Vasseur claims ‘unanimous’ support for sprint race change

Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur has declared that all ten Formula 1 teams have reached a unanimous agreement about changes to the sprint race weekend format.

Although yet to be formally voted on, Vasseur ic confident that the new format – which should get its first outing at the next Grand Prix in Azerbaijan at the end of the month – is now in place.

Sprint races were first trailed in 2021 with qualifying moved to Friday afternoon setting the starting order for the sprint on Saturday which in turn decided the grid for Sunday’s main event.

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After three sprint race weekends that year, and three more in 2022, this year has seen the number grow to six with the first of them due to take place in Baku.

But Formula 1 has been keen to make tweaks to the format, with the sporting directors of the teams in discussions at the F1 Commission to get them signed off in time for the next race.

According to Vasseur that’s all but done: “For once I think all the teams were aligned,” RACER magazine reports him as saying this week. “It’s not very often that it’s the case, so we have to jump on it!

“For sure the format is more dynamic,” he continued. “And you can discuss about doing it so late. But at the end of the day, I think if we’re all aligned then we have to push for it.

The new format will see two qualifying sessions over the weekend. The one on Friday afternoon will continue to be held on Friday afternoon, but Saturday will be turned over entirely to the business of sprint racing.

A shorter qualifying session will be held on Saturday morning, with the same three-round elimination system, but with time for only one push lap.

It would eliminate second practice altogether, which had been moved to Saturday morning after qualifying meaning the cars were under parc ferme conditions – making it effectively pointless in terms of race preparation.

“I like the format,” declared Vasseur of the latest proposals. “I’m not a big fan of the usual FP2, sometimes it’s a bit boring. Not for us, because we have a lot of data.

“But I can imagine for the spectators and even for you if you don’t know about the level of fuel, the engine mode and so on it’s probably a bit boring.

“To try to have something more dynamic during the weekend is a good decision,” he added.

Since the sprint race would no longer impact the grid for Sunday, drivers would be encouraged to race more aggressively, rather than have to keep in mind the risk/reward ratio of an accident in the sprint ruining their Grand Prix.

There has been no official communication from F1 or the FIA over the planned alterations, which have been resisted by some in the sport including world champion Max Verstappen who warned that he might even end up quitting over it.

And his Red Bull boss Christian Horner has criticised the ‘ludicrous” decision to hold a sprint race at Baku, fearing that the street circuit risks resulting in heavy damage ot the cars in the event of an incident.

But if it’s true that all ten teams are in agreement, then formal ratification in time for Azerbaijan should be no problem, and Verstappen – whose current contract with Red Bull lasts until 2028 – will just have to get used to it.

The next meeting of the World Motor Sport Council and a Formula 1 Commission vote on the4 issue is set for April 25, three days before the Azerbaijan GP gets underway.

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