Formula 1 authorities are open to evaluate a substantial redesign of the sprint race format, recognizing that the current system lacks the excitement fans crave.
The lackluster sprint race during the United States Grand Prix, which resulted in disappointing ticket sales, has fueled a sense of urgency for change.
While Formula 1 is committed to retaining sprint weekends as a long-term feature of the championship, there are ongoing discussions about implementing a bold transformation.
Although formal proposals for potential changes to the sprint format, possibly in 2024, have not been presented, informal talks are underway within the paddock to explore ways to enhance the excitement.
Formula 1 is prepared to make significant alterations to the sprint, rather than merely making minor adjustments. Several innovative concepts are being considered, such as creating a distinct F1 Sprint championship on Saturdays, with points earned not contributing to the primary F1 championships.
To encourage drivers to take the sprint format more seriously, one idea is to secure sponsorship and offer substantial cash prizes for the winners, possibly up to $1 million.
Other potential changes to distinguish the sprint from the main grand prix include adopting a reverse grid format, where the top ten positions are switched, or even completely shuffling the starting order. Grid positions for such a sprint could be determined by reverse championship order or through a qualifying format that still motivates teams to pursue fast lap times.
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The growing consensus for change in the sprint format follows remarks from Red Bull boss Christian Horner at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, where he expressed dissatisfaction with the current rules: “I think you have got to add a bit more jeopardy to it. Whether you do a reverse the top 10 or something, you’ve got to add enough points to it to make it worth the drivers to really go for it.” – the Red Bull team principal added.
However, not every team principal is receptive to such a significant alteration of the sprint format. Toto Wolff, the boss of Mercedes, believes that adopting a reverse grid approach does not align with Formula 1’s longstanding reputation for fair and unadulterated competition: “I’m conservative in racing,” he said when asked by Autosport for his views on the matter. I’d rather have no sprint races than if you start to meddle. Even more with reverse grid races, we are going towards junior formulae where sport follows entertainment, while entertainment should follow sport. Creating artificial gaming around the sprint race on a Saturday is not the way that I would favour personally. But that’s my opinion. All teams, together with Stefano [Domenicali, F1 CEO], we just need to think about what is best.” – he concluded.