Lewis Hamilton offers proposal with F1 race weekend format under microscope

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton pensive in a press conference. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton pensive in a press conference. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Although Lewis Hamilton is in favour of more qualifying sessions at grand prix weekends, the Briton isn’t sure one flying lap to determined the Sprint race grid would work with this year’s Pirelli tyres.

Formula 1 introduced Sprint races in 2021 and, such has been their success, there’ll be six of them this year with the first of those taking place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, round four of the championship.

There has been a lot of talk of late about shaking up the format for the Sprint weekends given teams and drivers have questioned the point of Saturday’s FP2. That takes place after Friday night’s qualifying which means the teams cannot make any changes to the cars.

It has been suggested that instead of FP2, that session will be run as a qualifying session for the Sprint race and one in which the drivers only get one flying lap each. That in itself would be a different format to Friday evening’s qualifying, which will continue as the usual three segment knock-out battle.

However, instead of Friday’s qualifying determining the Sprint race grid, it would set the order for Sunday’s grand prix. As such Saturday’s running, the Sprint qualifying and Sprint race, would effectively be a standalone outing.

Hamilton, while in favour of Formula 1 shaking things up, reckons a one-lap qualifying shoot-out wouldn’t work in Baku.

“I don’t know what the rule is exactly,” he said, “but I do think we constantly need to be evolving and assessing what we’re doing. And I think the changes with the Sprint races has been positive in some places.”

But, he added: “Baku, we couldn’t do a one-lap qualifying because these tyres don’t work after one lap, and especially if we’ve got no blankets, then we’ll be doing more laps. So I don’t know.

“But I’m open to changes, to continue to make it more inclusive and more engaging for the fans.”

As for his own suggestion, the seven-time World Champion would like to see more qualifying sessions as he reckons, especially at places such as Monaco, that is where the fun is at.

“I quite like the Friday of a Sprint weekend so far. I’d love to have more qualifying because that’s always super fun,” he said.

“And I just think it should… be different. Perhaps we can just apply just slightly small changes to different races, specific for those places where if it’s a race where you can’t overtake like Monaco, what else can we do there to make it more exciting.”

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His team-mate George Russell is also against the one-lap qualifying suggestion.

“I don’t think a one-lap qualifying would ever go ahead and from the things I’ve heard that wouldn’t be on the cards,” he said. “I trust in what Stefano [Domenicali] and F1 are doing. It’s difficult to see, in the beginning, the prospects, but we’ve got to keep on evolving.

“I do think, globally, qualifying and the grand prix work very well, but I’m open to change, review, and going again but as I said, I trust them and I’ll back them whatever they believe is right.”

A convert when it comes to Sprint race, the Mercedes driver says he’s enjoying seeing exciting action taking place on Fridays.

“Arriving to the track, having action every single day, also for fans in the crowd, I think just watching cars circulating in practice, I don’t think it’s as exciting as when you have a qualifying session like this or a Sprint race,” he said.

“So I think it’s exciting for us, for the teams, and for the fans.”