FIA boss gives verdict on doubling sprint races in 2023 after plan was blocked initially

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has refused to rule out doubling the number of Saturday sprint races for the 2023 season.

Last month, the F1 Commission met to discuss proposals to raise the current number from three to six, and resoundingly rejected the plans. At the meeting, Ben Sulayem, who came into post in September to replace Jean Todt, was accused of greedily demanding more money to alter the schedule.

The concept of sprint races was introduced in the 2021 season with events in Silverstone, Monza, and Interlagos. Three points were made available for the winner, two for the runner-up, and one for the third placed finisher.

The final positions from the shortened events were also used as the starting grid positions for the Grand Prix the following day. And whilst that notion has remained a constant for 2022, there are now more points available.

This year, the top eight finishers are all rewarded. The first sprint event took place in Imola – with Max Verstappen taking the win from Ferrari title rival Charles Leclerc – with the next two coming at the Red Bull Ring in Austria and then again Brazil.

However, despite plans for extra races seemingly being rejected, ben Sulayem has not dismissed the prospect of three becoming six next season. And he’s denied the suggestion the provisions are motivated by money.

Max Verstappen scored maximum points at the first sprint race weekend of the 2022 season

Max Verstappen scored maximum points at the first sprint race weekend of the 2022 season
Getty Images)

“I support the races if it is the right thing to do,” he told Sportsmail. “I’m not saying it is the wrong thing. I am saying there is time to decide. This is for 2023, not this season. Our house isn’t on fire.

“We have what is called a democracy: Formula One (Group) have a vote, the teams have a vote, I have a vote. If you then say I can’t abstain or take time to study the proposals then you are not allowing me the freedom of democracy.”

Ben Sulayem, 60, said he was at a loss as to why stories emerged accusing him of acting greedily, but did add: “I did not ask for more money but if I had I would have wanted to use it in the right way – to invest in the proper regulation of the sport.

“We say Formula One is the pinnacle, and it is, so we at the FIA need the resources to govern the technical and financial side of a billion-dollar sport in a manner that respects that. We need the capability to observe those standards.”

He added he would also need to analyse if his F1 team would be able to handle the inevitable extra workload of more sprint races. Regardless, the new addition hasn’t been universally popular, with the jury still out on their popularity with fans – whilst teams have complained of the extra cost implications.

One definite decision that has been made though, is that the cancelled Russian Grand Prix won’t be replaced with another venue. Instead, the schedule will be reduced to 22 races, equalling the record set in 2021.

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