F1 teams are mixed on triple-headers decision as they understand the financial aspects but still wishes to avoid it as much in future.
When F1 had its first triple-header in the 2018 season, across the French, Austrian, and British rounds, the hat trick of races did not sit well with teams. With 17 grueling days of travel and racing, the consecutive races demanded much of teams.
At the end of the season, there were complaints from the various organisations in F1, many of whom requested triple-headers never reappear on future calendars. Though in 2019 organisers heeded the pleas of the competitors and eliminated triple-headers from the calendar, the unique challenges of 2020 meant they made a return for this season, with a remarkable four making up 12 races of a expeditiously-crafted 17-race calendar.
It was understood by many that the 2021 calendar would return to a sense of normality, and bar triple-headers, but initial drafts of the schedule showed two such features in a span of only seven weeks, as part of a 23-race season – albeit with one April round still to be determined. The 2021 features two triple-headers at the back end of the year with Belgium-Netherlands-Italy and Russia-Singapore-Japan.
The F1 calendar drew criticism from some, but Mercedes boss Toto Wolff reminds his colleagues that all those involved in the sport are beneficiaries of its expansion. Not to be perceived as a supporter of the idea, though, the Austrian clarifies that he is cognizant of the potential impact of such a rigorous schedule.
“I think the F1 teams are the beneficiaries of growing revenue and growing income,” said Wolff. “The teams still take a large chunk of the EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) and in that respect we all need to support for the business to grow. On the other side a couple of triple-headers will take a toll on the people.
“I think there is an Asian triple-header that will mean we are more than three weeks away from home and that is certainly not something that is great. You must not forget that the hardest working people are the ones that set up the garages and take them down and the mechanics that will have overnighters if something goes wrong [and they will] suffer, no doubt about that,” Wolff said, before adding that Mercedes is investigating the possible upsides to an additional crew, as part of a rotating pair.
“You need to question how long that is sustainable and whether you implement a different system by having a second crew that can take over these toughest roles and this is something we are looking at at the moment,” Wolff explained. Haas boss Guenther Steiner also believed that there will have to be a conversation on the matter of sustainability if triple-headers are to become standard.
“It will take a toll on the people but I think especially in the times we are in now we need to do it but then FOM needs to look into it; if it is something we want to do for the long term or it’s just a one year off; if this many races are sustainable and if there is no saturation coming in by the spectators, if it actually is beneficial or not and on the people side of it we need to come up with plans that we don’t overwork them,” said Steiner.
“We overwork them anyway, but we need to be clear that we cannot demand that all the time. That is part of our job. If it gives us more revenue we need to come up with ideas where we make it sustainable for ourselves, where we don’t need to wait until we are told to do that. It’s part of where F1 is going. We will just find out in a few years if it is the right or not, if more races is the right way.
“We need to try it and try to find some solution where our people do not get worn out. That they can keep on working and that there are enough people wanting to do this job. I think there are enough people out there wanting to work in F1 so I think we are still in a good place, so I think we just wait a little bit,” summed up Steiner.
AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost contributed that the current calendar serves as the limit for what can be done with regards to consecutive races. “I went through, with our team manager, on the calendar and we analysed everything,” he started. “It’s possible but it’s on the limit because we must not forget that people are out sometimes for three weeks and that’s really a long period and I think what’s currently in the calendar is the absolute limit and should not be extended.”
Representing Alfa Romeo, Frederic Vasseur stated that no 23-race F1 calendar can be achieved without the implementation of triple-headers, of which he is particularly worried about one of the two scheduled in 2021. “I think the main issue is that if you want to put 23 races in eight months that you have no other option,” he said.
“I’m a bit more concerned about the second one with Sochi, Singapore and Japan also because it’s close to the end of the season. It’s a flyaway and for the mechanics, for the team and also for the stock of spare parts it won’t be an easy one but I think that we have no other option if we want to do 23 races per year,” Vasseur said.
Renault F1 team representative Marcel Budkowski explained that the calendar was intentionally saturated at the end of the year, when COVID-19 is likely to be less of a danger to racing. He also notes that the preservation of the summer shutdown is an appreciated element, though it bears remembering that both triple-headers will be preceded by the aforementioned shutdown.
“My understanding, from some of the discussions that took place with F1 is that it was intentional to back-load the calendar if you want to have more races, concentrated at the back of the season for the obvious COVID situation and therefore less risks taken on the early races so hopefully, again, that’s a consequence of the current situation and an extension of the 2021 changes that were made and that’s not a constant feature,” said Budkowski. “Equally, we’ve preserved the summer shutdown which I think is essential, especially for the travelling staff.”
Here’s F1 teams on CFD replacing wind tunnel
Here’s Chase Carey on 24-race calendar
Here’s the provisional 2021 F1 calendar