Jenson Button throws support behind sprint qualifying: ‘It really does mix it up’

Jenson Button in the paddock. Miami May 2022. Credit: Alamy
Jenson Button in the paddock. Miami May 2022. Credit: Alamy

Jenson Button believes sprint qualifying is a good thing for Formula 1, with drivers able to “go for it” instead of nursing their car over a race distance.

The 2009 World Champion was asked about the subject with the final sprint session of the season coming at Interlagos, before the number of sprints doubles from three to six next season.

The structure of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix weekend will alter as a result of the sprint, with qualifying scheduled for Friday before Saturday’s sprint, which takes place over a one-third race distance, sets the grid for Sunday’s main event.

Opinion has largely been split on the popularity of the sprints, although the FIA claim they have been a “popular update” to the sport in the last two seasons.

The likes of Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel have questioned the need for sprints, with the current World Champion believing “Sunday is the day to race”, while four-time former champion Vettel raised eyebrows at the financial motivations behind adding the sprint element to a race weekend.

But with Brazil’s sprint being the pick of the bunch last season, with Lewis Hamilton making up 15 places after being disqualified from qualifying, his former McLaren team-mate spoke in support of the concept in general – explaining how it separates the good from the great among the drivers and teams in a different way to a full race distance.

“I do like them, and I’ll tell you why,” Button elaborated while speaking on Sky Sports’ Any Driven Monday.

“The drivers and teams completely understand what they need to do from when the lights go out on a Sunday to what happens on the last lap of the race in terms of how they look after the car, how they look after the tyres.

“They are not driving it for speed – which is a shame, but the cars are heavier, the tyres are going through so much stress and pain with the amount of downforce these cars have, whereas in a sprint race they just go for it.

“And you see the tyre wear, you see the degradation. Some cars are better than others, some drivers are better than others [at] looking after the tyres in that situation.

“I love that, and the drivers have spoken about that in the past. So I like a sprint race. It really does mix it up. Especially around Interlagos, which is a tough track, it really is – especially on the tyres.”

Read more: Sprint qualifying has its critics, but the true test of the format is yet to come

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