The Guenther Steiner calendar suggestion that would spark uproar

Jamie Woodhouse
Guenther Steiner making a point. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Guenther Steiner making a point during a press conference. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Sprint races in Formula 1 continue to divide opinion, and we may have to get used to an even split of sprint and non-sprint rounds, according to Haas boss Guenther Steiner.

It was at the 2021 British Grand Prix where Formula 1’s sprint race format first appeared, that stage one of a three-part trial of the concept across the season.

The same number of sprints took place in 2022, but for the F1 2023 campaign, we will see an increase to six sprints, the first of those occurring at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix which several team bosses are already tipping to be a recipe for chaos.

But, in the face of ever-increasing competition for a spot on the F1 calendar, Steiner argued that sprint races present the possibility to increase the racing action at a time where 24 rounds has been stated as the limit, the current season consisting of 23.

And he suggested that to this point, there is the potential for the series to increase the number of sprints to a stage where half of the calendar uses the format.

Such a move would definitely not please the reigning World Champion Max Verstappen, who has been arguably the most vocal critic of F1 sprint races among the drivers, saying they go against the “DNA” of the series.

He has also threatened an early exit from Formula 1 due to the increasing demands of the race weekend schedule.

“I don’t know if we will do it every race weekend. Maybe do a few more or maybe do half of the calendar,” Steiner told Reuters in an interview via Haas’ title sponsor MoneyGram, “but the F1 promoter will know what to do.

“At the moment there is more demand for races [than slots available] so how can you get more races in, more competition, more racing if we cannot do more than 24 events? So just make the event double count.”

It has been reported that unanimous approval has been reached between the teams for changes to the sprint weekend format which would see the 100km sprint race become a standalone event with a qualifying session to set the grid, rather than the sprint being used to determine the starting order for the grand prix.

That would mean doing away with the second and final practice session which commonly takes place on a Saturday before the sprint, a session which as Steiner went on to say provided very limited action for the fans.

These changes could be ratified in time for the upcoming Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend from 28-30 April.

“The session on Saturday morning became almost worthless because nobody was watching it, the teams couldn’t do any changes on the car except trying the tyre out for the race so there was no real interest,” said Steiner.

“So I think that is a good addition to the weekend to put a sprint qualifying in.

“You have to see how it works with the fans, if they like it, how the numbers come back and then decide what to do as the next step. But at the moment I support very much the sprint qualifying.” recommends

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That is Saturday of a sprint weekend then, but Formula 1 is also said to be looking at other parts of the race weekend in general for potential opportunities to spice up the action, particularly in regards to the Friday practice running, with an idea of introducing points or some other form of benefit mooted.

But, while Steiner has demonstrated his willingness for the race weekend schedule to be played with, he did warn that on the flipside, Formula 1 must be careful not to go too far, arguing that the format of three practice sessions, qualifying and the grand prix on a regular race weekend, works fine right now.

“Either it’s a competition or a practice, in my opinion,” he said, as per “You cannot say whoever wins practice because then you need to make a race out of it.

“Because if there is something at the end of it, everybody will race for it and then maybe we dilute the races and what they’ll do.

“We need to be careful not to try now to be too draconian and then change everything. Let’s change bit by bit, always make sure we try something and if it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to do something different, not to be stubborn and stuck on it. That is always my idea.

“And that is how we came along to having this sprint weekend because in the beginning a lot of people were against it. Now I think everybody is pretty happy that we have got it.

“I think a normal race weekend we can leave that for the time being what it is.”

Red Bull’s Verstappen goes into the Azerbaijan Grand Prix atop the Drivers’ standings after two wins from the opening three rounds, 15 points clear of team-mate Sergio Perez.