Christian Horner: “Absolutely ludicrous” to host Sprint Race in Baku

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes he has criticized the decision to host a sprint race at Baku, given the potential for substantial crashes and damage costs at the street circuit.

Formula 1 introduced the budget cap as a measure to equalize spending across the field, preventing traditionally front-running teams from significantly outspending rivals with more limited resources.

The majority of teams now have very similar annual expenditures, which, in theory, should help level the playing field.

Although differences will still exist between teams – as the 2022 and 2023 seasons have demonstrated – efficiency is now rewarded, as opposed to brute spending power.

Red Bull has proven capable of leading the pack despite the newly imposed financial restrictions, though the team’s breach of the cap last year shows there is still room to perfect their balance sheet.

In any case, the budget cap means that damages sustained from accidents are – quite literally – more costly than in previous seasons.

Even teams with the financial muscle of Red Bull are weary of costs, with Christian Horner explaining to the media his concerns about hosting a sprint race in Baku:

“The reality is that it’s absolutely ludicrous to be doing the first spring race of the year in a street race like Azerbaijan. 

“But I think from a spectacle point of view, from a fan point of view, is probably going to be one of the most exciting races of the year. 

“From a cost cap perspective, all you can do is trash your car, and it costs a lot of money around there. So one race is enough in Baku. 

“The fact we’ve got two… yeah, there could well be some action there. But that’s part of the challenge, and it’s part of the task that we’ve got. 

“Hopefully, we can tidy up the format for the sprint races coming up [so] they are a bit more dynamic. 

“I know that the sporting director has been working hard on that, and hopefully, we can get that finalized – so yeah, a sprint race in Azerbaijan is something to certainly be wary of.”

Azerbaijan’s Baku circuit has produced several exciting races in Formula 1, with its unique layout allowing for overtakes on the main straight and punishing drivers for any mistakes.

However, its inclusion as a Sprint race venue has prompted discussion about F1 prioritising the ‘spectacle’ over more practical concerns.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has been at the centre of this debate, making the case that the ‘DNA’ of Formula 1 is not compatible with the changes being introduced.

Further amendments to the Sprints are likely to be made in 2023 as Liberty Media looks to perfect its new format and incentivise more action throughout the race weekend.

Christian Horner – like most team principals – has generally been quite complimentary about testing with Sprint races to improve the product for fans.

The biggest point of contention for F1 team bosses has always been the financial aspect of Sprints, with teams unwilling to compromise development and overall spending for the sake of a different format.

Formula 1 continues to make tweaks on both a sporting and entertainment front, constantly seeking to capitalize on the growing interest in motorsport.

Whilst there will likely be further discussions on this area, it appears even more likely that Sprints – unless there is a major shift – will continue in F1 for the foreseeable future.