Max Verstappen claims ‘not the smartest’ move to include China sprint race

Max Verstappen claims 'not the smartest' move to include China sprint race

Max Verstappen believes it was “not the smartest” thing to include a sprint race as the Chinese Grand Prix returns this weekend after a five-year break.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen cautioned that holding a Sprint event during the Chinese Grand Prix was “not the smartest” move considering the five-year absence from the Shanghai International Circuit.

The last race at the venue was the 2019 Chinese Grand Prix which had to be postponed following the COVID-19 pandemic and considering the time off, teams have several concerns regarding how the current generation of cars will perform there.

Furthermore, since the circuit has been resurfaced very little of the data that has been collected at the 5.4-kilometer track outside of Shanghai is reliable, making preparations for the weekend even more challenging.

The season’s first Sprint race will take place at the venue this weekend and although Verstappen has been an outspoken critic of the abbreviated format since its inception, it adds an extra element of uncertainty to the weekend when the Sprint Shootout is held immediately after only an hour of practice.

The fact that the drivers and teams will only have sixty minutes of on-track time before qualifying for the Sprint presents another level of uncertainty for them, as the new ground-effect cars have not yet been raced on this circuit.

The weekend schedule has also been changed to allow the teams to make necessary adjustments to their cars after the Sprint. Qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix has been moved back to its regular Saturday afternoon time slot in order to prevent the application of parc fermé conditions until later in the weekend.

Majority of the drivers are familiar with the Shanghai International Circuit, but the Dutchman disagrees that hosting a Sprint there this weekend was the smartest course of action given how long it has been since a race was held there.

When asked by about the decision to hold a sprint at Shanghai on its first year back, Verstappen replied sarcastically: “Yeah, it’s very smart to do that.

“I think it’s not great, let’s say like that, 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, right?

“So it would have been better to have a normal race weekend there. But on the other hand, it probably spices things up a bit more, and that’s maybe what they would like to see.

“But yeah, purely from a driving perspective, performance perspective of the sport, I think it’s not the smartest thing to do.

“We’ll see what we get there. I mean, I always loved driving there. So yeah, 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.”

Adding his thoughts to the question, Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez said: “Yeah, I just hope that there are no issues with the track, with any drain holes, any issues like that.

“That will just put us out of sync. But I think for the show, probably it’s good. It’s a good thing.

“But I think from the preparation side, it’s going to be definitely one that is going to be really hard because, I mean, I’ve never raced there, for example, with Red Bull so it’s going to be quite a lot to do in a single practice.”

While the Shanghai circuit itself is one that Carlos Sainz enjoys and whose layout suits the Sprint format, he disagrees that it is a risk worth taking for the drivers and teams despite having the potential to provide good entertainment for fans.

“Yeah, I think there’s two different topics,” said the Ferrari driver. “I think China as a race circuit is a great one. I think it’s one of our favourite ones for everyone.

“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, we say to 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 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 choose to put the Sprint after four or five years absence.

“We also heard there’s been resurfacing going on, so Istanbul 2.0 may be on the cards! Yeah, I hope not. So yeah, it just shows the uncertainty.

“Maybe for you guys at home it’s exciting, but for engineers and drivers, it’s something that for me, in my opinion, we shouldn’t take the risk and have a normal weekend.”

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