F1 triple headers mean marathon trip for team staff

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Formula 1 was subjected to the same calendar challenges as all motorsport series during the COVID pandemic. It was all made more difficult by the sheer determination to try and reach 23 races, despite repeated mid-year changes that make the path across the world look like someone’s scoreboard trying to solve a supernatural serial murder. It’s hard for everyone, but maybe especially for the team staff.

The latest twist on the calendar is that a TBC slot in late November was filled with a move to the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. There’s a whole bunch of things to say about it – and the new 10-year deal Qatar signed to host the Grand Prix – but one of the most obvious things is that it makes no sense of geography. .

F1 now goes from Istanbul to COTA which makes little sense at the start given that we were only in Sochi, which is just across the Black Sea, so this would have been the natural place to overtake. Then it returns for a week before reaching Mexico – again, a bit close to COTA, could have been more natural – Sao Paulo then Lusail over a series of three consecutive weekends and a few trips. brutal long-haul.

Qatar is justified because Mexico and Brazil are on the UK travel red list, which means staff should be quarantined at the hotel on their return. With the majority of F1 teams and Championship staff being based in the UK, it really doesn’t work. A 10-day stay in Qatar takes them out and makes Brazil and Mexico viable. But at what cost ?

A senior Red Bull systems engineer tweeted a thread explaining how an F1 weekend really works for team members. It’s not just three or even four days of racing. Doing it back to back is a recipe for total exhaustion.

It should be noted that the guy – and all of us who work in F1 – know full well that this is a privilege. That it’s something that we aspire to and that everyone fights for, having dreamed of since childhood. We know it’s insanely cool, but that knowledge can’t mend the injuries of the Supply Team or find more mental focus on the third week in a row. Burnout has always been a risk in F1, but the increased use of back-to-back races and the ever-expanding schedule make it quite a certainty.

Here’s what the garage staff do, from the time someone tweets “It’s race week” to the time the riders are already heading back to the Riviera.

“Monday: Fly to the event, usually arrive at the hotel for the evening after taking the tour with rental cars, luggage, etc.,” the anonymous Red Bull engineer tweeted. “Depending on the time of day, maybe you’ll be heading out into the area for a late dinner, otherwise that’s what you managed to eat on the flight or at the airport.”

He said it goes pretty much the same way on Tuesday when construction on the garage begins. “Leave the hotel at 7am, catering is not yet available on the track so it’s a buffet at the hotel. Head to the track to start unpacking the garage / freight, lunch is the best meal tour owners can prepare. It’s a 12 hour day, you get back to your room at 9 pm. “

This is probably, in my experience, a little optimistic for the length of the day, which can easily stretch out, especially when hotels are not bookable near the track or when you have to wait for specific transportations instead. to be able to take rental cars. (As on some trails where it is considered too dangerous.)

Wednesday, he said, is “a repeat of yesterday, but maybe this time the hospitality is up and running, if so you will have breakfast, lunch and dinner. dinner on the track. Again, back to your room late, maybe time for a video chat with your family. “

Then what qualifies as the actual race weekend begins with Media Day on Thursday. The paddock is busier and more things are operational. For the garage team, it continues in much the same way: “On the day the car was built, [three] meal at the edge of the track. [Twelve] hours on the track would be a good day, more likely 14+ “, detailed the engineer.

We all know a little bit about what goes on from Friday to Sunday, especially Friday and Saturday. He said, “[Twelve] hours is a good day. And of course, if a driver breaks down or there’s a problem, there’s no way you won’t be there late for the rebuilds.

Race day is a mixed bag for the garage team. Even though there is something to celebrate, they still have work to do. “Sunday: it’s race day, maybe you had a result, great,” said the engineer. “Now the fun begins, that garage you built in two days?” It needs to be cleaned [four] hours, busy and ready to go to the next event. “

Then on Monday you may have the chance of an early morning flight home to see your family. Unless, as the engineer ironically observes, you can’t if you already make it to the next race. “Corn [if] it’s a triple, your flight doesn’t go home, it goes to the next event so you can start again on Tuesday. “

No one wants to dispute that working in F1 is cool, but it would be irresponsible to claim that it is sustainable to work like this through huge international gaps and a huge season. There is no way that people can perform at the level demanded by the sport no matter how hard they try or convince themselves that they can if they do it repeatedly.

Do you work in F1 and want to talk about triple header? hazelnut@thedrive.com


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