At least half the Formula 1 World Championship calendar could consist os sprint weekends if a proposed new format goes ahead and proves to be a success in Baku next week, that’s the claim of Haas team boss Guenther Steiner.
F1 is due to vote next week on changing the sprint format from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix so that the Saturday 100km race stands alone with its own qualifying replacing final practice. MotoGP has already turned its whole calendar into two-race weekends, with a sprint on Saturday and the main event on Sunday. F1 has scheduled six sprints this season, up from three last year.
“I don’t know if we will do it every race weekend. Maybe do a few more or maybe do half of the calendar. But the F1 promoter will know what to do,” Steiner told Reuters in an interview through team sponsor MoneyGram.
“At the moment there is more demand for races (than slots available) so how can you get more races in, more competition, more racing if we cannot do more than 24 events? So just make the event double count,” he added.
Bullet-proof reliability of modern F1 cars have made three practice sessions redundant
This F1 season has a record Grand Prix 23 races but 2024 is expected to see the return of China after a four-year absence due to COVID-19, and reports of even more races are on the cards as promoter demand for F1 races outstrips supply of them.
Furthermore, the three days of track action, practice in particular is under the microscope as bullet-proof reliability of modern F1 cars makes it pointless having three increasingly meaningless practice sessions when the same track time could be used for racing.
However, Steiner said there would still be a need for some traditional race weekends with three practice sessions and just a Sunday grand prix but the current Saturday sprint format needed changing: “The FP3 session on Saturday morning became almost worthless because nobody was watching it. The teams couldn’t do any changes on the car except trying the tyre out for the race so there was no real interest.
“I think that is a good addition to the weekend to put a sprint qualifying in. You have to see how it works with the fans, if they like it, how the numbers come back and then decide what to do as the next step. But at the moment I support very much the sprint qualifying,” added Steiner. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)