Six F1 sprint races will be held next year as the format enters its fourth season, but Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is unconvinced of their value and wants drastic changes.
As was the case during the previous F1 season, in 2024 there will be six weekends in the sprint format. The Chinese, Miami, Austrian, US, Sao Paulo and Qatar Grands Prix will all feature the alternative format, which has divided opinion since its introduction in 2021. Further changes are to be made to the format of next year, which are believed to focus on moving sprint qualifying to Friday afternoon, with the sprint race and Grand Prix qualifying taking place on Saturday.
Some in the paddock have expressed their displeasure with the alternative scheme, most notably three-time World Champion Max Verstappen. But speaking to select media, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff revealed he’s not a fan of the format either. “I’m not the biggest fan of sprints, because I think they dilute the value of Grand Prix. But I can understand that there are more people who like them than people who don’t like them. Maybe I’m too old-fashioned. The data shows that there is interest in the sprint.”
On the other issue of the day concerning him, to understand why the FIA’s investigation into Toto and Susie Wolff for an alleged conflict of interest matters, we must first go back to basics. According to the so-called “franchise model” that has become the slogan of recent years, the 10 teams on the grid are suppliers, who provide their product to the owner of the commercial rights (Liberty Media and by extension to the management of Formula One (FOM) ). This product is then packaged and upgraded and passed on to consumers, broadcasters and fans. In this way, Toto Wolff provides his product to F1, which is then sold. However, it retains control of the product, with Mercedes being a separate entity from F1.
Susie Wolff is a senior F1 executive reporting to chairman and chief executive Stefano Domenicali through her work managing the F1 Academy series, which launched earlier this year. The allegation against Toto Wolff is that in a recent meeting of the team principals, he spoke about matters that the other bosses were not aware of and which could only come from within FOM.
Toto Wolff, in theory, could use any information he has, which he shouldn’t, to his and Mercedes’ advantage against rivals. It is also alleged that Susie Wolff also has access to information from team bosses that is beneficial to FOM.
Susie Wolff, Mercedes and F1 issued statements on Tuesday night, following the FIA’s brief statement confirming the compliance unit’s investigation into the alleged conflict of interest. The claims were vehemently denied, with Wolff writing that she was deeply offended by them before declaring her innocence. On Wednesday night all nine other teams issued coordinated statements denying involvement in the FIA briefing. It is clear that Mercedes is not going to refer her own boss and his wife for investigation.