However, after a Yuki Tsunoda-enforced safety car period, Sergio Perez simply reeled in Leclerc, passed him and then kept him at bay for the following 12 laps – job done, race over.
Sky commentators Karun Chandhok and David Croft desperately hung on to the hope of Leclerc closing in on Perez slightly every now and then – to be fair, us viewers were all doing the same – but it always seemed in vain.
Verstappen had got past Russell on the restart, his bad-tempered complaints against the Mercedes driver in parc fermé afterwards probably more entertaining than anything that happened in the race.
“Scrap the whole thing,” was his verdict. “Why do we have to implement all these artificial ways to win? I got bored in [sprint] qualifying today to be honest. I enjoy when we have to put everything into one thing, like yesterday [in qualifying for the Grand Prix].”
Verstappen’s view was clearly coloured by his experience in the race, but his point is valid.
As we reached a stalemate up front cameras then forlornly looked to the back for the five-car battle at the rear, like someone at a party looking to find a more exciting scene from one room to another.
Cue Crofty’s time to tell you about Sky’s news ‘Battle Channel’ to focus on said squabble for the rest of the race, because sure as anything nothing was happening at the sharp end.
With almost all cars on the same tyres and no other variables, is it any surprise nothing happens?
Sky’s lead commentator put a call in to Haas boss Guenther Steiner, discussing how this sprint was now acting as a tyre test session for tomorrow – how exciting!
Meanwhile Checo had fully checked out by this point, eventually sailing to a sprint win and picking up a weird sprint tablet-shaped trophy, leaving Leclerc to fend off Verstappen, which he just about managed to do.
Surveying the lack of action, you ask yourself ‘What did we expect?’
Ultimately, whether it happens over 17, 70 or 700 laps, any racing series which bases its speed primarily on aerodynamics – i.e. meaning that when cars run together, they struggle to get to close one another – is likely to provide poor racing.
This is only compounded by a tyre stint-long ‘race’ (the thing that usually provides the interest) with almost all the cars on the same tyres and no other variables involved. Is it any surprise nothing happens?