Max Verstappen threatens to quit F1 over sprint race row
Max Verstappen, Red Bull’s double world champion, has warned he may quit Formula One if the sport makes too many tweaks to its race weekends which are “not in the sport’s DNA”.
Speaking after taking pole for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, Verstappen doubled down on his longstanding criticism of sprint races. And the Dutchman said proposals to jazz up the race weekend still further, with qualifying taking place on a Friday for the main grand prix on Sunday, and then a separate qualifying session on Saturday morning for a standalone sprint race later that same day, were “not in the DNA of Formula One”.
“I hope there won’t be too many changes, otherwise I won’t be around for too long,” Verstappen told Portuguese TV channel Sport TV.
Speaking in the main post-qualifying press conference, Verstappen added: “I am not a fan of [the proposals] at all. When we do all that kind of stuff, the weekend becomes very intense and we already do a lot of races.
“It is not the right way to go about it. I understand they want to make every day exciting but they should reduce the weekend, and only race on Saturday and Sunday and make those two days exciting.
“We are heading into seasons where we could have 24 or 25 races and if you then start adding more it is not worth it for me. I will not enjoy that.
“A sprint race is all about surviving and not racing. There is nothing to risk when you have a quick car. I prefer to keep my car alive and make sure you have a good race car for Sunday.
“Even if you change the format, I don’t find it is in the DNA of Formula One to do these kinds of sprint races.
“F1 is about getting the most out of it in qualifying and [then] have an amazing Sunday over a long race distance. That is the DNA of the sport and I don’t understand why we need to change that.”
Verstappen added that rather than tweaking the format of the race weekend, the sport’s focus should be on closing up the field.
“How do you get even more action? Getting the cars closer, and having more teams fighting for the wins. The show would then be great if we had six or seven teams fighting for the win. That would be insane and then you wouldn’t need to change anything.”
Verstappen’s opinion appears to be largely at odds with those of his fellow drivers, and certainly with the sport’s chief executive Stefano Domenicali who is not a fan of free practice sessions that have nothing riding on them.
Mercedes’ George Russell, who is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, said he liked the idea of getting into the action earlier in the weekend.
“I wasn't in favour of the sprint races initially, but I really enjoy the sprint races and having action on a Friday is vital for all of us and also for the entertainment factor,” the British driver said.
Russell’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton agreed, saying it was important for the sport to keep evolving.