Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1’s changes to the sprint race format won’t make a great difference to how drivers approach them.
The Mercedes driver backed the latest revision to the race weekends, which was announced earlier this week. F1 hopes drivers will be less conservative in their approach to the sprint races as they are now standalone races which no longer decide the starting grid for the grand prix.
However Hamilton doesn’t believe this changes the balance between risk and reward for the competitors. “I don’t think it makes really a lot of difference now,” he said.
“Obviously before, where you finished in the sprint was where you qualified for the race. Now it is a practice session but there are points at the end of it. I don’t think we’ll be going more [flat-]out than we normally have done in the past.”
Despite that, Hamilton is hopeful the changes will result in an action-packed event. “With the shake-up of the whole format of the weekend, it’s probably the most exciting weekend so far this year,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.”
Carlos Sainz Jnr echoed Hamilton’s words, doubting drivers will take more risks as a result of the changes.
“I still don’t think it will be like ‘win it or bin it’ for us,” said the Ferrari driver. “It will be still important laps, important points for the championship. Important learning for the main race.
“I don’t think an F1 driver will change massively the approach to the start, to the fighting. We will still approach it as a normal race.”
Points will continue to be awarded to the top eight drivers. Those who finish outside the top eight will gain nothing towards their championship position, but Valtteri Bottas doubts that will lead to drivers pulling out of the race in the closing stages if they believe they won’t score any points.
“For example, if I would be in the last laps in ninth position, which is just outside of the points in the sprint, then definitely you go for it. Obviously if you break your car or something, then that could have consequences for Sunday. But in another case, there’s not a huge difference, but I think a welcome one. So at least you know that you can try if you’re just on the edge of the points.
“[If] you’re like 15th or something, you still go for it, it’s the nature of us. You don’t give up and in this sport you never know what happens so you go ’til the end.”
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