Horner: F1 Sprint weekend parc fermé rules ‘a bit of a joke’


Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has urged Formula 1 to shake up the rules surrounding the sport’s Sprint format to improve the show on the track.

The format came under heavy criticism at last weekend’s US Grand Prix when – and not for the first time – teams took aim at the restrictions imposed on them in terms of set-up work on their cars.

The regulations currently forbid teams from changing any fundamental settings on their machines after FP1, meaning after the single practice session of the sprint weekend.

Optimizing a car’s set-up in just 60 minutes is a challenging task and often sees drivers head into qualifying – and into the remainder of the race weekend – with imperfect settings.

Such was the case last weekend, and the effects of the constrained timing and sub-optimal settings led, not only to an unremarkable 30 minutes of racing on Saturday afternoon, but especially to the controversy on race day surrounding the exclusions at the end of the day of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc.

Following a post-race check, the floor plank on the Mercedes and the Ferrari were worn beyond the 1mm margin authorized by the rules. The wear was a direct consequence of COTA’s bumps combined with the cars’ approximate ride-height settings.

Furthermore, with two of the four cars that were controlled by the FIA deemed illegal, a widespread check would have been justified.

Horner argues that Sunday’s post-race controversy was a direct result of teams being forced to freeze their settings early in the sprint weekend.

"For me, parc fermé is a bit of a joke," he said. "You get one session to set your car up and then the engineers may as well go home at that point.

“So that needs looking at and that I'm sure was a contributing factor to the ride height issues that the teams that fell foul of the regulations.

"Effectively, it's just a long run on a Sprint race and there's no real jeopardy to it, there's no real incentive behind it and I think it just needs to be looked at and modified to say, ‘OK, how can it be improved? How can we make this better? How can it be more satisfying for the drivers?’”

Horners believes that the sport’s fans should be given a voice in the debate.

"If the drivers enjoy it and find it rewarding, and the teams find it rewarding, then I think the fans ultimately will,” he said.

“But I think we should really go to the fans and get their feedback, as well, of what is it that they want?

"I think it'd be interesting to look at the data at the end of the year of how popular have the Sprint races been because at the end of the day, it's all about the fans.

"The reason we do Sprint races is to try and provide more entertainment, to create a more attractive event. And I think that it's still a very new concept and I think we have to be honest with ourselves.

“Like I was just talking about the car where we can always improve the car, I think we can always improve the format.

"I think we need to look openly and honestly at the end of the year, when we've got all the samples of these Sprint races and say ok, what can we do better? What can be learned? And how can we improve the spectacle and the event?

“And I think there's many things that could be done to improve it."

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