Max Verstappen: “Sprints are about surviving, not racing”

Max Verstappen remains critical of F1’s new Sprint Race format, including more recent proposals and discussions for alterations to the Sprints.

There will be a total of six Sprint races in 2023, with Formula 1 and Liberty Media eager to increase the entertainment value of the sport in all areas.

Stefano Domenicali has been relentless in his pursuit of this objective, promoting Sprint races and expressing his belief that free practice sessions should be reduced if possible.

Aside from fan opinion and criticism, the issue of the cost cap and the willingness of teams to risk significant damage will be the biggest obstacle to further integrating Sprint Races into the schedule.

Speaking after qualifying in Australia, the reigning World Champion made no secret about his opposition to further changes in F1:

“Yeah, I’m not a fan of it at all. But also, I think when we’re going to do all that kind of stuff, the weekend becomes even more intense, and we’re already doing so many races.

Red Bull RB19, Max Verstappen & Sergio Perez.

“So I think that is not the right way to go at it. I understand; they want to have basically every day exciting…

“If we then start adding more stuff, it’s not worth it for me anyway. I’m not enjoying that. And for me, a Sprint race is all about surviving. It’s not about racing.

“For me, when you have a quick car, there’s nothing to risk. I prefer just to keep my car alive and make sure that you have a good race car for Sunday. 

“And even if you change the format, I find it’s not the DNA of Formula 1 to do these kinds of Sprint races.”

Verstappen proposed what he believes should be the priority for the sport to improve the spectacle:

“You get even more section by getting the cars closer, getting more teams able to fight for the win. I think naturally the show will be great. 

“If we have six, seven teams already fighting for a win, that will be insane.”

Verstappen’s critiques are plausible, especially given that last season’s Sprint Races (Imola, Austria and Imola) failed to provide any action of notable interest.

There are those who argue that Sprint Races minimise the importance of qualifying, giving drivers an opportunity to recover if they underperform and qualify out of position.

Although many advocates of Sprint Races suggest that eliminating a free practice session in favour of wheel-to-wheel racing is positive, others believe that the overall quality of an F1 race weekend is diminished by Sprints.

Verstappen’s comments about the ‘DNA’ of Formula 1 are very relevant, considering the concerns surrounding the growing number of gimmicks in the sport.

“Naturally” promoting competition seems a more appropriate course of action. In fairness, changes to bring the grid closer together – such as the budget cap and wind tunnel restrictions – have already been implemented.

However, there is a risk that F1 will make a caricature of itself, unable to accept that – as with any sport – there cannot always be a blockbuster headline or event.

Regardless, there will surely be more development on Sprint Races in the upcoming weeks and months.