McCullough warns on 'chopping and changing' sprint format

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Aston Martin F1 performance director Tom McCullough has admitted that the team has concerns about the sport overhauling the sprint race weekend format too frequently, and in too much of a hurry.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix race weekend is expected to be the first outing for a brand new sprint race format, although details are still being thrashed out just days before gates open in Baku.

It's expected that the event will be the first time that the sprint race will have a separate qualifying session on Saturday, and that the result of the shorter race will not be used to set the grid for Sunday's Grand Prix.

"From a technical side I don't mind," McCullough told the media earlier this month when asked about the continuing uncertainty amid all the proposed changes to the sprint format.

"I find these changing formats, as a team if you react well to it [then] it can be a benefit," he suggested. "But I'm still not convinced on the qualifying.

"There seems to be an urgency to change, and - from a regulation side of things - it's not straightforward," he warned.

"Trying to get the faster cars at the back of the grid and the slower ones at the front, that's been one of the proposals – the single lap qualifying and things like that - but I don't think that's necessarily the right thing to do.

"I think the existing grid format already is quite challenging and works pretty well," he continued. "I think we should do that a bit more to be learned.

"For the moment, I think we should get used to the current format, not chop and change too much," he opined. "If you want to chop and change, you should have the time to do it properly."

(L to R): Andy Stevenson (GBR) Aston Martin F1 Team Manager with Tom McCullough (GBR) Aston Martin F1 Team Performance Director.
23.02.2023. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day One.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images

McCullough is also worried that the proposed new format might let the drivers 'off the leash' and really go for it - which on the tight and twisting street circuit in Baku City could be a recipe for disaster.

"[There's] the higher potential for accidents and damage," McCullough said. "From a cost cap side of things that worries me."

Up to now, drivers have taken a cautious approach to the sprint race in order not to jeopardise their grid positions for the more important Sunday race.

But making the sprint and the Grand Prix into effectively two separate races over the weekend could see drivers really battle for the extra points on offer on Saturday - albeit at the risk of more costly accidents and collisions.

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