F1 to cancel Friday session to save money? Is this a joke?

Yay! As Formula 1 fans, we may get less F1 for the same or more money next year. If teams get their way, and AUTOSPORT seems to think there they will, F1 could change their Friday practice schedule from two 90-minute sessions to just one 90-minute session late in the afternoon…say, around 5pm.

F1’s quest for austerity—even though Formula One Management says things couldn’t be better—seems to have taken root at the fans expense. The series has had three practice session for time immemorial starting on Friday with two 90-minute session but teams reckon they can delay their arrival by a day and save money in hotel expenses and the like if the cancel FP1 on Friday and just engage in the FP2 session at a later time.

It remains to be seen what the race promoters will say about this proposed change but I can imagine that less running and reducing the F1 package by 90 minutes means ticket sales for Friday would suffer. If I were a race promoter, I believe I’d ask for a prorated refund for the reduction of the entire race package.

Given the lack of compelling support racing at many venues, would you be inclined to give Friday a miss if it were only one 90-minute session? Teams reckon fans will like this better as they won’t have to miss a full day of work or school…uh, ok. I guess that’s fine for locals but most folks travel a far distance to go to the race an it’s not like the circuits are just on the north side of our local town that we can drive over to in the evening. Let’s be honest, most fans will simply delay their trip by a day as well meaning less hotel revenue and track-side revenue. Hello? Is this thing on?  Testing, testing. What world are these folks living in?

Here’s the deal—frankly speaking—the series may need to cut costs but you’re doing it at the expense of fans and not the teams and their silly 2014 engine regulations which have put the series into a financial spiral of doom. Let’s be honest, cutting costs by firing employees, eliminating Friday practice sessions and other nonsense is really masking the elephant in the room.

You decided that a hybrid power unit would be great and spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the development and discovered, much like the LEED certified construction design industry, it’s damned expensive and out of the budget for many. Who suffers? The fans.

So in order to find ways to cut costs, you actually would like to run the cars less. Color me reactionary but I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here—you’re actually saying that in order to cut costs, you’ll just cancel FP1? Hell, why not just stop qualifying too and show up on Sunday morning, have a 30-minute test session, grid the cars up in the order they finished the last race, then run for an hour and a half and go home. We could compact the whole session into one day.

Good grief! Is this pragmatism run amok? I would much rather have them use last year’s V8 engine (a much less expensive engine option) and run more over the weekend than use this $500 million dollar debacle of a lump—the amount spent developing the new power unit—and chop 90 minutes off my F1 race weekend.

Would ticket prices for Friday be cheaper? Would you stomach the biomass on Friday to go see the cars for 90 minutes late in the afternoon? The wonder of Friday is that the race promoters made a full day of it with two F1 practices and some support sessions in between. It’s a fun day at the track but now it’s just a big slap in the face. I can’t tell you how infuriating this concept is as a fan. Cutting costs so fans see less F1 while they nurse the elephant in the room over pride of running hybrid power units that the series clearly can’t afford. Thank you, F1…please continue your efforts of discovering ways to punish your fans for your missteps in regulatory management and proper cost analysis.

Force India and Sauber aren’t too keen on the idea and say that the track time is critical for them as a revenue generator by bringing in young drivers with cash to drive on Friday. They also feel they lack the resources to simulate like the big teams do and track time is needed to vet the car and changes made or upgrades developed.

If you think I am off track in my philippic about the power unit being the reason, then read Mercedes team boss Paddy Lowe’s reasoning to justify the removal of FP1:

“I think the rationale is to reduce the workload on the cars significantly through the weekend and also to reduce the consumption of parts, particularly power units, which is one of the major costs for all the teams, but that’s a particular burden for the smaller teams.”

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