Max Verstappen has reiterated a threat to walk away from Formula 1 if it continues to put what he considers to be business priorities ahead of sport.
This weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix is the first of six sprint rounds this season but the first run to an altered format, with the shortened Saturday race getting its own qualifying session and standing alone from the main event on Sunday.
Verstappen stirred controversy at the Australian Grand Prix when asked about the changes, telling Portuguese TV that he “won’t be around for too long” if the sport continues tinkering with its weekend format and increasing the number of events in a season.
Asked in Baku whether his quit threat was serious, Verstappen pointed out that he’s always intended for his F1 career to be short.
“I always said that anyway, even if there won’t be any more sprint races or whatever,” he said. “But yeah, I do feel that if it’s getting at one point too much, it’s time for a change.”
Verstappen has described changes to the format as antithetical to the sport’s DNA, and this week he said that’s because F1 was taking a commercial-led approach to the weekend rather than one led by competition.
“I look at it from a racing point of view, and probably F1 looks at it from a business point of view,” he said. “Of course I understand. These sprint races, they probably add a bit more excitement. But I look at it from the racing point of view.
“Normally when you then do the sprint races, that’s exciting — few shunts in there, damage, blah, blah, blah, safety car, a bit more excitement — but throughout the race you get quite a clear picture of what is happening, who is quickest, so you also have quite a clear view on what is going to happen on the next day.
“That probably takes a bit the shine away from the main event, which I think always should be the special event.”
Verstappen also used the opportunity to speak candidly about his future more broadly, admitting that his motivation to compete through an expanded calendar was something he was constantly assessing to prevent himself from burning out.
“I do like racing, I do like winning. I know that [with] the salary and everything, you have a good life. But is it actually a good life?” he said.
“If we keep expanding the calendar and the whole weekend is that long, at one point you question yourself: Is it worth it?
“I think you always have to be talking to yourself, looking to yourself. Are you still motivated, fully motivated, and do you love what you do? At the moment that is definitely the case. There will for sure be a point where you want to do maybe other stuff as well.
“Sometimes it sounds very weird for people from the outside because they’re saying, ‘Ah, you’re in Formula 1, you’re winning,’ and probably I would have said the same when I was in their position. But once you’re in it, it’s not always how it looks like or how people think your life is. Yes, it’s great — it’s amazing, you can do a lot of things, very independent — but there is always a limit.”
The Dutchman said he wasn’t the only one thinking critically about the workload of a growing calendar, with other drivers and team members at risk of walking away as the sport encroaches further into the private lives of its participants.
“I think every person is a bit different,” he said. “It also depends what you want out of your life.
“Some people just love racing, and that’s the only thing they know or the only thing they want to do. I’m probably a bit more in the middle. I do love racing, but I also want to do other kinds of racing, and then you can’t combine the two or set up other kinds of stuff.
“I think when you do that amount of races, not only the drivers but also staff and the team, it’s a lot of people who will struggle with that.”