Lando Norris says he would be eager to head straight into qualifying after the first practice session on a permanent basis at Formula 1 race weekends.
A traditional race weekend schedule currently consists of three one-hour practice sessions, two on Friday and a further one on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying.
But the introduction of sprint weekends at select rounds from the 2021 season has seen the drivers only given a singular practice hour before heading into a qualifying session that sets the grid for the sprint – a shorter race one-third the distance of Sunday’s main event.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali sparked rumours ahead of the Australian Grand Prix that changes to the layout of race weekends could be on the horizon after outlining that he would support the cancellation of free practice sessions.
Norris has since professed that he retains a strong preference towards only being given the opportunity of one hour to acclimatise to a circuit before the high-speed spectacle of qualifying gets underway.
“True – honestly I prefer that to be honest with you,” Norris said about the sprint format. “I like the FP1 and straight into something serious. FP1 into qualifying, that nature of it I do love.
“It puts me under pressure, puts drivers under pressure a bit more, the engineers under a bit more pressure. We get straight into action, straight into a demanding scenario.”
However, Norris concedes he still remains unconvinced by sprint races in general but also admits he is unsure about what could be modified for the future.
The McLaren star’s distaste towards the reworked format accompanies reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen, who has been highly critical of the decision to increase the number of sprint events from three in the previous two years to six in 2023.
“I’m still not the biggest fan of sprint races to be honest, I still love the build-up of a Sunday and all of the pressure on a Sunday, qualifying on a Saturday,” Norris countered.
“I don’t know how you would change it necessarily. But just maybe FP1 [and then] qualifying, straight out of the box is a cool thing, but then that’s just a Saturday and Sunday. So I don’t know.”
With drivers locked into their chosen set-ups by parc ferme regulations once they leave the pits in qualifying, the pressure to maximise track time in practice is intensified when sprint weekends come around.
Despite dominating the second half of last season Red Bull was caught out by the amended weekend schedule in Brazil, opening the door for Mercedes to pounce and score its solitary win in what had been a hugely challenging year.
Seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton trailed team-mate George Russell home that day in Sao Paulo and has claimed he also enjoys the heightened tensions provided by having qualifying hosted on a Friday evening rather than Saturday afternoon.
The Mercedes driver has thrown his support around a potential reshaping of race weekends in F1, arguing that it should be cut down to three days in light of the record-breaking calendars that are now commonplace in the sport.
F1’s first sprint weekend of the year will take place when the series returns with the fourth round of the 2023 season at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.