Max Verstappen’s ‘chaotic’ prediction for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Sam Cooper
Max Verstappen looking glum, Saudi Arabia. March 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen looking glum, Saudi Arabia. March 2023

Max Verstappen said he would not be surprised if this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix proves to be “chaotic” with the first sprint race of the season.

Baku plays host to the first of six sprints in 2023 and poses a challenge for the teams considering the tight nature of the Azerbaijan circuit.

Verstappen is among those most critical of not only the sprint format but also the decision to host one in Baku but nevertheless, he will be aiming for maximum points this weekend to continue his title push.

Looking ahead to the race which he won last year, Verstappen predicted it could be “slightly chaotic” as Formula 1 holds its first sprint race of the season.

“Baku is a challenging track to get right. As it’s a street circuit with long straights, it gives us multiple options on what wings we can run,” Verstappen said.

“It’s also the first sprint race weekend of the season so that might make it slightly chaotic.”

Not only is it the first sprint race of the year but it is also the first under a new format which was ratified on Tuesday.

Now, practice sessions have been cut down to just one on Friday morning and there is a separate qualifying session to decide both the race grid and the sprint grid.

Verstappen stressed how important it was to make the most of FP1 and said the team needed to ensure they got off to a good start to the weekend.

“We just need to try and get a good start into the weekend with a solid FP1 session,” the championship leader said. “Let’s see what we can do.”

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Even maximum points would not be enough to convince Max Verstappen of sprint format

If Verstappen was to take off from Baku with the maximum 34 points added to his tally, there are few within the halls of F1 and the FIA who would believe that would be enough to change the Dutchman’s opinion on the sprint format.

While others have been open to change, Verstappen has routinely criticised the sprint format saying he is “not a fan of it at all” and no doubt he would have rung alarm bells when he suggested further changes to the F1 calendar may make him consider his long-term future in the sport, a potential disaster for F1 which could soon be without its biggest names.

“I think when we are going to do all that kind of stuff,” Verstappen said. “The weekend becomes even more intense and we’re already doing so many races, so I think that is not the right way to go at it.

“I understand, because they want to have like basically every day exciting, but then I think maybe it’s better to just reduce the weekend – only race Saturday and Sunday and make those two days exciting.

Because we’re heading into seasons where you have at one point 24, 25 races, because that’s where we’re going to head into and if we start adding even more stuff, it’s not worth it for me anyway. I’m not enjoying that.

“And for me, a sprint race is all about surviving. It’s not about racing. For me, when you have a quick car, there’s nothing to risk.”