Toto Wolff terms the F1 sprint weekend as confusing after two weekends of trial, while Fernando Alonso has a different plan.
Whether it is down to Mercedes losing twice in the F1 sprint weekends – at least on Lewis Hamilton’s side – or if it is a non-bias point of view, but Wolff doesn’t seem to be much in favour of the ‘Sprint Qualifying’, terming the weekends as confusing.
Wolff reckons that the risk factor outweighs the benefits, where F1 teams will be slightly conservative, so that they don’t lose their grid position for Sunday. With two trials done at Silverstone and Monza, they are now to hold a third one at Interlagos.
The characteristics of that circuit has made many hopeful of better action, but Wolff is not too optimistic for now. “First of all, everybody’s confused,” Wolff said to written media. “I don’t know how it is with you, I don’t even know what session is when. I believe the sprint race format as it stands at the moment, doesn’t give a lot of benefit because nobody will take a serious risk.
“There’s too little points at stake and the risk of compromising your Sunday grand prix, with points all the way back to 10th position, is just not worth the risk. So, what we’ve seen is a combination of general difficulties in overtaking because the straight-line speeds are very similar, but also because, even Turn 1 and 2, nobody takes a risk of what we saw at Monza.
“I think let’s give it another try in Brazil, let’s see if anything changes, but that was a worthwhile experiment and for me, and this is just a personal opinion or the opinion of my engineers here, it’s not fish, not meat,” summed up Wolff.
Amid these chatter from Wolff, F1 is looking likely to expand on the sprint weekends in 2022, but they are looking at making it a standalone event, whereby the results of Saturday race won’t determine the grid for Sunday. It will follow the results from the traditional qualifying to be held on Friday.
As for the sprint race on Saturday, there are various options to determine the grid and may even provide more points to have an additional ‘sprint winner’ at the end of the season. Reverse grids has once again made a comeback to the discussions, especially for the Saturday sprint races, if they are to become standalone events.
While there is some positive reception to that idea, Wolff stands with his view of no reverse grids. “I remain in the same position, it is diluting the DNA of the sport of meritocracy,” he said. “I think sprint races were worth a try – I’m not sure if we will keep them. Reverse grid can be used in junior formulas, we want to see the overtaking abilities of the drivers, but it is not something which should come close to F1.”
While the initial idea was for the Saturday sprint race to determine the Sunday order via reverse grids, but this being a standalone event, changes that ideology. When pressed further to share what he thinks F1 can do, Wolff said something which I personally have been thinking about, for a weekend format going forward.
“Start Friday afternoon with FP1, have Saturday morning FP2, do a conventional qualifying like we do and have a fantastic grand prix on a Sunday,” he said. “And maybe you want to do some warm-up Sunday morning, maybe that can have a little more spectacle for the people, but in any case, I’ll just shorten the free practice session, so there is more variability in the results and keep the race like it is.”
Personally, with the three-day format that F1 is aiming for 2022, pushing media day to Friday, it is better to have FP1 on Friday after media work and FP2 on Saturday. Going back to the sprint race topic, meanwhile, Alpine’s Alonso reckons that it will be better for the sport to bring back the one-shot format for qualifying, which allows for better spicing up.
He feels that the number of sets they get now, things eventually end up the same. The Spaniard added a bit of honesty, though, noting that being in the position he is in now, he can wish for something like this to happen for variability, but if he was in Mercedes and or Red Bull position, he wouldn’t possibly suggest such ideas.
“I still think that Friday is the really point that we need to improve,” Alonso said to written media. “If qualifying is still six sets of tyres, we will eventually finish in the natural order of the performance of the cars. So in Saturday sprint race, we will start in our position, and we will finish in our position.
“While if the format in qualifying on Friday is a little bit different, just one lap or something… for example in Q2 in Monza, I locked up the front tyres into Turn 1, and with that lap, I would have started the Saturday run last, because I made a mistake. I will pay the price, start last, and maybe in the race I have a hard job to do. There is a sense of the sprint qualifying. It will be more spicy.
“I still think the same I did after Silverstone after Monza. The Friday is the thing that we need to, if possible, change the natural order of the cars. What I think is to have one lap for everybody, it is the same for everybody, it is just more stress. It is not unfair, it is just more complicated. Imagine one lap.
“You are in Monaco and you only have one lap and there is track evolution and maybe the leaders of the championship start first and you make a mega lap and take pole position and you start pole position. Maybe there is one weekend you are lucky and you can perform something extra. Now, your hands are tied. Even if you have inspiration one day, if your car is fifth fastest, you will finish ninth and tenth,” summed up Alonso.
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