F1 drivers and team bosses opine on the visit to China after five years with the new generation of cars, and it being a sprint weekend.

After the last race in 2019, the COVID-19 shelved Chinese GP for five years straight. It is now returning this year where not just the cars have changed but Max Verstappen is a three-times world champion too having broken the Mercedes streak.

There is a new format in F1 too and China is straight up hosting it – the first of the 2024 season. But drivers and teams are not too keen on it. Since they will get only one practice session after five years without running, they feel it will unnecessary strain.

There are changes to parc ferme in place but still it won’t cover for the lack of practice run that they need on a surface that they are visiting after five years. On the other side, some are baking on the unpredictability which could open doors for them.

Here’s what handful of F1 drivers and team bosses said –

Max Verstappen: “Yeah, it’s very smart to do that. I think it’s not great, let’s say like that, to do that. Because when you have been away from a track for quite a while, I think you never know what you’re going to experience, right? So it would have been better to have a normal race weekend there. But on the other hand, it probably spices things up a bit more, and that’s maybe what they would like to see. But yeah, purely from a driving perspective, performance perspective of the sport, I think it’s not the smartest thing to do. But yeah, we’ll see what we get there. I mean, I always loved driving there. So yeah, hopefully we can hit the ground running as well as we can, and hopefully we don’t need to fine-tune too many things on the car.”

Sergio Perez: “Yeah, I just hope that there are no issues with the track, with any drain holes, any issues like that. That will just put us out of sync. But I think for the show, probably it’s good. It’s a good thing. But I think from the preparation side, it’s going to be definitely one that is going to be really hard because, I mean, I’ve never raced there, for example, with Red Bull so it’s going to be quite a lot to do in a single practice.”

Carlos Sainz: “Yeah, I think there’s two different topics. I think China as a race circuit is a great one. I think it’s one of our favourite ones for everyone. It’s just a great racing track and a track that offers a good possibility to overtake, so a Sprint makes sense to have it there. At the same time, it’s what we said in the drivers’ briefing, we say to FIA and Formula 1, with these kind of cars to go to a track with one hour of practice and straight into qualifying, with the regulations that they put us, with the plank wear and things like this, and how tricky one bump could make the car, I think it’s not a good choice to choose to put the Sprint after four or five years absence. We also heard there’s been resurfacing going on, so Istanbul 2.0 maybe on the cards! Yeah, I hope not. So yeah, it just shows the uncertainty. Maybe for you guys at home it’s exciting, but for engineers and drivers, it’s something that for me, in my opinion, we shouldn’t take the risk and have a normal weekend.”

Pierre Gasly: “Quite like it! On a normal weekend, we know where we are at the minute. So, if anything, it can just give a slightly more chance of others getting it wrong. I am quite unhappy about it.”

Charles Leclerc: “It is going to be an interesting weekend. As always, the spring week end is always quite tricky. There is no room for mistake. I like this. It’s even more of a challenge because qualifying now is a point I need to focus on for putting the tyres in the right window. So I’ll have two qualifyings in Shanghai, two chances to recover well. The picture will be relatively similar to where it is here – where Red Bull still have the upper hand. We are the second best team. And then the others. But McLaren wasn’t bad. I mean ‘wasn’t bad’… It was really good today and was very close actually to us, so they are not that far. Let’s see.”

Fernando Alonso: “I think it always give us a little bit more opportunity when you have a little bit deficit on the pace, yeah, mixed conditions or sprint weekend, all these kind of things, it always gives you something extra. It is going to be tough, I think China with long corners, front-limited circuit, maybe like Australia, I expect Ferrari to be very fast but also Red Bull. Lets see, we have a powerful DRS and maybe that helps in China with the long straights.”

Alexander Albon: “Precisely that, I don’t think we have a car at the minute that can continuously score points, maybe on a track that suits but we haven’t found that so far this year, but China is the perfect place that everyone will go underprepared, not knowing what to expect and that’s where you can surprise and do better than others, so there is a big opportunity.”

Frederic Vasseur: “What is a bit difficult on the format of China is that with the tyre location and one session, you have to choose which compound that you will test on Friday. It means that the anticipation on the weekend is crucial. It’s true that last year on the sprint races overall, it went well. But we still don’t know if it was relating to the format or anything to the track layout. But so far, we always had a good start of the weekend. It means that we have the capacity to be ready from the first session. But it’s so tight that I think the what is crucial in my business is the humility. This weekend you had four teams in one tenths in qualifying. it mean that you don’t have to consider that what you did one weekend will be true the weekend after. We will start from scratch. And we have to keep this mindset for all the races.”

Ayao Komatsu: “Judging by Japan, for instance, we didn’t start with setup very well this weekend. So FP1 our car balance wasn’t right, and then we had wet session FP2. So you lost a session. Then that meant we are behind in FP3. So of course, it’s a similar challenge in Shanghai, okay, sprint weekend. So you have to get it right, you know, from word go in FP1. So that is a challenge for us. But we learned a lot this weekend, in terms of how we can improve operationally, setup of the car, reacting to the situation, there’s lots of things to improve. But again, there’s enough positives. So we’ll focus on that and then try to get the start car right for Shanghai.”

Andrea Stella: “Let’s say ideally, you wouldn’t have had China as a sprint event. Seeing from a team point of view, let’s say, you know, like, it’s just adds many complications. At the same time, it’s not something that we are in condition to influence. So just, you know, we get this out of our heads and we focus on doing a good job.”

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