EXCLUSIVE: F1 bosses pressing ahead with plans to revolutionise Grand Prix weekends despite widespread opposition from the likes of Max Verstappen who threatened to QUIT in the event of planned changes
- Plans to make the race weekend more exciting have been drawn up by bosses
- Moves in motion to reduce the number of practice sessions despite opposition
- World champion Max Verstappen had previously threatened to quit the sport
Formula One bosses are pressing ahead with plans to revolutionise the format of Grand Prix weekends, despite accusations that they are putting entertainment before sport.
Sportsmail understands the ideas were discussed in Melbourne on Sunday morning and met with general approval from team principals. The matter will now go forward to the next F1 Commission gathering on April 25.
It will take the backing of eight of the 10 teams, plus the FIA and Formula One Group – the sport’s owners, who are leading the charge to spice things up – for Baku to adopt the new schedule five days later.
It can be reported that the proposals, still under discussion, involve staging one practice session on Friday, followed by qualifying for the Grand Prix. Saturday would be ‘sprint day’ with qualifying, comprising shorter sessions than at present, held prior to the sprint, a one-third Grand Prix that would be held in the afternoon.
The outcome of the sprint would not determine the starting order for the grand prix itself, which remains as it is, unchanged, on Sunday.
Plans are in motion to revolutionise the Grand Prix weekend with more excitement wanted
The FIA bosses pressing ahead with the moves hope to have them in place for Baku at the end of the month
News comes despite public opposition from the likes of Max Verstappen – who raised the possibility of quitting the sport altogether
The FIA will draw up the new regulations in Geneva over the next few weeks before presenting them to the F1 Commission.
A senior FIA official told Sportsmail that there will be a reduction in practice sessions, with a view to providing more entertainment for fans over the race weekend outside the parameters of the Grand Prix itself.
‘We think it can be done in time for Baku because we have a break from racing for most of April, which gives us a little more breathing space,’ they said.
The revamped format will only apply where sprint races are already scheduled to be staged. At least for now.
The claim of a ‘Netflix-isation’ of the fare was expressed again in the press and online after Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, in which race director Niels Wittich waved three red flags, bringing about standing restarts, the second of which resulted in four cars crashing out in the opening couple of bends.
Race director Niels Wittich waved three red flags on Sunday – bringing about standing restarts
Certainly, there has been an increasing readiness over the last three or four years to deploy red flags, rather than clear the track during a safety car phase. It has made for a livelier spectacle and, arguably, has not fundamentally reduced sporting fairness while heightening the entertainment quotient.
Ironically, former race director Michael Masi chose not to wave red in Abu Dhabi in 2021, when Lewis Hamilton lost out on an eighth world title to Max Verstappen. Had he done so, perhaps the controversy of the last-lap incident would have been avoided. But probably not – each course of action has drawbacks and potentially favours one participant or another.
Several drivers, led by Sunday’s race winner Verstappen, spoke out against the red-flag trend – just as the Dutchman did against proposals to change the weekend programme at the next round in Azerbaijan, where a sprint race is already due to be held.
He said Formula One Group’s plans to ditch much of practice to make space for more competitive action run counter to the DNA of the sport. He also raised the prospect, however remote, of quitting if they are implemented.
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