Martin Brundle spots a big problem with controversial Sprint Championship idea

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen takes the lead of the Sprint race at the FIA F1 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen takes the lead of the Sprint race at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Martin Brundle believes an idea aimed at improving the spectacle of the Sprint has some other drawbacks…

The Sky F1 broadcaster and former F1 driver has offered his thoughts on the Sprint format, following the conclusion of the final race weekend to use the format this season as Brazil hosted the sixth and final sprint race.

The much-maligned format has already been tweaked since its introduction in the sport in 2021, but Brundle believes further changes are needed in order to make them more appealing more both watching fans as well as the participants.

Martin Brundle defends Sprint format but calls for changes

“The chronology of the Sprint events is confusing, with the disconnect between Friday qualifying and Sunday race, and the different session formats and tyre allocations,” he wrote in his column for Sky after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

“Sprint events have an allocation of 12 sets of dry tyres instead of 13, but fewer sets have to be handed back over the event.

“But fewer tyres with more meaningful-timed sessions and races, and only one practice hour, certainly forces different approaches to tyre use, team by team. This was particularly relevant as the hard compound tyre simply didn’t work on this track, as was the case last season.

“I see a lot of social media traffic, as well as talking with fans, friends, and media, where many say they don’t like Sprint format at all. Despite being a pure racer and having won many of them, [Max] Verstappen says the same.

“That’s all valid opinion, but the TV audience numbers show a lot more eyeballs watching these ‘appointments to view’ live sport. And that’s fact.

“As I said in our shows, the worst Sprint will always be better than the best FP2, because in free practices nothing is decided, and the teams need to keep the cars well apart on track and use as little tyre and power unit life as possible. The Sprints simply must be more entertaining trackside too for those splashing their hard-earned cash.

“The Sprint format will be tweaked for next year and qualifying for the main race will revert to Saturday afternoon I suspect. Saturday will become a thrilling day should they schedule the Sprint race in the morning and Qualifying in the afternoon, although teams will be nervous about having sufficient time to repair any damage from the morning event.

“Friday will then be one practice session in the morning, which I believe should revert to 90 minutes, and the Sprint Shootout qualification in the afternoon. Another very decent day for the fans trackside and watching on TV or online.

“That chronology flows more logically, and tyre allocations should be standardised for every weekend – we already talk more than enough about tyres.”

Martin Brundle highlights drawback of ‘Sprint Championship’

Brundle also pointed out the need for parc ferme conditions to be opened up, as the current setup means teams are locked into potentially rubbish setups from Friday evening – dooming them to a full weekend without any chance of rectifying identified issues.

“There’s no point in teams being locked into a rubbish race set-up from Friday lunchtime for the duration, especially if FP1 is wet or curtailed,” he said.

“Perhaps Sprint championship points should go down to 10th place, and the circuits chosen should be those which naturally generate decent overtaking where possible, like Interlagos. Reversing grids will just make everybody try to go slowly in that qualifying session, and if you simply reverse grids based on say championship positions, then you don’t have a qualifying session at all, although it would generate a thrilling race probably.”

One idea that has been mooted is that of a separate championship consisting solely of the Sprints, but Brundle doubts this idea will work – for obvious reasons.

“If you have a standalone Sprint championship then a good percentage of the field will know they have no chance of winning and so will cruise to save accident damage, engine mileage, and tyres,” he said.

“There’s no reason why there can’t be a notional Sprint championship where the top few are rewarded accordingly, with much if not all of that money going to a charity of their choice who will also then get a lot of airtime. Or put the money into grassroots Motorsport to help tomorrow’s stars.

“The whole Sprint format needs sharpening up schedule-wise, and then it can likely work at a few more circuits. Let’s see what the F1 Commission comes up with after their meeting in Abu Dhabi.”

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