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Sport ponders change to weekend format

NEWS STORY
07/06/2014

Powers-that-be considering restructuring GP weekend format as part of cost-cutting drive.

As the gap between Formula One's haves and have-nots continues to widen, it is understood that one of the issues under serious discussion is a shake-up of the weekend format, with particular attention paid to Fridays.

Currently, the Grand prix weekend gets underway on Wednesday evening when the team management and drivers arrive in preparation for Thursday's various media duties. The on-track stuff gets underway on Friday, with ninety minute sessions in the morning and afternoon and a final practice session on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying.

A proposal mooted by Bernie Ecclestone (who else?) and agreed in principal by a number of team bosses is that there would now only be one practice session on Friday - in the late afternoon - with the morning given over to the media duties normally carried out on Thursday. This way, the teams could defer their arrival until Thursday thereby saving an extra day's hotel bills.

In addition, dropping a session would mean less spending in terms of running costs whilst also easing fears ahead of the introduction of next year's rule which sees drivers limited to four power units a season as opposed to the current five.

The move has already been given the green light by the controversial Formula One Strategy Group - which comprises Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, Williams and Lotus in addition to Ecclestone and (FIA president) Jean Todt - and which is the driving force behind other proposals that appear to favour the haves that comprise the group as opposed to the have-nots that don't.

The move will be discussed by all the team bosses ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix later this month before going before the World Motor Sport Council for the traditional rubber stamping.

It is understood that in addition to helping cut costs, running a single session late on Friday afternoon would allow people to get to the track to watch - though why anyone would want to travel all the way to Silverstone or the like for a single session has not been mentioned.

Ignoring the fact that bad weather during that single session would hamper team's preparations the fact is that hotel costs and the like are a drop in the ocean compared to the money the big teams are spending on their constant development race. The new architecture on a circuit-specific front wing alone would probably account for the hotel bill for an entire team for that one night.

Fact is, fans want to see more of the cars running not less, while one also has to wonder whether ticket prices would reflect the move and if they were how would this go down with promoters already under pressure and reeling from the new sound of F1.

Less time on track on a Friday will mean more simulator work, which in itself isn't cheap, and in effect the only people to lose out will be the fans and the smaller teams. Talking yesterday, Force India's Andy Green admitted that he was against the idea.

"From Force India's perspective, we don't see this as cost-saving at all," he said. "For us, we've always looked to use the FP1 session to blood in some new drivers and that was an income stream for us and if we lose that, that's going to be a relatively severe blow, which, in turn, will have an impact on our technical ability so in that respect, I don't think it's cost-saving."

"For a team like ours, the time at the track is very precious," added Sauber's Giampaolo Dall'Ara. "Obviously we are more limited than other teams in simulation as a broad concept so time on track is extremely important for us."

While the teams agree they will not lose out technically and will learn to be able to condense their programmes accordingly, the fact is that at a time a number of teams are facing serious financial problems this is effectively rearranging deckchairs on Titanic and once again it is the smaller teams and the fans who will lose out.

All of which means it will probably get the green light.

After all, who ever heard of the sport listening to what the fans want?

Chris Balfe

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Jet Jockey, 07/06/2014 14:33

"WOW!!! What a crock of sh!t!

They really know how to get their fans turned off. Less track time? Are they kidding? If anything they should increase track time by having 3 one hour practices on the Friday (instead of two 90 minute ones).

Saving one night of hotel bills like the author said is peanuts in an F1 team's budget. And this FIA crap to reduce the engine allocation down to four per championship is another stupid move. Why not have only one set of tires for the whole weekend then? That should bring the cost of going racing in F1 down!

If they want to save money, tell the teams not to bring all their fancy motorhomes and mobile home along for the ride!"

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