Martin Brundle makes clear sprint race demand after latest ‘lottery’ flop

Michelle Foster
McLaren's Lando Norris takes the lead at the start of the US Grand Prix at COTA.

McLaren's Lando Norris takes the lead at the start of the US Grand Prix at COTA.

Martin Brundle has questioned whether the “jeopardy” of the Sprint format is worth it after four cars started from the pit lane and urged for changes to made ahead of the F1 2024 season.

The United States Grand Prix weekend played host to the fifth of six Sprint events on this year’s Formula 1 calendar, and it wasn’t exactly a winner.

Max Verstappen cruised to his third Sprint victory of this season by a whopping 9.4s ahead of Lewis Hamilton while Charles Leclerc, third after the first corner, finished third.

Martin Brundle: It’s too much of a lottery

But it was the impact the format had on the Grand Prix that has Brundle worried.

With just one practice hour on the Friday before qualifying, after which the cars are all under parc ferme conditions and no set-up changes can be made, Aston Martin and Haas pulled their cars off the Grand Prix grid in order to change the set-ups having not got it right in FP1.

As such the race started with just 16 cars lining up on the grid, and it ended with two disqualified.

Hamilton and Leclerc were disqualified hours after the Grand Prix when the FIA found their planks to be less than the mandated 9mm thickness. The teams blamed the bumps at the Circuit of The Americas with Wolff conceding it may not have happened had Mercedes had more practice time to fine-tune their set-up.

Brundle reckons the consequences of only one practice hour means fans are not getting to see the cars at their best.

He wrote in his post-United States GP column for Sky Sports: “There’s no doubt that the Sprint format events put the teams under a lot of pressure and overall, we don’t get particularly positive feedback from them.

“With just one practice session before the specification and set-up is locked in by parc ferme rules, especially at a relatively unknown circuit like Losail in Qatar, or a bumpy circuit such as COTA in Austin, this leaves them underprepared, which is far from ideal with such complex cars.

“And that’s assuming the first practice session has representative weather and they don’t have any reliability issues or accidents.

“And there’s the first question: do we want the jeopardy and variability of some teams missing their ultimate pace, or is this wasting the resource and skills of teams and drivers in a ‘not very F1’ manner?

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“We had 20 percent of the field starting the main Sunday race from the pit lane, in the form of both Aston Martins and both Haas cars, because they were better breaking out of parc ferme and trying for a more competitive race set-up. And from Friday afternoon onwards, with two qualifying sessions and two races to come, some drivers were consigned to a difficult car for the rest of the weekend.

“This is not ideal or necessary, and while I don’t like us to keep messing with the format, we must make some changes for next season and beyond. It’s too much of a lottery which has far-reaching consequences, as we would find out several hours after the Sunday GP.”

Martin Brundle: Max Verstappen has a fair point

Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen is one of the biggest critics of the Sprint format, the Red Bull driver again telling the media in Austin that it “takes away that magic of waking up on a Sunday” to watch a Grand Prix.

But while Brundle acknowledges he personally would rather watch a Sprint than a practice session, he feels Formula 1 has gone too far with its various formats.

The nine-time F1 podium finisher added: “Max has a fair point that the Sprint gives you half the story for race day and takes away some anticipation. I’d still much rather watch a Sprint than a free practice session personally.

“Another issue is that we currently have three different event tyre allocation scenarios, two different qualifying formats, and two different race formats.

“Teams and media alike have to keep refreshing their memories on the ramifications each weekend – and so what chance do the fans have of remembering it all?”

Formula 1’s final Sprint weekend of the season will be held at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, the third race in the current triple-header.

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