Martin Brundle predicts F1 sprint change to produce ‘thrilling’ Saturdays in 2024

Max Verstappen thwarted Lando Norris’ bid for a first F1 win in the sprint race in Brazil  (Getty Images)
Max Verstappen thwarted Lando Norris’ bid for a first F1 win in the sprint race in Brazil (Getty Images)

Martin Brundle believes that Formula 1 can create a series of “thrilling” Saturdays in 2024 by making tweaks to the sprint races.

Introduced during the 2021 F1 season, the condensed races were designed to provide a short, fast-paced spectacle to enhance the standard Sunday racing.

Having been trialled at three events that year and in 2022, the number of sprints on the calendar was doubled ahead of this season, with the format also adapted to no longer set the grid for Sunday’s race and instead operate as a standalone event for which points were awarded.

The six sprints this season have consisted of sprint qualifying on Saturday morning before the sprint race later in the day, with grand prix qualifying held on a Friday.

Fans, however, have questioned the revamp, while Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that the current system is “confusing”.

F1 bosses are contemplating restructuring the weekend schedule for next year, perhaps by moving race qualifying until Saturday afternoon and holding the sprint race that morning.

And Sky Sports pundit Brundle believes that could create a spectacular day of action for spectators to enjoy.

“The sprint format will be tweaked for next year and qualifying for the main race will revert to Saturday afternoon, I suspect,” former F1 driver Brundle explained in his Sky Sports column.

“Saturday will become a thrilling day should they schedule the sprint race in the morning and qualifying in the afternoon, although teams will be nervous of having sufficient time to repair any damage from the morning event.

“Friday will then be one practice session in the morning, which I believe should revert to 90 minutes, and the Sprint Shootout qualification in the afternoon. Another very decent day for the fans trackside and watching on TV or online.

“That chronology flows more logically, and tyre allocations should be standardised for every weekend - we already talk more than enough about tyres.”

The final sprint race of the season was won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the Brazilian Grand Prix, with the Dutchman subsequently extending his unassailable advantage at the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings with race victory.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has won seven of the 12 sprint races in Formula 1 (Getty Images)
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has won seven of the 12 sprint races in Formula 1 (Getty Images)

Verstappen has now won seven of the 12 sprint races since the format’s introduction at the 2021 British Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver has admitted, though, that he is not entirely enamoured with the extra racing, but Brundle believes that it is here to stay and significantly better than the traditional three free practice schedule.

“I see a lot of social media traffic, as well as talking with fans, friends, and media, where many say they don’t like sprint format at all,” Brundle outlined. “Despite being a pure racer and having won many of them, Verstappen says the same.

“That’s all valid opinion, but the TV audience numbers show a lot more eyeballs watching these ‘appointments to view’ live sport. And that’s fact.

“As I said in our shows, the worst Sprint will always be better than the best FP2, because in free practices nothing is decided, and the teams need to keep the cars well apart on track and use as little tyre and power unit life as possible. The sprints simply must be more entertaining trackside too for those splashing their hard-earned cash.

“The whole sprint format needs sharpening up schedule wise, and then it can likely work at a few more circuits. Let’s see what the F1 Commission come up with after their meeting in Abu Dhabi.”

The Formula 1 season will conclude with back-to-back race weekends in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi on 18 and 26 November.