F1 in talks with teams to make major changes to unloved sprint weekend

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton puts his wheels on the grass to overtake Charles Leclerc during the Mexican Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton puts his wheels on the grass to overtake Charles Leclerc.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff confirmed talks are underway regarding the rumoured alternate format for Formula 1 sprints.

The 100-kilometer races were first introduced into F1 in 2021, as a way of creating more meaningful on-track action across a race weekend.

Already the original format had made way for a new one for F1 2023, with the sprits now taking place on Saturday after a shortened qualifying session that day to set the grid, but now another solution has been proposed for what has become a polarising format among F1 personnel and fans alike.

Toto Wolff confirms F1 talks to alter sprint format

Heading into the Brazilian Grand Prix, the final sprint race weekend of F1 2023, speculation emerged of a future alteration to the format, where qualifying for the sprint would be held on Friday, with the sprint then taking place on Saturday, followed by qualifying for the Grand Prix later that day.

Currently, Friday sees the single practice session and Grand Prix qualifying, with the Saturday reserved for sprint action.

Speaking in Brazil, Wolff said this proposal is being discussed among the teams and Formula 1 president Stefano Domenicali, Wolff saying he gets “confused” with the current sprint race weekend format.

Asked by Sky F1 if the rumoured new format was true, Wolff replied: “That’s correct.

“We’ve been talking with Stefano. It is his decision but then you can correlate it easier… you do the sprint shootout and then the second qualifying for the race, which would be Saturday at two o’clock, which is the time we know.

“It would maybe create less confusion. I’m getting confused.

“I think we all have the same objectives, between F1 and the teams. I’ve said it often but I am not keen on these weekends but, if it makes sense from the audience’s point of view, then obviously we do need it.”

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The fact that cars currently are locked down under parc ferme rules after FP1 on a Friday has also been highlighted as a sticking point, with some teams then carrying a suboptimal setup throughout the rest of the weekend, unless they are prepared to start from the pit lane.

One way of the teams potentially gaining a better understanding of how to set their challengers up would be to increase the sole practice session from 60 to 90 minutes, but Wolff does not agree with that, arguing it counters the element of “jeopardy” which Formula 1 wishes to create.

“I mean, it’s the same for everyone,” said Wolff on that idea of 30 minutes extra practice.

“You could say from an engineering standpoint that we wish we had more.

“But the idea of the sprint weekend was to make more jeopardy and that is achieved by having 60 minutes.”

Aston Martin performance director Tom McCullough backed Wolff’s call for a less confusing format, using his father as an example who, despite having a strong knowledge of Formula 1, sometimes asks for clarification on how a sprint weekend works.

“So we had the sporting advisory committee meeting this week and there’s been discussions about how to improve how we go about the sprint event,” he told media personnel.

“The sprint event was brought in for a reason, the fans. From a technical point of view, it’s a headache. The car goes into parc ferme after one practice session and it is difficult.

“But from a commercial side and from a fan side, I think there are elements that are exciting. It needs tweaking, it’s been tweaked already, I think it needs tweaking a bit more because even my dad, who is quite an understander and follower of Formula 1, sometimes says to me, ‘Just remind me, is it qualifying on Friday for the main race?’

“And I just think if somebody at that level is having questions, the fans are going to get confused.

“So our job is to put a simpler, better, more understandable format [together] and still have the excitement of two races.”

The Brazilian Grand Prix marks the sixth and final sprint weekend of F1 2023.

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