Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has called for Formula 1 and the FIA to make changes to the Sprint format, which he admits has been “slightly underwhelming” since it was introduced in 2021.
This season has featured six Sprint weekends, most of which have offered very little in terms of excitement.
The whole point of Sprint races being introduced was to add to the excitement and to make the sport a better spectacle; however, they’ve been criticised by a large portion of the paddock.
Three-time World Champion Max Verstappen has been against the Sprint format ever since it was initially discussed, with even Horner now admitting that changes are needed to “evolve” the feature.
During a Sprint weekend currently, Friday features the weekend’s only practice session and then qualifying for the race.
Saturday features a shortened qualifying session to determine the grid for the Sprint race, before the Sprint then takes place.
As always, Sunday consists of just the traditional race.
One of the biggest problems with the current Sprint format is that parc ferme conditions are introduced after Free Practice 1, meaning a car’s set-up cannot be changed for the remainder of the event.
This has been the main criticism, with Mirror Sport having reported that changing the parc ferme rules is being discussed.
According to the report, it’s also being considered whether the ‘Sprint Saturday’ should be scrapped, with a new Sprint format to be introduced.
The reported format would see a practice session and Sprint qualifying take place on the Friday, the Sprint race and then traditional qualifying on the Saturday, with the main race on the Sunday.
Making the Sprint races reverse-grid is also being contemplated.
Any changes to the format for 2024 are expected to be announced in the New Year, with Horner hopeful that something will be done to make it more favourable with the fans.
“I think it’s clear that the Sprints need to evolve a bit, in that I can understand the concept and it being action on all three days, which for the promoter and for the fans has an interest. But I think the sprints, in some cases, have been slightly underwhelming,” Horner said, as reported by The Mirror.
“There’s no pit-stop, it tends to stay in grid order and it’s a little bit like getting a medal for a long run.
“I think there can be a bit more racing introduced, but then, of course, you’ve got to look at what are the consequences with that – if you were to reverse the grid, if there were points involved, etc. So, I think it needs a bit more work doing on it within the sporting forum. And then, no doubt, we’ll sit down at the next Commission meeting early in the new year and hopefully finalise a format.
“I think it’s very important that the next step that we make is one that is fixed for a long period of time. This Sprint concept is a new concept that’s been introduced and in some areas it’s very popular, and with some traditionalists it’s very unpopular. I think that whatever it evolves to needs to be consistent for a long period of time.
“I think the fan feedback is going to play a crucial role in this in terms of what is it actually that the audience want.
“Do they actually enjoy the Sprint format as it is? Or do they actually want to see a bit more racing if we’re going to do a Sprint race? And if so, if we’re going to do that, then how do we award the points? How do we incentivise drivers and teams?
“So there are many topics attached to it. But the most important fundamental thing is, ‘What do the fans want?'”