Verstappen: Adding Sprint race to Chinese GP weekend ‘not smart’

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Max Verstappen is critical of Formula 1’s decision to include a Sprint race at this week’s Chinese Grand Prix, believing it's "not the smartest thing" considering the unique challenges the event presents.

F1 returns to China for the first time since 2019, with the Shanghai International Circuit welcoming back the pinnacle of motorsport.

However, a four-year hiatus creates several significant issues for F1’s teams. Not only do they have no recent data on how the sport’s current ground-effect cars will behave on the demanding 5.4km track, but the circuit itself has undergone resurfacing.

This throws a wrench into preparations, rendering much of the teams’ existing data irrelevant.

But as if these unknowns weren't enough, China has been selected as the venue of choice for F1’s first Sprint race.

Next weekend’s compressed schedule allots teams a mere 60 minutes of practice time to find the perfect setup – an immense challenge considering the circumstance cited above.

"Yeah, it's very smart to do that,” Verstappen ironized, speaking at Suzuka last time out.

"I think it's not great to do that because when you have been away from a track for quite a while, I think you never know what you're going to experience, so it would have been better to have a normal race weekend there.

"On the other hand, it probably spices things up a bit more, and that's maybe what they would like to see. But purely from a driving and performance perspective of the sport, I think it's not the smartest thing to do.

"We'll see what we get there. I always loved driving there, so hopefully we can hit the ground running as well as we can, and hopefully we don't need to fine-tune too many things on the car."

Ferrari Carlos Sainz echoed Verstappen’s concerns but drew attention to this year’s revised schedule for Sprint weekends that includes just a single 60-minute practice session.

Indeed, the action at Shanghai will kick off on Friday with FP1 followed later in the day with Sprint qualifying. The 30-minute race will open festivities on Saturday with qualifying for Sunday’s main event taking place three hours later.

One important tweak this year is the fact that Parc Fermé will reopen Saturday’s Sprint and allow teams to make set-up changes to their cars ahead of qualifying.

But Sainz agreed that putting a Sprint event on the bill in China was not a good idea.

"I think China as a race circuit is a great one, I think it's one of our favourites for everyone," argued the Ferrari charger.

"It's just a great racing track and a track that offers a good possibility to overtake, so a sprint makes sense to have it there.

"At the same time, it's what we said in the drivers' briefing to the FIA and Formula 1.

"With these kind of cars, to go to a track with one hour of practice and straight into qualifying, with the regulations that they put on us, with the plank wear and things like this and how tricky one bump could make the car, I think it's not a good choice to put the sprint [there] after four or five years of absence.

"We also heard there's been resurfacing going on. Maybe for you guys at home, it's exciting, but for engineers and drivers, in my opinion, we shouldn't take the risk and have a normal weekend."

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