July 23, 2024

Max Verstappen is ready to win the championship in Qatar, but in the Sprint race, does that really matter?

Since the Monaco Grand Prix where Max Verstappen won the championship and Sergio Perez twice finished 16th, the destination of the Drivers’ title this season has been very clear.

Hopes of challenging Perez were dashed after a bright start to the season that saw him win two of the first four races, but his form collapsed at the start of the summer after a crash in qualifying in principality.

Between May 1 (the day after the Azerbaijan GP) and September 16 (the day before the Singapore GP), Verstappen was undefeated in F1, at all Grands Prix, winning all 10 races and winning both Sprint wins in Austria and Belgium.

Of the 276 points given in his race win, Verstappen collected 271, just missing the fastest laps in Monaco, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. Rarely has there been such dominance in Grand Prix racing.

As he continues to rack up points and Perez works, attention turns to when exactly Verstappen will join Sir Jack Brabham, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, ​​​Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna as is a triple world champion.

He will most likely leave Qatar as a member of the three-man club, but not because of the race.

He is currently 177 points ahead of Perez and the remaining 180 points belong to Lusail. Take away eighth place to win the Sprint, and Verstappen only needs to finish sixth in Saturday night’s 19-lap contest. If that doesn’t happen, by some miracle it will most likely be decided at the Grand Prix itself – but Verstappen could become the first driver to win the World Championship in a non-Grand race Main Prix – but did it really matter that it happened?

Pros of Verstappen winning in the Sprint

Does it really matter that Verstappen won the title? It was clear from the start of the summer that he would do it, and so it was only a matter of time and each Grand Prix won a calculated exercise as his points total increased, and the gap that Perez have to compete less and less.

Second, the way the Sprint is organized in the 2023 season means this is a possibility that Formula 1 wants to see.

In 2021 and 2022, three events were held, with this number doubling to six for 23, with half of that number allocated to the final six races of the season. Qatar, USA and Brazil are expected to be the three events to feature sprints, across the four-race period, with only Mexico – located between Austin and Interlagos on the tripleheader – taking place as scheduled normally.

Interlagos has proven itself to be an excellent sprint racing venue, winning events in 2021 and 2022 (it is the only circuit to host sprint races every year), while demand The demand for an additional race in Austin is their own.

With the Sprints spread throughout the season and half of them taking place at the end of the season, with 8 points each going to the winner, it’s a huge possibility.

Given that the purpose of the Sprints is to attract more attention to F1, it is only a sign that Verstappen will win the Sprint title.

The cons

As Sprints were being rolled out in 2021, F1 was at pains to point out they weren’t races.

Originally, the format was used to set the grid for the main Grand Prix, but this proved wildly unpopular with the change being made for 2023 to make Saturday of Sprint weekends an effective standalone with Grand Prix qualifying on a Friday setting the grid, as has always been the case, for Sunday.

The importance and sanctity of a Grand Prix would not be disrupted in anyway whatsoever.

What better way to blow dynamite through that argument than the World Drivers’ Championship being decided in a Sprint race?

It’s all good and well F1 adding more and more Grands Prix and more and more Sprint races to the calendar, but other die-hard fans who never miss a session or media covering the action, who really has time to devote over nearly half of their weekends throughout the year to watching racing?

Sure there are highlights packages in case you miss a qualifying session or the Grand Prix, but nothing beats watching the special moment a driver is crowned World Champion of the only truly global sport that bestows that title. Despite its best protests, the NBA, NFL and MLB’s proclamations of the winning teams being World Champions is nonsense.

Furthermore, why is Qatar’s or Brazil’s or Austria’s leg of the season worth more points than Monaco, Japan or Singapore’s?

If every Grand Prix is meant to be equal in stature, reflect that in the points on offer instead of giving this race or that race an extra helping of World Championship points.

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