Sao Paulo Grand Prix: ‘Confusing’ speedway format faces change for 2024

Sao Paulo Grand Prix: ‘Confusing’ speedway format faces change for 2024

The top three - Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen and Lando Norris - pose with their medals after the Sao Paulo Grand Prix race.
Top three of Saturday’s sprint race in São Paulo: Celebrations are much more subdued than after Sunday’s full Grand Prix

The final race of the year in the Formula 1 World Championship, won by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, reinforced the consensus within the sport that a change in format was necessary.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted that Formula One “could do better” and said fast weekends “need fine-tuning”.

Its driver Sergio Perez, who finished third behind Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris, suggested holding the shorter races with reverse grids, putting the fastest cars at the back.

Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said the current system was “confusing”.

Formula One bosses are discussing a series of options to make changes to next year’s drag racing format amid a feeling that the current system of running a Friday Grand Prix qualifying race and separating Saturday as a drag racing-focused day has not been working.

One suggestion is to hold sprint qualifying on a Friday, with the sprint being the first race on the track on Saturday, followed by qualifying for the Grand Prix.

Other ideas were to give more points to the sprint, try grids in reverse order of the championship, and even create a separate sprint championship.

Final decisions will be made this winter in discussions between the F1 commercial rights holder, the FIA’s governing body and the team bosses, with F1 boss Stefano Domenicali having the most influence.

“If there is a real desire from the fans, we have to find a solution,” Horner said. “But what we have at the moment is not quite suitable for the drivers or the fans. There has to be more.”

“We’ve just won a sprint and no one quite knows what to do because all the focus is on the grand prize. It’s like you win a long sprint (in a practice session) and get a medal for it.”

Horner rejected the idea of ​​enemy heroism, saying: “Who cares about that?”

But he added: “What should it be? Should it be a reverse grid, on the championship standings? Should it have more points attached to it? Should there be two Grands Prix over the weekend? I don’t have the answer. I know that.” “. “What we have today needs to be fine-tuned.”

Horner and Wolff prefer the standard Grand Prix format, with testing on Friday, qualifying on Saturday and the Grand Prix on Sunday, saying they are “traditional”.

But there is no prospect of abandoning the sprint races – F1 released a series of statistics ahead of the weekend in Brazil which it said proved that sprint weekends create a larger global audience and more interest, both on television and online.

The suggestion of tackling qualifying for the sprints and races before moving on to the grand prix qualifying and main event “maybe creates less confusion – I’m confused,” Wolff said.

He added: “We all have the same goals, between Formula 1 and the teams. I’ve said it a lot but I’m not interested in these weekends, but if it makes sense from the public’s point of view, it’s clear we need it.” “.

Sprints were introduced in 2021 with a different format, which used the result of the sprint race to set the grid for the Grand Prix.

But after opposition to that and other aspects of the original plan, the current format was brought forward for 2022.

A feeling within Formula 1 that the latest arrangements were not working gathered during the US Grand Prix two weeks ago, and has strengthened since then.

Perez said he believes a reverse grid would make sense given the original intent of providing more interest to the public over a larger portion of the weekend.

“If they want to have this form of racing, we have to change it,” he said.

“I would suggest a reverse grid, something like that, to make it more interesting for the fans, because I don’t think it works, which is what we want to achieve. Nothing really happens in this type of racing. Over the last couple of years this type of event has not brought much interest. Good racing.

Verstappen has been steadfast in his opposition to the drag racing format, and said on Saturday in Brazil: “Just a normal race weekend, please. Thank you. I’m not interested in any change. I don’t like it.”

Other drivers, such as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, say they appreciate the diversity the drag race creates if it is run on just a few weekends, but accept it needs tweaking.

Driver concerns about the rules

Drivers have expressed concerns about other aspects of the rules in Brazil, particularly regarding attempts to control their speed during qualifying laps and the way they exit the pits.

A new rule imposed in Brazil has led to near-misses at the pit exit, with drivers jockeying for positions against the backdrop of a new rule that forced them to create gaps with other cars after leaving the pit, following recent traffic jams at the pit exit. Races.

Drivers are also forced to stay above the minimum lap time when in a warm-up or cool-down lap, to try to avoid dangerous speed differences.

But Verstappen said the situation was “just chaos – in all the qualifying you have six to eight cars that are flagged for driving very slowly in the shortest possible time. I don’t know what we are trying to achieve.”

Norris added: “There are more and more rules for everything and it’s causing more and more chaos for everyone.”

Verstappen is a safe bet to win the Grand Prix

Another aspect of race weekends that has been criticized is that they provide too many clues about what will happen in the race.

Verstappen qualified the race second, but took the lead from Norris at the first corner and dominated the race from there.

For Sunday’s Grand Prix, Verstappen starts from pole, Leclerc is second, and Norris starts sixth, behind Aston Martin drivers Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Leclerc said the Dutchman’s advantage in race pace was so great that it would be “irrelevant” if he took the lead at the start. The principle applies equally to any other driver.

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