[Verstappen: Sprint ‘gamble’ makes F1 races boring for fans
The Dutchman, who has never been a fan of the sprint rules, is set to clinch his third world championship title in Saturday’s event in Qatar.
The sprint weekend rules put cars under parc ferme conditions following FP1, which means that teams cannot make changes for main race qualifying, the shootout, the sprint, and Sunday’s grand prix.
In Qatar, a big change in conditions after the afternoon daylight FP1 session into the evening qualifying session adds to the challenge.
“It is tough,” said Verstappen. “It is also very warm on the track at night. Of course, it cools down a bit but whatever you do in FP1 it is still not clear for qualifying, so it makes it harder and a bit of a gamble and guessing to make the right call.
“Which for me is a shame, because on this track it would be amazing to have a few practice sessions to set up the car nicely and be fully comfortable going into qualifying, for everyone to really get the best out of it. But that is how it is, they chose to do it here.”
Verstappen conceded that getting it right in FP1 on Friday will be crucial.
“It is never going to be straightforward for anyone, but if you hit the ground running and the car feels amazing then great, perfect,” he said. “But it is very rare it feels like that after one session.
“But again, it is too hot, and into qualifying it is different conditions, so it makes it a proper guessing game. We might be happy after FP1, but then what would we do for qualifying? Because it is a lot colder and the balance and everything changes.
“So there is a lot that you have to get right, and some teams will be better than others. I hope that we are on the better side.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Verstappen made clear that his dislike of sprints extends to the impact on fans.
“I just prefer the normal racing format,” he said. “I think it is more exciting, and especially for qualifying you can go more to the limit as you know more what you’ve done in practice.
“For example, in Suzuka if you do FP1 there and go straight into qualifying you risk having bigger shunts and it is not as fulfilling.
“I always keep saying that once we do a sprint race you get the big picture anyway for the main race, so you know more or less which cars are going to be really good in the race or the ones that are going to drop back.
“So it takes away the excitement, from when I remember I was a fan and outside of the F1 world, that sense of you don’t know which car is particularly amazing in the long runs, or have they nailed the race set up?
“You watch qualifying and you say, ‘Wow, OK, but it might be that one car is in front but will drop back in the race’.
“The result is unclear and then you wake up for the Sunday race and you see it all unfold, but because of the sprint race it takes that away. So if nothing happens and they don’t crash then they are going to win the race.”
Asked if drivers should have a say in such format changes, he indicated that he doesn’t expect to be listened to.
“I voice my opinion and I will always do so,” he said. “Freedom of speech. It is probably also not in their interests to listen to what the drivers say as they want to spice it up a bit, and maybe sell more tickets.
“I look at it from the pure racing side, but I understand the commercial side and reasons behind it. So you have to take it from both ways, and of course I understand why they tried to spice it up.”
Asked about the GPDA view, he added: “I think some drivers like it, but it depends on your car, right? Because if you can risk more in the sprint to get a few more points then you will always be more positive about it.
“That is why you will never get 100% agreement with the drivers, because everyone is in a different situation. But from a pure racing side, it takes a bit of excitement out of the Sunday race.”