Prior to the fog that prevented the helicopter from landing at the closest hospital during the Eifel GP on Friday, talk of compressing the F1 race weekend to just two days had already been debated and a test grand prix was already scheduled for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.
The race at Imola was to show us just how much better a 2-day race weekend could be instead of a 3-day weekend with 3 hours of practice on Fridays. The thought is that the lack of practice allows for more unpredictability and a leveling of the playing field between the big teams and small teams. The lack of practice and data harvesting on Friday is said to be more of an equalizer and would have a positive impact via less prepared teams and drivers.
Reading an article over at Autosport about this very issue, I was not surprised to see a host of drivers endorsing the idea because, let’s face it, who wants to work more than you have to , right? If drivers can make millions per year and work 22 days less for the same pay, why not?
For the teams, the wear and tear on team personnel is lessened by a day and perhaps logistics would be easier with reduced costs across a series of particular elements involved in a current race weekend (lodging, food etc).
There is another reason, which the article highlights, that less running is championed by Lewis Hamilton who said:
“There’s 22 days less of 20 cars bombing around the track and polluting the air, the planet, so that’s a positive,” Hamilton said.
Which leads me to ask, why does Lewis participate in F1 if he views the sport as something that is polluting the air and planet? Surely this is a moral crossroads for him and one wonders why he’s chosen the money, adulation and occupation that is diametrically opposite of his moral barometer.
What the article does not discuss is some of the simple reasons for a 3-day weekend and why changing it might have a negative impact on the sport. Sure, it mentions less days during a race weekend could mean more races but there is a limit to how many races the series could realistically host and 25 is the number the article accurately arrives at.
What isn’t discussed is the sponsor and brand impressions for running on Friday. The long sessions allow for more on-track action and more TV time for brands and sponsors. It also offers more time for junior drivers to get behind the wheel of a F1 car for critical mileage and testing. While the fog prevented Mick Schumacher from running the Alfa Romeo, he wouldn’t have a chance if the weekend’s were only 2-day affairs.
The article also misses one of the fun parts of Friday practice which is for fans to see these cars run. To watch them hone their set up and recon the tracks and tires. One thing I enjoy is watching Lewis Hamilton use Friday to explore the limit of each corner and establish his approach to the track on Sunday.
The article does mention the promoters and removing a full day from the race weekend will reduce the sanctioning fee promoters would pay thus reducing the total prize money that the teams rely on for operating capital. They offer the increased number of races to 25 as a solution but that’s just 3 race weekends additional and is that enough to offset the loss in revenue form 22 three-day weekends?
F1 is the only series I can think of that is looking for excuses to run less. We already have lots of time spent in the garages with no cars running on track and compressing a race weekend to a 2-day affair means even less running. Why stop there? Why not just have qualifying on Sunday morning and the race on Sunday afternoon? That wouldn’t work? It wouldn’t add randomness to the weekend? So what if a team doesn’t get their set up right during qualifying, that just means more unpredictability for the race later in the afternoon, right?
F1 has to stop their pragmatic march toward banality by offering constructs to provide cover for their regulations that prevent unpredictable and exciting racing. The Eifel GP did not produce a radically different result despite it being a 2-day event. This 2-day format is being driven but the same logic that gave us HD tires based on one Canadian GP error.
If F1 believes that humans lack the attention spans to watch F1 over a three day weekend, fair enough but I am not one of those humans. I love the sport. I am lit up any time one of these cars turns a wheel. I am mesmerized by test sessions, practice sessions, qualifying sessions and the race. There is no part of an F1 car running that I don’t love.
I must be alone in my passion for F1 because to me, F1 should be finding ways to run more over a weekend, not less. I am continually being told that the generation behind me (Gen Y) isn’t that keen on F1 running for three days and that’s truly unfortunate.
Less running over a weekend, less budgets, less innovation, less passing, less excitement, less power, less sound…at what point does all of this “less” begin to really capture the passion and attention of Millennials and justify tearing the sport asunder?
If an new generation of fan is intent of finding ways the sport can nihilistically prevent itself from running or even existing due to “polluting the air and planet”, then perhaps F1 needs to focus on the next generation of fan or simply close shop and go watch a Indycar race.