About that two-day race weekend idea

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2020 Russian Grand Prix, Sunday - Wolfgang Wilhelm

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was a test of the two-day racing format in which the teams were denied any Friday Practice sessions in favor of just a single 90-minute session on Saturday morning prior to qualifying.

I was reading an article over at Autosport this morning about the mixed reviews of this format from team bosses including Racing Point and McLaren and one can certainly understand the varying opinions based on what each team feels the 2-day format provides them.

McLaren’s Andreas Seidl welcomed the change and said:

“If it’s something that could also help us saving running costs, and would help us also to spend less time away from home, especially for our mechanics and engineers, it’s something we will be positive about it.”

It’s hard not to see the compelling argument in favor of team members having more time at home, reduced costs etc. Then again, Racing Point’s Otmar Szafnauer had a different take:

“Coming into this weekend, 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.”

“I think it’s got to be from a fan’s perspective – do the fans like this kind of format?”

This is where it gets a little more personal…do the fans like it?

As I mentioned on our last podcast, I personally do not like the 2-day event. The entire concept of a race weekend for me is to see the F1 cars run as much as possible, not as little as possible.

Sure, the lack of running adds an engineering and strategy challenge but if that is what it takes to make the series competitive, then perhaps they need a re-think of the regulations and not the race weekend format?

In short, denying teams measurable data via run-time during three practice sessions is, in my opinion, a construct that attempts to solve for a series that has reduced it’s entertainment value due to over engineered solutions.

You can’t belittle the big teams for pouring resources into their program to overcome the on-track performance deficits of their cars, quite the contrary, but in doing so, the series has evolved to a point where car evolution has removed significant challenges a track once provided far less engineered cars of the past. One could argue, rightfully so, that this is to be expected. It is a normal evolution of better science via manufacturers with better resources. I wouldn’t disagree with that at all.

Even so, is there a place for a complete re-think of the regulations or are we now looking for high degradation tires with reduced operating heat windows, reduced fuel flow, and reduced running over a weekend to stymie race engineers? Reduced tires, reduced fuel, reduced power, reduced sound, reduced running time…it would seem that F1 is focused on reduction and not expansion.

Is that the best path forward for fans who want to see the cars run as much as possible? Fans who believe the majesty of F1 is watching the cars actually run? Surely expanding a weekend would resonate more with fans than reducing it? Or am I alone in my desire to watch more F1 and not less for the price of a weekend pass?

I am curious what you think about 2-day weekends. Let us know in the comment section below.

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charliex

I’m fine with it. I thought the 2-day weekend added a bit of complexity and uncertainty to the spectacle. Teams no longer have 3 free practice sessions to fine-tune the race car and complete the race strategy for Sunday. “Fans who want to see the cars run as much as possible”? Teams don’t even want that in this era of intentionally limiting resources on engines, engine components and transmissions. Next, take away tire warmers.

charliex

No doubt there are bigger issues than 2 day race weekends but we both know the sport will not address or settle those issues in a proper manner. So, the 2 day weekend is the best compromise because it’s probably the cheapest(for the teams) answer and, best of all, no one is happy about it.

Zack

I agree, I think if you are shortening the weekend to create more “excitement,” you need to be having larger discussions over the direction of the sport. Sure, the race had some interesting strategy decisions, but that was mostly due to the safety car. I really missed watching the Friday practice sessions. As you said, we watch F1 to enjoy the cars! I usually watch 3 hours of practice on Friday, but when the only practice is at 1am local time, then all I can watch on any weekend is Quali and the Race.

Andrew page

Unfortunately, I feel that as the current regulations stand with penalties added to the cars if parts break, it really doesn’t matter how many sessions are allowed. You could let them have 10 practice sessions but the teams would only do a set number of miles per race weekend pre calculated on how long they think they can push the parts to there expected life span…