Max Verstappen voices opposition to sprints: ‘Sunday is the day to race’

Jon Wilde
Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez after Emilia Romagna GP sprint qualifying. Imola April 2022.

Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez on the podium after Emilia Romagna Grand Prix sprint qualifying. Imola April 2022.

Max Verstappen has voiced his strongest disapproval so far about the concept of Formula 1 sprints.

Although he has won both of the sprint qualifying ‘races’ so far this year, at Imola and the Red Bull Ring, the Dutchman says he simply does not like the idea.

The problem for the World Champion is that in 2023, unlike this season and last, sprint qualifying could take place on six occasions – double the current three.

With more points available for the sprints this term, the two shorter-format victories Verstappen has achieved have helped to build his 98-point lead in the Drivers standings for he has collected the maximum 16 available so far.

And yet the 24-year-old Red Bull driver is still not a fan.

“I just don’t like the sprints,” said Verstappen, quoted by motorsport-magazin.com. “The emotions on a Sunday should be special. That’s the only day you should race. That’s how I grew up.”

Verstappen also made the point that some drivers are too careful in the sprints so as to avoid wrecking their hopes of a strong grand prix result the following day, thus denying the Saturday crowd the action they would hope for.

“Sunday is the day to race,” said Verstappen. “The sprints we’ve done so far haven’t really changed anything in the results.

“Everyone starts on the same tyre and finishes the sprint in the same position from which they started.”

What future do sprints have in Formula 1?

Unfortunately from Verstappen’s perspective, they look unlikely to be dropped – for next year at least.

And, of course, there is still one more to come in 2022, at Interlagos.

It is far from impossible that Verstappen could actually clinch a second World Championship in the Sao Paulo sprint, on the penultimate weekend of the campaign, although he is currently so dominant it could actually even happen before the circus reaches the American swing in the second half of October.

As for next year, there has been a difference of opinion between Formula 1 and the teams on one side, and the FIA on the other, about how many sprints should be included on the 2023 calendar.

Max Verstappen leads sprint qualifying for the Austrian GP. Red Bull Ring July 2022.

Formula 1 are aiming for six, the FIA say that is too many, citing an increased workload their staff would have to undertake.

In my view, the two sprints this year have done nothing to enhance the concept’s appeal.

Yes, there was a late change of lead at Imola where Verstappen passed Charles Leclerc for the win, but did either sprint really give that particular race weekend a greater identity? Probably not.

The best one we have had among the five held in 2021 and 2022 was at Interlagos last year, when Lewis Hamilton stormed through from the back of the field to finish fifth.

But it is difficult to escape the feeling, like Verstappen says, that the format is already falling flat and perhaps already is living on borrowed time.