Lewis Hamilton on new sprint format: ‘It’s a practice session with points’

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton walks down stairs. Baku April 2023.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton walks down a set of stairs as he heads through the paddock. Azerbaijan April 2023.

Lewis Hamilton has compared the new format of sprints in Formula 1 to being like “a practice session, but there are points at the end of it”.

The seven-time World Champion has generally spoken favourably of the changes, which take effect in Azerbaijan this weekend, with the caveat for the drivers being only one free practice session all weekend.

The tweaks from the FIA were agreed by the teams in the run-up to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, and the 2023 sprints will see Saturdays reserved as a standalone day for sprints, with a ‘sprint shootout’ qualifying session taking place early on Saturday. That sets the grid for the sprint race later in the day.

There is also no bearing on the sprint result for Sunday’s main event, with Charles Leclerc having taken pole position for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in ‘standard’ qualifying, which now takes place on Friday instead at sprint events.

On the standalone nature of the sprint, the Mercedes driver remarked that the result having no influence on Sunday’s race gives the sprint more of a ‘practice session’ element to it, given how the grid from qualifying will now take effect again, instead of the previous format of the sprint potentially shaking up the grid order for Sunday’s grand prix.

“I don’t think it makes really a lot of difference now,” Hamilton told reporters in Baku when asked about the risk and reward element of the new sprint format.

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“Obviously before, where you finished in the sprint was where you obviously qualified for the race. Now it is a practice session but there are points at the end of it, I guess.

“I don’t think we’ll be going more out than we normally have done in the past.

“What I do think is – and I think it’s great that we are doing these different format weekends – but there’s a lot of time where we could do more running.

“And I know we always talk about what’s the best in terms of environment and all those sorts of things but I don’t know if it’d be better for the fans but there’s a lot of… there’s a huge break between these sessions and we could be doing more running or whatever it may be, if that was better for the fans, for example, so maybe we’ll look into that in the future.”

Hamilton qualified fifth for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, while Mercedes team-mate George Russell narrowly missed out in Q2 and will line up 11th.