Sky F1 broadcaster and former F1 driver Martin Brundle offers his thoughts on the Sprint format, following the conclusion of the final Sprint race weekend in Brazil.
“The chronology of the Sprint events is confusing, with the disconnect between Friday qualifying and Sunday race, and the different session formats and tire allocations,” he wrote in his column for Sky after the Brazilian Grand Prix.
“Sprint events have an allocation of 12 sets of dry tires instead of 13, but fewer sets have to be handed back over the event.
“But fewer tires with more meaningful-timed sessions and races, and only one practice hour, certainly forces different approaches to tire use, team by team. This was particularly relevant as the hard compound tire simply didn’t work on this track, as was the case last season.
“I see a lot of social media traffic, as well as talking with fans, friends, and media, where many say they don’t like Sprint format at all. Despite being a pure racer and having won many of them, [Max] Verstappen says the same.
“That’s all valid opinion, but the TV audience numbers show a lot more eyeballs watching these ‘appointments to view’ live sport. And that’s fact.
“As I said in our shows, the worst Sprint will always be better than the best FP2, because in free practices nothing is decided, and the teams need to keep the cars well apart on track and use as little tire and power unit life as possible. The Sprints simply must be more entertaining trackside too for those splashing their hard-earned cash.
“The Sprint format will be tweaked for next year and qualifying for the main race will revert to Saturday afternoon I suspect. Saturday will become a thrilling day should they schedule the Sprint race in the morning and Qualifying in the afternoon, although teams will be nervous about having sufficient time to repair any damage from the morning event.
“Friday will then be one practice session in the morning, which I believe should revert to 90 minutes, and the Sprint Shootout qualification in the afternoon. Another very decent day for the fans trackside and watching on TV or online.
“That chronology flows more logically, and tire allocations should be standardized for every weekend – we already talk more than enough about tires.”
Brundle also pointed out the need for parc ferme conditions to be locked down on Saturday instead of Friday, as the current setup means teams are locked into potentially rubbish setups from Friday evening – dooming them to a full weekend of a horribly handling car.
“There’s no point in teams being locked into a rubbish race set-up from Friday lunchtime for the duration, especially if FP1 is wet or curtailed,” he said.
“Perhaps Sprint championship points should go down to 10th place, and the circuits chosen should be those which naturally generate decent overtaking where possible, like Interlagos. Reversing grids will just make everybody try to go slowly in that qualifying session, and if you simply reverse grids based on say championship positions, then you don’t have a qualifying session at all, although it would generate a thrilling race probably.”
“If you have a standalone Sprint championship then a good percentage of the field will know they have no chance of winning and so will cruise to save accident damage, engine mileage, and tires,” he said.
“There’s no reason why there can’t be a notional Sprint championship where the top few are rewarded accordingly, with much if not all of that money going to a charity of their choice who will also then get a lot of airtime. Or put the money into grassroots Motorsport to help tomorrow’s stars.
“The whole Sprint format needs sharpening up schedule-wise, and then it can likely work at a few more circuits. Let’s see what the F1 Commission comes up with after their meeting in Abu Dhabi.”