Lando Norris stands with Max Verstappen on sprint race criticism

Michelle Foster
Lando Norris speaking with Max Verstappen and a smiling Carlos Sainz. Monaco May 2022

McLaren driver Lando Norris speaking with Max Verstappen and a smiling Carlos Sainz. Monaco May 2022

Lando Norris has backed Max Verstappen’s call for Formula 1 to stick to Sunday races, especially at tracks such as Interlagos.

The Brazilian circuit plays host to the penultimate round of the 2022 championship where the final sprint race of the season will also be held.

That means instead of Friday’s second practice, the drivers will jump into qualifying and in the traditional qualifying slot on Saturday, there’ll be a 100km sprint race that will set the grid for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Norris agrees with Verstappen’s recent comments that Formula 1 to “stick” to Sunday races as the sprint events are “not what a race should be about”.

“Growing up, always having qualifying and then a race, that’s always what I’ve known Formula 1 to be,” GPFans quotes the McLaren driver as having said.

“So in a way, I’m with Max on that.

“I love just to build up the pressure of just having qualifying and one race with nothing coming between, that’s just the structure of it.”

But, having said that, the Briton conceded that the impact of a sprint race is also determined by the nature of the circuit.

“At the correct tracks,” he added, “I also don’t mind it.

“So when it was in Austria or Monza, tracks you can actually race on. Interlagos, reasonably, not the easiest track for most people to race on.”

Last season, though, Lewis Hamilton showed what can be achieved in a sprint race weekend.

He lined up P20 on the Interlagos sprint grid after his DRS was found to be 2mm too wide and raced his way to fifth in the 24 laps.

Despite another five-place penalty on the Sunday for taking on a new ICE, he took the race win by 10.5s ahead of Verstappen.

But as Norris points out, “that’s Lewis in a Mercedes.

“I don’t think it’s for everyone. It’s not as simple as saying ‘Lewis did this or that’.

“You have to look at the whole grid, the whole field and there are obvious ones which everyone races at and can have good fun in and, if you want to put on a better show which is what the whole point of it is, then I understand it.

“But I like Formula 1 how it is, just because I’ve grown up watching that, then being part of it. Sometimes I don’t like change. I also don’t mind it.”

Sprint races are in general not very exciting

Any driver racing from P20 to P5 deserves plaudits, that Lewis Hamilton did it in just 24 laps makes it even more impressive.

But, as Lando Norris rightly points out, that was Hamilton in a Mercedes that until this season has been the top of the class.

Sprint races are in general not very exciting.

In this year’s first at Imola, the top two on the grid – Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc – were 1-2 at the chequered flag with Sergio Perez climbing from seventh to third. The only notable moment in that Verstappen passed Leclerc for the lead with the help of DRS.

Austria’s top three on the grid remained the top three at the end of the 23 laps, Perez was the biggest climber from P13 to P5. But like Hamilton’s 2021 Brazilian GP drive, he did it in the best car on the grid. That sprint race’s big moment was Mick Schumacher’s dogged defending against Hamilton.

Neither was particularly action-packed.

But it is something different to the norm and with Formula 1 trying to attract new, and younger, fans it seems to be working given the growing numbers.

Oh wait, that may have something more to do with last year’s epic battle for the World title. Or the sprint races. You decide…