Ross Brawn believes the sprint thriller at Interlagos was proof that the success of the shortened format depends in no small part on the chosen tracks for the year.
After a rain-affected qualifying session that saw the Haas of Kevin Magnussen take a shock pole position in Friday’s running, the 24-lap sprint session on the Saturday proved to be widely regarded as the most entertaining of the format yet.
The Mercedes of George Russell ended up taking victory in the sprint, with thrilling battles throughout the field following on behind him, including contact between the two Alpine drivers of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen falling out of the lead on medium tyres through suffering tyre degradation – despite other runners being on softer rubber.
The sprint format itself has proven divisive since its trial introduction in 2021, with the weekend structure changing to shift qualifying to a Friday, followed by the sprint on a Saturday, which in turn sets the grid for Sunday’s grand prix.
But Brawn, who has now retired after leaving his role as Formula 1’s managing director of motorsports, feels the showing in Brazil was proof that the format works well – at the correct circuit.
“I think this was one of the tracks we thought would produce, and I think it does tell us the choice of track is absolutely critical,” Brawn told Formula1.com after the sprint at Interlagos.
“It’s [a] 100km race, no pit stops, soft tyres are the ones that I think can last but get a little bit edgy towards the end. So it’s got all the ingredients, and fantastic race [in Brazil].
“But it’s a perfect foundation for us to evolve to the next step. I don’t believe we should make a revolution. I think we’ve got a great format.
“We’re going to look at free practice 2 in the morning on the Saturday, it’s a little bit dull. So we’re going to try and do that, [but] I think what we shouldn’t forget is it gives us three days of action.”
The number of sprints will double from three to six next season, with Interlagos and Austria remaining as host venues for 2023 and Silverstone reverting to a standard weekend structure, with four circuits set to host a sprint for the first time instead.
F1 sprint rounds, 2023 season
Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku, 28-30 April
Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg, 30 June-2 July
Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps, 28-30 July
Qatar Grand Prix, Lusail, 6-8 October
United States Grand Prix, Austin, 20-22 October
Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Interlagos, 3-5 November