Lewis Hamilton criticises Azerbaijan GP format

The new Sprint format has come into effect at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in a bid to shakeup the weekend and create more excitement.

Lewis Hamilton has weighed in on the new weekend race format after the seven-time world champion finished seventh in the first sprint race of the season.

The number of sprint races has doubled from three to six for the 2023 season, with a new format seeing practice reduced to a one hour session on the Friday, followed by Grand Prix qualifying with Saturday turned into a Sprint special.

Hamilton seemed to struggle in the Sprint Shootout session, finishing behind his teammate and slipping down one place following an overtake from Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

The Sprint race, while competitive and offering up points for the first eight, was seen by many drivers and teams as an opportunity to gather data ahead of the Grand Prix on Sunday.

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Important information, such as tyre degradation, will allow teams to plan their race strategy for the longer Grand Prix, deciding whether to plan for a one stop or two stop session.

It was a bit of a struggle, not the most exciting 17 laps,” Hamilton told the F1 website. 

“I struggled with the car compared to qualifying.  

“Those are the [car] paces that you’re going to see tomorrow, I think.

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“I definitely have some good learnings from this session in terms of where I place the car for tomorrow. 

“[The sprint] was basically like a long run in P2 – a bit longer than you would normally get in P2 – but [gave] a good idea of where to set the car for tomorrow.

“Hopefully, I’ll have better race pace,” he continued.

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So far this season, Mercedes has struggled with its race pace, finding itself in third place in the Constructors’ Standings behind Aston Martin and Red Bull.

Mercedes have brought forward a series of upgrades to the W14 this season but it is yet to be seen whether it will make the car truly competitive, as the RB19 continues to dominate.

Even with Hamilton’s teammate George Russell managing to overtake Max Verstappen in Saturday’s Sprint, the Mercedes was not strong enough to hold back the Red Bulls over the course of the race.