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Formula 1 Brazilian GP

F1 tracks not tyres key to more exciting sprints, says Pirelli

Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli thinks choosing the right tracks, rather than tinkering with the format, is key to delivering more exciting sprint races.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, lead the field away for the start of the Sprint race

Teams and F1 bosses have begun discussions about potential changes to sprints for 2024 in the wake of concerns that the current set-up is not delivering enough for fans. 

A range of options are on the table, including the potential for reverse grids, a complete standalone sprint championship, cash prizes and an overhaul of the weekend timetable to shuffle sessions around. 

There have even been suggestions that F1 should do more to ensure there is greater strategic variance in terms of tyre choices – with that having been a key factor in making this year’s Qatar Saturday race so exciting. 

But Pirelli thinks that it is not necessary to start playing around with the sprint race itself – because it will always be difficult to try to engineer circumstances that open the door for varied tyre calls. 

Instead, Pirelli’s chief engineer Simone Berra thinks that the best way to ensure good sprint entertainment is to make sure the events take place on tracks that provide overtaking opportunities. 

“I don't think we should change anything in terms of distance for the sprint,” he explained.  

“I think that it should be better to decide properly where the layout of the circuit can help a lot because we can make decisions to help the sprint be even more spectacular.” 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing leads at the start

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing leads at the start

Berra believes that the reason for Qatar proving to be so good, as soft tyre runners surged to the front at the beginning before falling back later in the race, was that neither tyre proved perfect for the conditions. 

“We have had good sprint races,” he said. “But in Qatar, you had a high level of degradation, and this affected the compound choice.  

"We didn't have really a strong compound. We had the C2 and C3, but both suffered from graining. 

“I think the layout of the circuit is really important, to select the proper circuits to have a good spectacle.” 

Berra believed that it would be too hard to engineer circumstances where the tyre choice was marginal all the time, as there is always a fine line between delivering products that allow drivers to push, while also allowing good racing. 

“It's not an easy balance because if you have high degradation they [the drivers] have to manage, but if you have low degradation they can push but you don't have any difference in pace because the degradation is low for everybody.  

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“So it's always a combination where you select the track, you select the compounds and some teams are able to extract better performance than others.  

 "For example [in the Brazil sprint], Mercedes in the last laps, especially [Lewis] Hamilton, they dropped a lot. Even [Oscar] Piastri at the end of the race, so this was really important.  

“So having to manage the tyres there, it meant there was some fighting and some other people from the back that were gaining positions.”

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