The 23-race F1 calendar has raised varied opinions within the paddock among the teams, with triple-headers also discussed.
At the starting of the current year, the FIA and Formula One had all intents to reveal the longest and busiest calendar with the maximum race entries in F1 history, with 23 rounds. However, what was planned for this year failed as many races were cancelled due to the “still-going” COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the Saudi Arabian GP joined the calendar, the maximum races was still to be 22 races at the end of the current season. On the other hand, Qatar GP was joined her sister Arab circuits and was added to the 2021 F1 calendar to replace of the cancelled Australian GP – with several others cancelled events getting replaced.
The Qatar event will not take place next year due to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and will join the calendar in an official basis with a 10-year deal starting from 2023. Next year, Miami GP will be an additional grand prix as a second American circuit on the F1 calendar.
With the current cancelled races returning for 2022, it becomes the longest to be announced with 23 events, crammed into a short time amount in terms of holding races, with the season starting in March and ending in November, as opposed to December mid.
With the expected addition of sprint events, the races ‘technically’ will increase, leaving several F1 employees unhappy. Even though the teams don’t like it, they will have to be content with the move, considering the cost benefits in terms of the race fees that the sport gets, which in turn means more money in the pool for the teams.
Several of the F1 team bosses have expressed different opinions, with AlphaTauri’s Franz Tost siding with Liberty Media on the increase – even to the extent of asking the people to leave if they cannot manage to attend these many races as the others will.
Aston Martin’s Otmar Szafanuer agrees with Tost regarding the sport expanding, but raised concerns regarding the mental and physical strain, while Ferrari’s Larent Mekies believes that they will do the best for their staff to accommodate the calendar. At the same time, even McLaren’s Andreas Seidl talks of maximum of 20 races but agrees reality is different.
Tost: “We know now that we have 23 races. It’s fantastic, good job from FOM, I am looking forward to it. Regarding the people at the track. First of all, we are a race team. They all should be happy that we have as many races as possible and, of course, we take care of the people, for example the mechanics after a race weekend they have three days, four days off where they can stay at home.
“And also, press, marketing, all the people which are at the race track have some free days after the race weekend. Engineers it’s a little bit more difficult but also, if I remember back in former times, they had to go after a race weekend to tests which means that they also had to work there. I think we all should be happy that we are in a position to be in Formula 1 and to have 23 races. And if someone doesn’t like it, then he should go.”
Szafnauer: “Well, we have been looking at this for quite some time, knowing that this was going to happen. I agree with Franz: it’s nice that we have 23 countries or 23 races that want us to come and compete and showcase Formula 1. However, we do have to be mindful of all the people that travel – the mechanics and the engineers – and we have put operations in place both back at the factory and at the race track to make the travel as comfortable as possible for them, including sometime rotating people and some other organizational changes back at the factory such that the factory will do more of the jobs that mechanics traditionally did at the track to just make it a little bit more pleasant for them. Yeah, we look after them, including any mental health issues. We have a travelling doctor as well with us. We look after them as best we can.”
Mekies: “Yes, we are building season after season a programme for the race team, you know, to stay in the best condition possible and yes, you add item after item, so you start from the physical aspect and then you go into the nutritional aspect and then eventually we are also looking at the mental aspects as you say to make sure that people have a good balance and stay in good shape and stay in good spirits. So I think all the teams are going to inevitably spend more and more energy on trying to keep their people in good shape for these long calendars but it is something that is very well embraced by all involved. I’m sure there will be further steps in the right direction.”
Seidl: “It’s the reality we are in at the moment. It’s also great to see that actually, there is a lot of interest in Formula 1, that different markets are interested in it. We also understand that going hopefully towards a different calendar in the long term, it’s a process of transition. But generally our position hasn’t changed. For us, we are in favour of a race calendar of maximum 20 races.
“I think that also on the commercial side the focus on quality and exclusivity works. On the mental side, the way we approach it within the team is trying an inclusive approach, to speak openly about the challenges that everyone is facing, which is quite individual as well. We simply try to help our people with the help we can give, with the help we can give for example with partnerships we are having with Mind for example, to get through these challenges together.”
While the F1 calendar will be compact to hold as many races from mid-March to mid-November, to accommodate 23 events, there will be several double-headers and a couple of triple-header races – the latter which has been frowned upon by many since it was first introduced during the 2018 season.
The notion is still the same, but with COVID-19 situation, they were forced into it and it looks like there is no going back. In 2022, the first one in Europe is still fairly doable as we saw in 2021 with Belgium, Netherlands and Monza, but the second one of Russia, Singapore and Japan will be the toughest – one which didn’t happen this year.
Szafanuer reckons the triple-headers is taxing on them, but hopes as the pandemic dies down, they will move away from it, with Mekies in agreement. Tost is fine to have them, even the second one, which will be the biggest turnaround in terms of air miles.
Williams’ Jost Capito agreed it is difficult on everyone as Haas’ Guenther Steiner and Alfa Romeo’s Frederic Vasseur tried to look at the realistic and positive aspect of the calendar, especially looking at the global image of the F1 sport.
Szafnauer: “The first time you do a triple-header it’s all new and then from there on you learn and you do some things to make the triple-headers easier. However, they still are very taxing on all of us. We have two of them next year and hopefully after the pandemic is truly behind us we can look at the calendar and minimize or even get rid of all the triple-headers. The nice thing next year is that we start mid-March and finish mid-November, which gives us a decent winter break. You can put up with a triple-header or two if you know you are not racing up until Christmas.”
Mekies: “I think Otmar explained it very well. I think it is clear it is very challenging for Formula 1 to put a great calendar together in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, in that context we obviously understand that there needs to be a level of flexibility from the teams which is why we just have to cope with these triple headers now and then once, hopefully, the pandemic is out of the way we will sit down again and see how to move forward as it’s probably the aspect that is the most taxing for the race team. Hopefully it will be the first thing that will go away once the pandemic is out of the radar.
Tost: “The first triple-header is the easy one – Zandvoort, Spa and Monza. I don’t think there is any problem. The second one with Russia, Singapore and Japan is a little bit more a heavy one but I think from the logistics side everything is under control, we are then nearly in the same time zone, so I don’t expect any problems.”
Capito: “I say the triple-headers are quite hard on the teams. The guys are four weeks away from home so it’s always stressful so everything that is less or shorter would help in that but I think it is what it is.”
Steiner: “We actually started to looking yesterday at a meeting about the shortened weekend – let’s call it like this – and there is something… we started to discuss that some people could come out later. For sure, everything helps to make the triple-headers having less impact on the people, like a three-day weekend, it will help a little bit but I don’t think that if we’ve got two triple-headers, I think we have to deal with that because there are other things that come with it that we finish the season earlier as Stefano said, which is also good, that we are not going on almost to Christmas like this year, so there is nothing for free but two triple-headers, I think we can get by and for sure, having a three day weekend, a shortened weekend will help a little bit and every little bit helps.
Vasseur: “I think we have to be realistic that we can’t expect to do more races, to generate more revenue, in a smaller period without triple headers but at one stage it’s not possible. For sure that we have to perhaps reduce the weekend, the duration of the weekend and to have a three-day event but at the end of the day, I think also that we have to be happy with the success of the F1 and that we are doing step forwards, we have more and more demand for the F1 and we have to see it as a positive that we don’t have to complain about the fact that we are doing too many races and so, that we are going in the direction to do a better championship with more races and so that is a very positive message and signal. For sure we have to find a solution, to accommodate for everybody but I take it as a positive message.”
The story was written by Oprah Sagal
Here’s the F1 2022 calendar