Perez wins Sprint in Baku, are you not entertained?

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - APRIL 29: Sprint winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on April 29, 2023 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202304291074 // Usage for editorial use only //

The new Sprint portion of the race weekend is over with the Sprint Qualifying secured by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and the actual Sprint race won by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.

The Sprint format is interesting on many levels as it is rare that F1 and the teams would all agree on in-season format changes to a race weekend to eliminate a practice session in favor of a Sprint Qualifying session. Normally these kinds of format changes would be voted on and applied in the next season.

The Sprint elements of the weekend prompted red flags, virtual safety car session as well as physical safety car sessions and on the streets of Baku, this took some time to clear cars and debris.

Due to the new format, you could be forgiven for the odd post SQ interviews where only the pole position driver was interviewed while the camera focused on an 80’s throwback Pirelli hat as the reward. Then the odd plaque handed out at the interview for the actual Sprint race podium drivers.

The Sprint race itself was eventful with George Russell clouting the sided of Max Verstappen and gouging a hole in the side of Max’s car. This left Max finishing 3rd during the Sprint race while Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc battled at the front.

For the qualifying, the mandatory use of tire compounds is interesting but I’m not quite sure that played out as well as they might have hoped so time will tell.

A Personal Note:

If I’m honest, right now, unless things change, I am not sure the Sprint races and the new Sprint qualifying are adding more “excitement” to my viewing experience and for a few reasons that I am sure are just a “me problem”.

First, I consider Practice, Qualifying and the Race over a weekend as three individual events with significant importance and after watching F1 for decades, I’ve been assured by those involved that these are, in fact, critical components to a race weekend in F1. Now, we seem to suggest that practice isn’t important and it’s boring and can be shortened and eventually eliminated.

Practice is a session in which we learn a lot about F1. We can see team practice programs and commentary teams worth their salt really have time to unpack the sport, share stories within the paddock and dissect the teams, cars, drivers, tracks and elements in F1 that you don’t have time to cover with all the “spiced up” excitement.

While I had no issue with the old format of Qualifying, the new knock-out qualifying has been Hailed as a raging success. Logically, adding two qualifying sessions in a Sprint weekend would be twice better, right? Not for me but maybe it is for you.

I have team cost cap, cost/benefit analysis, risk management and engine allotment anxiety just thinking about all the increased running in anger. Today’s incident between Max and George Russell is a good example. Due to an additional race, Red Bull have to build a new sided which isn’t cheap. Is any cost cap increase enough to cover the total exposure to damages a team may face in six sprint races? I’m sure the teams have already crunched the numbers but I’m still nervous about this.

I also worry about drivers who are racing six more times for half distance in anger and at speed. Sure, they risk their lives in practice too but a race is a different kind of risk.

As I said, when you add sprint races and sprint qualifying, in some ways it just de-values what the practice session, the actual race qualifying session and the race itself represents. I mean why not just cancel all practice and have three days of qualifying and racing.

Friday’s qualifying for Friday’s Sprint 1, Saturday’s qualifying for Saturday’s Sprint Race 2, and then Sunday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Sprint Race 3? Just give all the fans qualifying and races each day…why not? Isn’t that what you want?

It’s not that I don’t like change, I’m fine with change. It’s that I love F1 too much to see it diluted to more qualifying and more races which dilutes the actual qualifying and race. It dilutes the points system, adds cost and risk and for me, it doesn’t really “spice up the show” if I’m honest. I know, it’s a “me problem”.

Anyway:

Anyway, the Azerbaijan Sprint race was won by Sergio Perez followed by Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen.

Sprint Race Results:

POSNODRIVERCARLAPSTIME/RETIREDPTS
111Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT1733:17.6678
216Charles LeclercFERRARI17+4.463s7
31Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT17+5.065s6
463George RussellMERCEDES17+8.532s5
555Carlos SainzFERRARI17+10.388s4
614Fernando AlonsoASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES17+11.613s3
744Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES17+16.503s2
818Lance StrollASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES17+18.417s1
923Alexander AlbonWILLIAMS MERCEDES17+21.757s0
1081Oscar PiastriMCLAREN MERCEDES17+22.851s0
1120Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI17+27.990s0
1224Zhou GuanyuALFA ROMEO FERRARI17+34.602s0
1310Pierre GaslyALPINE RENAULT17+36.918s0
1421Nyck De VriesALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT17+41.626s0
1527Nico HulkenbergHAAS FERRARI17+48.587s0
1677Valtteri BottasALFA ROMEO FERRARI17+49.917s0
174Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES17+51.104s0
1831Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT17+60.621s0
NC22Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT2DNF0
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David

Todd, it’s not a you problem. I have been watching F1 since 2006, and this was the first time I felt that I didn’t need to watch a Saturday.

Sprint races so far haven’t added any value to the weekends.

I guess it’s a me problem.

charlie w

My F1-loving friends and I have spent hours debating everything around sprint races and they, not speaking for myself, are negative on them. I, on the hand, see it differently. The FIA should use sprint races as a laboratory to experiment with new ideas. For instance, make all the cars use an “unspecified” tire compound from Pirelli. We have a new spec car that supposedly can run closer to others. Well, let’s find out how close by having a sprint race with no active DRS or DRS zones. Or go the opposite direction by allowing drivers to DRS anywhere they… Read more »

BigBroF1

I completely agree with this post

speedinian

I can’t say if I am entertained, if only because it’s Baku.
I must say I saw the new opening credits montage for the Sprint and was a little taken back by all the carnage shown there. Every third or forth cut was a crash. I get the feeling F1 is trying to entice new watchers who cannot commit the time or attention to the second half of the race where there is less passing, less contact, and more strategy. And gawd forbid, risk having one of the rare (sarcasm) processional races.

Fabio

Put me down on the scrapping Sprint Races column.