Hamilton leads glowing praise of F1’s “tough”, “intense” new sprint format

Lewis Hamilton led a host of F1 drivers that were full of praise for the changes made to the sport’s sprint race format for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Hamilton leads glowing praise of F1’s “tough”, “intense” new sprint format

F1 has tweaked its sprint race gimmick for F1 2023 with the introduction of a second qualifying session, replacing the tedious FP2 session on Saturday morning.

This means that Saturday is completely standalone from the rest of the weekend, with the result of the sprint no longer having an impact on Sunday.

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It now means all three days of running will be meaningful as teams have just 60 minutes to get their cars ready for conventional qualifying on Friday.

All the drivers present in the FIA press conference ahead of this weekend’s F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix were asked for their thoughts on the new format.

Here’s what they had to say…

Lewis Hamilton

“Absolutely, It will be tough for everybody,” he said. “But we’re all in the same boat. What a track to do it at - where overtaking is possible. 

“We always have great races here. It is definitely difficult to do 20 laps then straight into qualifying.”

Hamilton leads glowing praise of F1’s “tough”, “intense” new sprint format

Carlos Sainz

“The shootout quali will be difficult, especially waking up in the morning and going straight into Q1,” Sainz explained. 

“I need to do a good warm-up, mega cold shower, make sure I’m really woken up for pushing flat out in one of these cars, bumpy cars on the straight, first thing in the morning – it will be intense.

“Then the sprint, 17 laps... It’s exciting. I think more racing, more important laps in the weekend, obviously it’s tougher both mentally and physically for us, but if it makes the fans happy, and the media happy, and makes the product better, we will do it.”

Valtteri Bottas

“Saturday will be a proper day,” Bottas commented. “But more demanding mentally, even physically. You need to be switched on all weekend. But, I think it’s good.”

Lando Norris

“I would expect so,” he added. “There’s still the budget cap, you don’t want to damage the car in any way, you don’t want to do anything silly. Especially for us, when we’re wanting to improve the car as much as possible, the least amount of damage that we can cause the better. But I’m excited.

“I think it’s a better format, I prefer it a long way comparing to what we had before. More room, more opportunities for everyone. I like the fact you have two qualifyings, I love the format of practice and qualifying on Friday. The pressure is definitely higher, but I enjoy it more.”

Hamilton leads glowing praise of F1’s “tough”, “intense” new sprint format

Esteban Ocon

“It’s exciting,” Ocon said. “It’s cool to have more racing, a more exciting weekend – but maybe not every weekend. That will be something to look out for. On the other hand, I think as a driver, it’s great that you got straight into that Sprint Shootout qualifying without practice before.

“It could bring some uncertainty, some drivers that are not going to be awake, that are going to make mistakes, and it’s not going to be the same. We’ll see. That brings opportunities and brings skills to the driver, more importantly, so I look forward to that.”

Kevin Magnussen

“It’s more exciting, there’s more stuff happening,” he concluded. “Not that a normal weekend is boring in any way, but there’s a lot of running that doesn’t count for anything, and having most of the sessions in the weekend be counting for something I think is cool.”

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