Guenther Steiner proposes alternative plan to sprint race weekends

Thomas Maher
Haas team boss Guenther Steiner at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, July 2022.

Haas' Guenther Steiner at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, July 2022.

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner would like to see tweaks made to the Sprint Qualifying format, in order to make it more interesting.

With F1 reaching the final Sprint Qualifying weekend of the season, the second year in which the new qualifying format has been used, Guenther Steiner believes there are ways to improve upon the idea.

As it stands, the current format is a single practice session early on Friday before hosting the normal hour-long qualifying session. This session dictates the order of the grid for the Sprint Qualifying race on Saturday – the results of which determine the grid for the Grand Prix itself.

However, with the cars going into parc ferme conditions after Friday qualifying, it makes the second practice session held on Saturday morning all but moot as the drivers and teams can’t make any setup changes.

As a result, Steiner believes there’s room for improvements on the Sprint format, and welcomed the addition of a further three such weekends in 2023 – F1 will run six Sprint Qualifying weekends next year.

I’m in favour of more Sprints as it makes the overall race weekend interesting by having qualifying on Friday,” Steiner said in his preview of the Sao Paolo Grand Prix in Brazil.

“What I’d like even more is having qualifying for the Sprint on Friday and qualifying for the main race on Saturday morning, as the free practice currently isn’t very meaningful for anyone.

“Then, on Saturday afternoon you have the Sprint, followed by the main event on Sunday.”

According to a report last month, this very suggestion is being evaluated by Formula 1 as a possibility for introduction in the 2024 season.

Kevin Magnussen enjoys Sprint Qualifying format

While newly crowned 2022 World Champion Max Verstappen has said he’s not a huge fan of the Sprint format, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen is in the camp of supporters for the intense schedule such a weekend provides.

“I think we’ve done well, we’ve scored points at every Sprint so far and I actually quite like those weekends where you get into serious business, quickly,” he said.

“Three practice sessions are actually a lot, and these weekends show that you can get ready for qualifying with one practice.

“It’s the same for everyone, you deal with it, and it becomes normal. I think six next year is good but, of course, the workload for the team in the garage during these weekends is very high. From a driving perspective, it’s very cool.”

2009 F1 World Champion turned broadcaster Jenson Button also believes the move to include more racing on a Grand Prix weekend is a positive, especially given the more frantic style of a Sprint.

“I do like them,” he said on Sky F1’s Any Driven Monday.

“The drivers and teams completely understand what they need to do from when the lights go out on a Sunday to what happens on the last lap of the race in terms of how they look after the car, how they look after the tyres.

“They’re not driving at full speed, which is a shame, but the cars are heavier, the tyres are going through so much stress and pain with the amount of downforce these cars have.

“Whereas, in a sprint race, they just go for it. You see the tyre wear, the degradation, some cars are better than others and some drivers are better than others at looking after the tyres in that situation. I love that, and the drivers have spoken about that in the past.

“So I do like a sprint race. It really does mix it up. Especially around Interlagos, which is a tough track, especially on the tyres.”

Read More: Sprints an improvement on practice, but still yet to be fully embraced