical with its ideas for the Sprint races in 2024, making the same case as Mercedes’ Toto Wolff that the sport should lean into revolution rather than simple tweaks.

“Sprint races as they exist in 2023 are essentially a glorified first stint of a grand prix with little strategy involved other than tyre choice,” Anderson said in his column for the UK’s Telegraph.

“If they are to exist at all, then they must be something significantly different.”

To that end, Anderson suggested that the Sprint format should utilise reverse grids and has some ideas on how to run them to ensure the teams participate with the proper spirit and intention of the format change.

“You could decide the reverse grid by taking the results from Q1 of the main qualifying session as that is when all 20 drivers are on track,” he said.

“You would also have to start the sprint race on the same set of tyres. That way it is more difficult for teams to game the system.

“The biggest advantage of this is that the faster teams would have to fight their way past the slower ones and we have an event that is not just a scaled-down version of the main race on Sunday.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

Revealed: The F1 2023 driver of the season not called Max Verstappen

F1 2023 predictions revisited: A Nyck de Vries clanger and an apology to Williams

Another side-effect of this would be that teams would be encouraged to take these Sprint races into account when designing their cars.

“Teams would also be nudged, if not pushed, to design a car that can drive well in traffic and make its way through the field,” he said.

“The rules do not encourage a car design with robust aerodynamics as the car on pole usually goes on to win the race – and it is usually the fastest car on pole. Things have improved recently with ground-effect but the current machines are far from their best in turbulent air, as tyres overheat and the car slides around because of the loss of downforce.

“This change would also help improve racing in the main race as well, so it is almost a triple whammy of reverse grids leading to more on-track action. Purists might balk at reverse grid races in F1 but this is not a reverse grid grand prix.

“Yes, some front-running teams could try to be smart and try to take a risk in attempting to get near the front of the Sprint grid by finishing, say 15th in Q1. But with track evolution and so on, you run the risk of not getting through to Q2 and starting the main grand prix, when more points are available, much further down.”

Read Next: Jacques Villeneuve’s blunt verdict on F1 Sprint format: ‘Every sport without a show dies’