Formula One’s new standalone sprint format had its fans on Saturday but Red Bull’s double world champion Max Verstappen was not among them.
“Just scrap the whole thing,” he said after finishing third in the 100km race, the first of six scheduled for 2023’s record 23-round season.
“I think it’s just important to go back to what we have, and make sure that every team can fight for a win, that’s what we have to try and aim for and (not) try to implement all this kind of artificial excitement.
“It’s not proper racing, it’s more like gambling. I think I will have more success in Vegas if I go to the casino. So yeah, I like racing, I’m a pure racer and I think this is more for the show.”
Saturday was the first time Formula One had run sprint qualifying and race on the same day with no connection to Sunday’s main grand prix.
Previously the Saturday sprint had been used to set the Sunday grid while also awarding points to the top eight finishers.
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This time there was only one practice session on Friday, followed by a qualifying for Sunday and then a day of sprint activity on Saturday. At old-style grands prix, there are three practice sessions and qualifying on Saturday.
“I would say I got bored through today’s qualifying to be honest,” said Verstappen.
“I like to have one particular qualifying, where you just put everything in it, and that was yesterday, which I of course enjoy, and then they have to do it again today. I’m like, ‘my God, another qualifying?’ I just don’t really enjoy that.”
He compared having two races one after the other to a soccer game where “it’s 3-0 up for one team and then suddenly you just say ‘oh let’s reset it to 0-0 and go again’.”
Mexican team mate Sergio Perez, who won the sprint and has the best record of any driver in Baku, said he was happy to have three or four races in the revised format but would not want it to become the norm.
He suggested improvements to the format, with a shorter gap between qualifying and race as well as ensuring drivers were not left without tyres for the final phase of qualifying — as happened to McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Drivers must use a new set of soft tyres for the final shootout and Norris had run all of his on Friday, with only used softs available.
“I think it’s a better format than last year’s sprint format. I prefer this one, I wouldn’t want this to be the standard format in the future,” said Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who started on pole and finished second.
“I think it puts a lot more pressure on the drivers because basically there’s only one session where you can do a mistake which is FP1 (Friday practice). After that, all the laps you do are really important.”
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