Report: F1 considering sprint race overhaul

Reverse grids, separate championship and US$1m prize pot all part of informal discussions.
  • Reversing the top ten or even the whole grid being considered
  • A separate sprint championship also included in informal discussions
  • US$1m prize pot could be suitable incentive for drivers

Formula One is considering a dramatic overhaul to the structure of its sprint weekends, according to Motorsport.com.

Reverse grids, a separate sprint championship and a US$1 million prize pot are all options being floated in informal discussions throughout the paddock.

Sprint races, which were only introduced in 2021, have already undergone an overhaul at the start of this season, which saw its connection to the main Grand Prix severed. Instead of setting the grid for Sunday’s race, the sprint now has its own qualifying session.

Despite this change, it appears that sprint weekends are not working as intended following a US Grand Prix at which ticket sales dropped compared to 2022.

Formula One bosses are considering radical approaches to arrest this drop in interest, although none of these ideas have been formally proposed yet.

Getting a sponsor on board to offer a US$1 million cash prize to the winner is one such option, while separating sprint races from the championship entirely could be explored to avoid the title being won on a Saturday, like Max Verstappen managed in Qatar this season.

Reverse grids have been a controversial topic in Formula One for some time, with boring races often leading to a discussion centred on the gimmick, something which Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is keen to avoid.

“I'm conservative in racing,” he told Motorsport.com. “I'd rather have no sprint races than if you start to meddle. Even more with reverse grid races, we are going towards junior formulae where sport follows entertainment, while entertainment should follow sport.

“Creating artificial gaming around the sprint race on a Saturday is not the way that I would favour personally. But that's my opinion. All teams, together with Stefano [Domenicali, chief executive of Formula One], we just need to think about what is best.”

This, though, is not a universal view. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner believes that “a bit more jeopardy” was required to make the format more excited.

He continued: “Whether you do a reverse the top ten or something, you've got to add enough points to it to make it worth the drivers to really go for it.”

BlackBook says…

Under Formula One’s ‘expansion-at-all-costs’ strategy, the series risks losing direction.

With a 24-race calendar – and a further six sprint events on top – there is a certain level of audience fatigue to consider here, especially when the majority of races have been processional.

Sprints have been universally unpopular with fans since they were announced, and a drastic overhaul could see the race become even more of a gimmick than it already is.

With a budget cap in place, what incentive is there for teams to compete in the race if it becomes a separate championship? A prize pot would only be applicable to the teams with a chance of winning – which may just be Red Bull – so the majority would be better off saving themselves from potentially costly crash damage.

Formula One bosses need to be careful that they do not detach from the sporting product too much in pursuit of entertainment. The focus must be on the next round of regulations creating smaller, lighter cars with an emphasis on mechanical grip to create a better on-track product.

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