F1 first introduced the sprint format in 2021 with three races. For 2023, the number of sprint events has been doubled to six, and there are plans for further tweaks in time for the next race in Azerbaijan.
At the Australian Grand Prix, Verstappen warned he would consider leaving F1 if championship bosses continued to tinker with the format.
“Even if you change the format, I don’t find that is in the DNA of F1 to do these kind of sprint races,” the Red Bull driver said in Melbourne.
“I hope there won’t be too many changes, otherwise I won’t be around for too long.
“I am not a fan of it at all. When we do all that kind of stuff, the weekend becomes very intense and we already do a lot of races.”
Verstappen added: “We are heading into seasons where we could have 24 or 25 races and if you then start adding more it is not worth it for me. I will not enjoy that.
“F1 is about getting the most out of it in qualifying and have an amazing Sunday over a long race distance. That is the DNA of the sport and I don’t understand why we need to change that.”
Genuine threat, or a tactical ploy?
The subject of Verstappen’s quit threat was discussed on the latest episode of the Sky Sports F1 podcast.
1996 world champion Damon Hill questioned Verstappen’s enjoyment factor and believes the two-time world champion’s warning should be taken at face value.
“Max’s retirement threat is very unusual,” he said. “This is kind of strange to hear, isn’t it? I mean, what’s he going to do with himself?
“I think fun is a very important point, is he having fun? Because I sometimes think he’s not having fun. You have to love what you are doing, otherwise it’s a grind.”
However, Sky Sports F1 presenter Simon Lazenby suggested Verstappen’s public opposition to the sprint format is directly linked to Red Bull’s current domination.
“It’s just his way of saying ‘we don’t like sprint races because we are winning comfortably, and why would we bring in more risk if we don’t need to. I object, your honour’,” Lazenby said.
“Maybe I’m being cynical… He’s an old-school racer. Max is one of these people that believes in the sanctity of the grand prix and that’s definitely a case you could argue.
“But I do believe there’s an element of ‘we’ve got the best car, why would you bring in any more jeopardy?’ I think if they were coming fourth and fifth they’d be like ‘ok, well, it adds an extra dimension whereby we can challenge those that have the dominant car’.”
But Hill disagreed with Lazenby, arguing: “I think there’s an element of this with Max of him not wanting to waste his time doing superfluous things that are invented for novelty reasons. He’s that kind of person.
“So I can imagine him just saying it because he’s thinking ‘I just want to win grands prix – I just want one race to mean something. I don’t want to win a half-value race, what’s the point of that on your CV? People aren’t going to go ‘how many Grand Prix have you won? Now how many Sprints have you won?’”