Guenther Steiner reckons it is on F1 to make two-day weekend commercial friendly with promoters if they wish to have that in future as others weigh in.
At the recent Emilia Romagna GP, a unique format was trialed in which Friday running was nixed from the weekend itinerary, thereby leaving only Saturday’s track time to F1 teams to collect data and prepare for the weekend.
In the case of the Emilia Romagna GP, extra 30 minutes was afforded to F1 teams in what would normally be considered FP3. The extent of the impact that the unique format had on the racing is difficult to discern, though varying strategies are thought to have derived from a lack of complete knowledge on the behavior of tyres, and other factors, in the race.
A divide among the F1 paddock on the matter was evident upon the conclusion of the exploratory weekend. Speaking on the matter, Haas F1 chief Steiner thought it is a usable format but the sport has to sort the commercial aspect to make it viable.
“I think it was a very good experiment,” said Steiner. “Sporting-wise it works, we just need to see now how it works commercially – well F1 needs to see if it can be made to work commercially, if promoters are happy to have two-day events instead of three. Sporting-wise there was no downside to it, as always, we were ready for it.
“I would say there was a little bit more work for the engineers – a bit more pressure. For the rest of the team, specifically the mechanics, they just had a lot of pressure in a shorter time. They can live with it happily as it took out one day of their weekend away from home, especially if we go to a 23-race event calendar in the future,” he said, noting a key argument for two-day weekends.
It is, in fact, why the two-day event structure was utilised at Imola: the meager timespan between the race preceding it and the Emilia Romagna GP weekend itself, coupled with the long distance between Portugal – where the prior round was held – and Imola.
Despite the arguable convenience of such F1 weekends, though, others disagree with that assessment. Among those opposed to the implementation of an abbreviated weekend is Racing Point’s Otmar Szafnauer, who found it to be perverse.
“I think it’s got to be from a fan’s perspective – do the fans like this kind of format? I thought I would like it, but it’s a bit foreign to me,” said Szafnauer to media including Racefans.net, Motorsport Network, BBC and more. “After 23 years of having Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it feels a little bit odd and unnatural.
“Coming into Imola, I was completely open for it, thought I was going to like it. But now I’ve got this uneasy feeling that it’s not right and not Formula 1.” McLaren’s Andreas Seidl was, like Steiner, for the proposal. He said that that his team enjoyed the challenge the format posed.
He adds that McLaren will support the idea to lessen the load on their mechanics and engineers. “We like this format of two days, this compact format,” said Seidl. “We like this additional challenge in order to get on top of your own game within this 90 minutes on Saturday morning. But in the end it’s a discussion that is led by F1.
“It depends obviously a lot on the contracts that are in place with promoters, with TV stations and so on,” Seidl said, with Mercedes’ Toto Wolff concurring: “I like it very much. It’s so compact. [There’s] lots of adaptability needed. You just have to get the car in a good position straight from the get go, there’s not a long time to analyse data and run the simulator overnight. I don’t think it works for every track.
“I think there will be big races, hopefully with a lot of spectators again, where a three-day event makes a lot of sense – thinking about Melbourne and the amount of people there, and the narrative, the content that we can provide around these tracks. I don’t think it’s fit for everybody, but I think for Imola, it works really well.”
From tyre supplier perspective, Pirelli boss Mario Isola, whose association might benefit – at least financially – from a two-day F1 weekend, was hesitant to make a statement on the matter, saying that further evaluation of the outcome will be required.
“My feeling is not negative,” said Isola. “There was a discussion about increasing the number of races by decreasing the length of the races, and in the discussion we had some pushing for it and some pushing against it. It’s a different format, I cannot say it’s negative, it’s probably too early to say it’s fully positive. We have to evaluate it. I don’t have a strong opinion at the moment.”
Here’s the provisional F1 2021 calendar