The excitement in the air was palpable as fans and drivers alike, packed into a tiny town of less than 20 thousand people, erupted with joy after F1’s first ever “double sprint.” Ross Brawn is confident that this could become standard by 2022.
The “sprint race” was a thriller at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. It was won by Lewis Hamilton, who took his sixth win in 2018.
IMOLA, Italy (Reuters) – The late struggle for victory in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix sprint race between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc was the frosting on the cake for Formula One chief Ross Brawn, who is already preparing to expand the format to twice as many races in 2023.
The race in Imola is the first of three this season that will use the sprint qualifying format, with replays in Austria and Brazil to follow. Traditional qualifying will be moved to Friday in order to establish the grid for a shorter race on Saturday, which will determine the starting position for the grand prix on Sunday.
In 2021, sprint qualifying was utilized at Silverstone, Monza, and Interlagos, and F1 had wanted to raise the number for this year, but teams balked due to financial concerns.
Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz battled their way through the pack in Saturday’s race, as other drivers clung to failing tyres in the final circuits. With the help of the Drag Reduction System overtaking assistance, Verstappen reeled down Leclerc and overtook the title leader at the start of the last lap.
On Saturday afternoon, F1 racing manager Ross Brawn said of the sprint, “Very delighted.” “Great entertainment, a lot of racing going on, a lot of overtaking, and we showed the vehicles could follow one other. You may argue, “Well, that was DRS,” but you can’t use DRS until you can get on the rear of the vehicle, so I believe it was a huge success overall.”
Next week, Brawn and F1 team executives will talk about expanding the sprint allotment from three to six in 2023.
“Next year, we’d want to have six,” Brawn added. “I believe [team leaders] recognize achievement.”
“We didn’t know where we were with the old vehicles last year, but I believe they can see how this is flowing into the new cars today. I’m certain that they’ll all recognize its worth. Even the spectators. What you should remember about the sprint is that it also provides you with a fantastic Friday. We can’t overlook the fact that we’ve had three days of activity for the fans.”
Some people are skeptical. Mercedes driver George Russell, who finished 11th in the team’s underperforming W13 car, believes the race should be at least 50% longer to enable tyre degradation to play a larger influence in deciding the finish order.
Brawn said that the battles in the top half of the order demonstrated that this has occurred often enough, and that it is reasonable for drivers towards the rear to express their dissatisfaction.
In a dramatic sprint race in Imola, Max Verstappen passes Charles Leclerc. courtesy of Getty Images/Dan Mullan
“Whenever my drivers had a lousy vehicle, he moaned about the race,” Brawn remarked, referring to his days as a team leader. I believe George’s viewpoint, or the opinion of anybody at the rear of the grid, is not one you should pay attention to. According to the thoughts we hear, the boys are really racing and racing in the front.
“They’re in a terrible situation, but I don’t believe their position at the back of the grid represents the actual state of the race.”
“I simply know from my personal experience that a driver towards the rear of the grid is going through a lot of emotions.” It would be fantastic if there were events in the rear, but we were driving a Mercedes that couldn’t pass the vehicles in front. However, there was a lot of passing in the center and in the front.
“Of course we’ll listen; we won’t ignore it,” says the narrator, “but you have to maintain your cool.”
Max’s patient approach pays dividends.
Verstappen waited patiently for 20 circuits after losing the lead to Leclerc nearly as soon as their cars rolled off the line.
Verstappen stated catching and overtaking Leclerc late on was due to his tyres being in a better condition and waiting for the ideal time, echoing what Brawn would later remark regarding tyre deterioration.
“Charles had a lot more trouble with the graining,” Verstappen added. “Of course, I could shut down and rely on the DRS to get by.” But I believe it was more of a waiting game, since it seemed that the space or difference between the two vehicles was growing in terms of lap timings with each lap.
After winning the sprint race in Imola, Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium. Image courtesy of Getty Images/Mark Thompson
“Once you’ve figured out how to get incredibly close inside that one second window, it’s a difficult task. It is preferable to follow these vehicles. It is, nevertheless, still very difficult to traverse. You still have to utilize the tyres, and getting into that DRS window, particularly with the deg we had on the soft, was difficult.”
Despite overtaking Leclerc late in the race, Verstappen only earned one point on the race’s early leader.
This year, under amended regulations, the top eight finishers get points, while in 2021, only the top three received points.
On Sunday afternoon, Verstappen will start ahead of Leclerc, with respective teammates Perez and Sainz following closely after, setting up an intriguing tussle for victory and podium positions.
Ferrari is aiming for its first victory in Imola since Michael Schumacher in 2006, the closest F1 event to its famed home in Maranello.