Sprint race coming to China… the drivers don’t understand!

The first sprint race of the season will take place on April 20 during the Chinese Grand Prix, on a circuit that has not been visited by F1 since 2019. The drivers, perplexed, are really not keen on the idea.

Published on 13/04/2024 à 17:14

Jeremy Satis

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Sprint race coming to China… the drivers don’t understand!

It's China's big return to the calendar. © DPPI

In two weeks, the Chinese Grand Prix will return for the greatest pleasure of Guanyu-Zhou, who will experience the atmosphere of a round in his hometown for the first time in his career as a driver of F1. Overall, his fellow drivers are all delighted to return to the Chinese metropolis, on its demanding circuit which is very pleasant to drive. Especially since F1 has not been there since 2019, that is to say for five years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the administrative restrictions that followed.

To mark the occasion and celebrate this return with great fanfare, F1 and FOM have decided that the first of the six sprint races of the season will take place there. In Shanghai, we will therefore see the beginnings of the new sprint format, with a free practice session, followed by the sprint qualification and the sprint, before the Grand Prix qualification and the race. A choice that is difficult to understand for the drivers, who are frankly not keen on the idea of ​​having only one free practice session before diving into qualifying on a track never before visited by ground effect single-seaters.

No room for error in EL1 in China

“I just hope there won't be any problems with the track, with the manhole covers, or any other problems like that. This would put us out of sync” warned Sergio Pérez. “ From a preparation point of view it will be really difficult because I have never raced there with Red Bull, for example, so there will be a lot to do in one practice session. » As usual, Max Verstappen he didn't mince his words. “Yes, it’s very clever to do that…”, he said ironically before correcting himself. “I think it's not great to do this. Because when you've been away from a track for a while, I think you never know what you're going to encounter." 

The trio on the podium in Japan gave their opinion on the sprint in Japan. © Frédéric Le Floc'h / DPPI

“So it would have been better to have a normal racing weekend. But on the other hand, it probably gives it a little more spice, and maybe that's what they (The promoters) want to see. But yeah, from a driving and performance point of view, I think it's not the smartest thing to do. But yeah, we'll see what we get there. I always loved driving there. So yeah, I hope we can start as strong as possible, and we don't need to tweak too many things on the car. » 

Good for the show?

To Carlos Sainz, the decision to position the first sprint of the year in China could lead, among other things, to an increased risk of disqualification of certain drivers for technical irregularities, as was the case with Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc in Austin (United States) last year, due to excessive wear of the wooden runners on the flat bottoms. “We complained about it in driver briefings to the FIA ​​and Formula 1, confirmed the Iberian. Going into qualifying after only an hour of FP1, on this type of car, with the regulations that they have put in place, in particular the wear aspect of the boards, when we know to what extent a bump can make the car delicate, I think it’s not a good choice to put the Sprint on after four or five years of absence…” 

The Spaniard, winner in Melbourne, also thinks that the new bitumen could complicate the task. “We have also heard that there has been some resurfacing underway, so Istanbul 2.0 may be on the agenda! I hope not. Maybe for you at home it will be exciting, but for the engineers and drivers it's something that I don't think you should risk having a normal weekend." For the spectators, however, it is undoubtedly a rich idea. A single free practice session could indeed lead to Red Bull not being as sovereign as usual in the event of a start on the wrong foot. This is what happened in Brazil in 2022, and it allowed George Russell to win the sprint and the Grand Prix…

ALSO READ > How Verstappen put the Melbourne affront behind him

Jeremy Satis

Great F1 reporter & passionate about promotional formulas

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Yves-Henri RANDIER

08/04/2024 at 06:41 a.m.

Interesting to see if the stands will actually be very crowded in Shanghai for the Saturday circus and the Sunday GP when the Chinese megacity has not seen F1 for 5 years, even if a Chinese driver is present on the grid departure!

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