F1 Sprint: Ross Brawn, pundits and drivers deliver verdicts on new format at British Grand Prix

Jenson Button believes F1’s Sprint format has proved an immediate success, while Ross Brawn says the sport is also pleased with early results and now would analyse the detail of the weekend.

With competitive track action on all three days of the Silverstone weekend as part of a debut for the trial format, Friday qualifying was followed by a 17-lap sprint on Saturday won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

The Grand Prix, the weekend’s main event, now follows on Sunday at 3pm.

  • Sprint report: Max Verstappen beats Lewis Hamilton for British GP pole and extra points
  • Lewis Hamilton vows to recharge after Max Verstappen secures pole after sprint
  • British GP on Sky F1: Sunday’s race at 3pm – full schedule

Sky F1’s Button, a veteran of 306 grands prix, said: “Loved it. I think having something on a Friday to get everyone into it before the weekend is awesome.

“For the fans, for the drivers, that adrenaline rush you never get on a Friday. Fridays you get to drive the car but you don’t get that buzz.

“The sprint today was just action-packed. We were worried it was going to be a procession, the complete opposite.”

Fellow pundits Martin Brundle and Karun Chandhok tweeted:

This F1 Sprint format has to be considered a solid success so far 👌

Enjoyed the first ever F1 Sprint!

Short intense battles, no real boring phase for the race to settle into and enough juggling of the order ahead of the main race. On the whole – 👍🏽👍🏽 for me!

Brawn: It was pure racing

The trial concept will be used at two further events this season before a verdict on whether it will be continued and rolled out to further events is made for 2022.

Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director of motorsport, said he was “pretty pleased” with how the first two days of the bumper event had gone.

“We have got to do the final phase of the weekend but I think particularly when we look at the whole weekend [so far] – great day yesterday, fantastic day; really strong, entertaining and engaging event today,” he said in Ted’s Notebook.

“The fans loved it. I was on the edge of my seat, we saw some great performances today and the thing I liked about today it’s pure racing. There’s no strategy, there’s no pit stops, there’s nothing else.

“A touch [of tyre saving] but the guys were just out there pure racing.”

F1 had made clear before this weekend they would tweak the format where they saw necessary or pull it completely if it did not work at all.

“No major things but a lot of things we need to take away from this weekend and think about with, time, and see if we can fine-tune them. But I’m really pleased with the overall concept,” added Brawn.

What did the drivers say?

Lewis Hamilton: “I think it’s been great to try something new if I’m really honest. I don’t think the race was particularly exciting after the first lap from myself. We should just do a long Saturday and long Sunday. P1, P2, Qualfiying on Saturday and then a Sprint race and a race on Sunday. Pack it all in!”

Daniel Ricciardo: “My favourite day of race week is Sunday and that’s because it’s a race. I like the start, the intensity of it all and wheel-to-wheel racing. With this format we kind of get to do that twice in a weekend, so for me it’s a win. I like it.”

Max Verstappen: “It was different. I enjoyed driving on lower fuel in a race setting because the car comes more alive and it’s a lot better to drive. Just a bit weird then to hear you have got pole position because you are racing and then you have got pole position. Maybe we have got to get used to it, I don’t know, but that was maybe the weird thing about it.”

Sebastian Vettel: “I have enjoyed this unusual weekend format so far. It was interesting to have the intense moment yesterday evening followed by the Sprint today, which can go either way.”

Fernando Alonso: “I did enjoy it because we had three days of action. Normally the free practice are very useful for the teams and drivers but not for the spectators because they just see the cars passing around [the track]. Yesterday they had qualifying, today they had this race and tomorrow they have the main race. So it’s a good format.”

Verstappen: ‘Pole’ shouldn’t go to sprint winner | Brawn says F1 will look at concerns

Arguably the sole bone of contention among drivers and fans about the new format centres on the fact this weekend’s pole position for the history books is awarded to the driver who won the sprint rather than the one who was quickest in qualifying.

By winning on Saturday to secure the leading position on the grid for Sunday, Verstappen is credited with an eighth career pole, whereas Hamilton stays on 100 despite being the fastest driver on Friday.

“I think pole position should be deserved over one fast lap,” admitted Verstappen. “That for me is a proper pole position.”

Actually pole is recorded as the person who starts the GP from pole. Not who is fastest in quali. But that should have its own award! #f1 https://t.co/06RvGBmzSG

There are nuances in the debate, however.

Pole position reflects the physical position the leading driver takes up on the Sunday grid and, even in a normal-format weekend, a driver can still top a qualifying session but not be credited with pole owing to penalties or problems before the race which drop them down the order or out of the race.

But Brawn recognised the concerns of those who raised the issue.

“I think probably when we take a look at this whole weekend we have got to see how we can keep the respect for that because a number of fans have said pole position, the history of pole position, we need to think how that plays out,” he said.

Although Hamilton has now lost the advantage of his qualifying performance heading into Sunday’s race, where he will start in second behind Verstappen, Brawn argued the sprint format actually means the Mercedes driver now has a chance to make amends for his poor getaway from the lights in the sprint that he otherwise would not have done.

“Someone said to me ‘well that’s a bit unfair because Lewis was on pole and now he won’t be on pole tomorrow’, but with Lewis on pole going into that race we would have been beaten by Max with that start,” he said.

“So Lewis wouldn’t have won the race from pole tomorrow, if you see what I mean. Now he’s got another chance. He’s got another chance to see what he needs to do to beat Max tomorrow. He can see Max’s strengths he can see what Max is going to do, the team have now got an opportunity to think about how they can beat him because they know if they let him get away at the start they won’t be him.

“So there’s all these extra nuances which have come out of the event which I’m really pleased about.”

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