The Sprint is about to return for the first of six appearances in 2023, with the debut event of the year taking place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Since its introduction in 2021, the shortened Saturday race has featured some memorable moments, from drivers carving their way through the field to others suffering an early exit from the proceedings. Based on the previous six Sprints – with three each having taken place in 2021 and 2022 – RacingNews365.com looks at the drivers who have a particularly strong track record in the event, as well as the ones who haven’t had such good luck… Max Verstappen As well as having won the last two F1 World Championships, Max Verstappen also holds the most Sprint victories so far, having won three out of the six races to be held to date. The Dutchman took his first Sprint win in the first-ever running of the event at the British Grand Prix in 2021, with pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton forced to settle for second. It has previously been speculated that the possible tensions flared by that result may have contributed to the first-lap collision between Verstappen and Hamilton in Sunday’s main race, a controversial moment in the fierce championship battle between the two. Verstappen did not win another Sprint in 2021, but still claimed second place on each occasion. His next victories came in 2022 at the Emilia Romagna and Austrian Grands Prix respectively. In fact, Verstappen has finished within the top three at five out of the six Sprints so far, with only the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix event – in which he ended the race in fourth – breaking the pattern. Lewis Hamilton On paper, Hamilton does not initially look to be one of the top performers in the Sprint; the Mercedes driver has never won the event, and has only finished within the top three in two of the six races. However, Hamilton put in one of the most memorable Sprint performances at the 2021 event in Brazil, where he started from the back of the grid following a penalty. The seven-time World Champion made his way through the field in blistering style, making up 15 places in only 24 laps. Hamilton ultimately finished the race in P5, but would go on to claim victory in the main Grand Prix on Sunday. When the Sprint returned to Brazil in 2022, Hamilton added to the momentum of Mercedes’ strongest weekend of the year during a difficult season for the team by claiming P3. The win went to teammate George Russell, who then took his debut F1 race victory in Sunday’s event. Valtteri Bottas During his final season with Mercedes in 2021, Valtteri Bottas won two out of the three Sprints held, taking victory from P1 on the grid at Monza before beating pole-sitter Verstappen to the win in Brazil. While the Finn has not since had the machinery to battle at the front following his move to Alfa Romeo, he has still put in some decent performances in the Saturday race. After points were only awarded to the top three in 2021, this was extended to the leading eight finishers in 2022, allowing Bottas to claim points at the 2022 Sprint at Imola with a P7 result. Carlos Sainz Like Hamilton, Sainz has never won the F1 Sprint, but has steadily racked up some solid results in the event. The Spaniard claimed P3 at the 2021 outing in Brazil, marking Ferrari’s strongest finish in the Saturday race of the season. Sainz again appeared in the top three at the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix running, before splitting the Mercedes drivers with a P2 in the Sprint at Interlagos later in the year. Teammate Charles Leclerc also achieved some decent showings in the Sprint in 2022, taking two second places at Imola and Austria. Drivers with bad Sprint experiences Not everybody will have entirely fond memories of past editions of the Sprint. Sergio Perez was one of the first to have a bad race, having suffered a spin in 2021 at Silverstone which led to a difficult Sunday for the Mexican and ultimately a weekend to forget. The Sprint experienced its debut crash in Italy during the same year. After making a strong start to the event, Pierre Gasly made contact with the rear of Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren on the opening lap. The incident damaged the Frenchman’s front wing and sent him through the gravel into the tyre barrier. Fortunately Gasly was unharmed, but it was a far from ideal return to Monza after his memorable victory at the track in 2020. Another driver to suffer a similar problem in the Sprint was Zhou Guanyu at the 2022 Imola outing – and, coincidentally, the incident involved Gasly. The Alfa Romeo driver had been battling with Gasly’s AlphaTauri on the opening lap when they made contact, with the damage putting Zhou out of the running. Gasly, meanwhile, was able to make a pit stop and continue, but ultimately finished down in P17.
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