Max Verstappen leads questions on ‘not the smartest’ Chinese Grand Prix decision

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen waves at Suzuka.

Max Verstappen has been a vocal critic of Sprints since their introduction.

Max Verstappen warned it was “not the smartest” decision to hold a Sprint at the Chinese Grand Prix, given the five-year absence from the Shanghai International Circuit.

The first Sprint of the season will take place in China this weekend, and while Verstappen has been a vocal critic of the shortened format since its introduction, to head straight into the Sprint Shootout after only an hour of practice introduces another variable into the weekend.

Max Verstappen: China Sprint ‘not the smartest thing to do’

Doing so on a circuit on which the new ground-effect cars have not raced yet is another area of uncertainty for the drivers and teams, with only 60 minutes of on-track running available before the drivers have to qualify for the Sprint.

Changes have been made to the format of the weekend to enable the teams to make changes to their cars after the Sprint, with qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix moved back to its traditional Saturday afternoon slot to ensure parc fermé conditions do not come into play until later in the weekend.

Even so, there is still limited running time for the drivers and teams before their on-track action ramps up at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Most of the grid have experience around the Shanghai International Circuit but, given the length of time without a race there, the reigning World Champion does not believe holding a Sprint there this weekend was the best move.

“Yeah, it’s very smart to do that,” Verstappen said with a chuckle after it was pointed out to him the teams will have one practice session before heading into the Sprint Shootout in China.

“I think it’s not great, let’s say like that, to do that. Because when you have been away from a track for quite a while, I think you never know what you’re going to experience, right? So it would have been better to have a normal race weekend there.

“But on the other hand, it probably spices things up a bit more, and that’s maybe what they would like to see.

“But yeah, purely from a driving perspective, performance perspective of the sport, I think it’s not the smartest thing to do.

“We’ll see what we get there. I mean, I always loved driving there. So yeah, hopefully, we can hit the ground running as well as we can, and hopefully, we don’t need to fine-tune too many things on the car.”

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Adding his thoughts to the question, Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez said: “Yeah, I just hope that there are no issues with the track, with any drain holes, any issues like that.

“That will just put us out of sync. But I think for the show, probably it’s good. It’s a good thing.

“But I think from the preparation side, it’s going to be definitely one that is going to be really hard because, I mean, I’ve never raced there, for example, with Red Bull so it’s going to be quite a lot to do in a single practice.”

Carlos Sainz, meanwhile, explained that the circuit itself in Shanghai is one that he enjoys, and the layout lends itself to the Sprint format, but he does not believe it is a risk worth taking for the drivers and teams – despite the potential for entertainment at home.

“Yeah, I think there’s two different topics,” said the Ferrari driver.

“I think China as a race circuit is a great one. I think it’s one of our favourite ones for everyone.

“It’s just a great racing track and a track that offers a good possibility to overtake, so a Sprint makes sense to have it there.

“At the same time, it’s what we said in the drivers’ briefing, we say to FIA and Formula 1, with these kind of cars to go to a track with one hour of practice and straight into qualifying, with the regulations that they put us, with the plank wear and things like this, and how tricky one bump could make the car, I think it’s not a good choice to choose to put the Sprint after four or five years absence.

“We also heard there’s been resurfacing going on, so Istanbul 2.0 may be on the cards! Yeah, I hope not. So yeah, it just shows the uncertainty.

“Maybe for you guys at home it’s exciting, but for engineers and drivers, it’s something that for me, in my opinion, we shouldn’t take the risk and have a normal weekend.”

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