George Russell has argued that the length of Sprint races remain too short in Formula 1 despite an entertaining affair in Austria.
The Briton’s running in the Sprint Shootout was curtailed after a hydraulic problem was diagnosed on his W14 car in SQ2, resigning him to starting a lowly 15th for the Sprint.
However, following a strong start, an inspired decision to be the first driver to switch to dry-weather tires enabled Russell to steal a march on those ahead and snatch a point that had previously seemed unlikely.
But Russell, who finished 0.009s shy of pipping Ocon to seventh, believes the track was ready for slicks “a couple of laps earlier” and a swifter call could have yielded more.
“But in those conditions when you’re stuck behind cars, it’s really difficult to recognise if it’s spray from the cars ahead or if it’s actually a wet track,” he explained. “So, it’s really difficult to judge.
“But I was confident the track was for slicks, but obviously there was only 13 laps to go, so I was telling the team ‘If this is qualifying, I’ll be taking slicks now’.
“I love these conditions, I love the transition. I feel confident in those early laps to feel the grip. One, two more laps would have been three positions higher.”
The Austrian Grand Prix marks the second time the Sprint format has been used in 2023 with a further four to be held – an increase of three from the previous two years.
Sprint events were introduced in 2021 with the intention of spicing up selected weekends, but Russell contends that the races – capped at 100km – remain too short in distance to produce the desired impact.
When asked if he was happy to see the DRS activated the moment he returned to the track on slicks, Russell said: “Yes, that was definitely needed. But I don’t think it would have cost me any positions whatsoever.
“It was an enjoyable race. I think the race would have been very boring if it was just dry from start to finish.
“I still believe the Sprint race is just a little bit too short. In dry conditions. I think the medium tyre can do 30 or 40 laps. For a 24-lap race, it would have been an easy race for everyone.”
The one-time F1 race winner has suggested that forcing every driver to the use softest available compound during a Sprint race would help to improve the spectacle.
“So, I hope to see a small change somewhere,” he conveyed. “I think it would be quite cool to mandate the Soft tyre for the Sprint race when you’re on the softest tyre, the Sprint tyres as you could call it, and it would give a bit more action.”
Although Russell’s progression was restricted in qualifying on Saturday, the Sprint Shootout transpired to be a more positive session than he had endured on Friday evening.
The 25-year-old slipped to a second Q2 exit in three rounds and attributed the drop in track temperatures to his improved outing.
“The cooler conditions helped the balance of the car,” he underlined. “Just from lap one in qualifying today, I felt confident, much more confident than yesterday.
“So this is a good learning for us because the car was identical as it was yesterday. The only thing that’s changed is the weather so that a lot of learning in itself.”
Russell will aim to recover from 11th on the grid in the 71-lap main event, while team-mate Lewis Hamilton will start from fifth.