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The Formula 1 schedule takes its toll

This is the time of year when people get sick. The long season, back-to-back races and constant travel through switching time zones all start to take their toll. Add in a trip to India – which challenges even the healthiest of folk – and by the time you get to today, the inevitable has happened.

f1  The Formula 1 schedule takes its toll

I have air-con flu (going from 36 degrees to six isn’t pleasant), airplane flu and if a girl can get it, then I think I might even have a touch of man flu.

In four days I head to the States and then Brazil for the final race of season. I actually enjoy the last three sets of back-to-backs, and prior to that, Singapore is great. And who doesn’t love Spa and Monza? It is more the sheer number of races and how they are wedged into a calendar that this year has seen three three-week breaks.

From the end of September to the end of the season we will have had nine races in 11 weeks.

Abu Dhabi saw a lot of team personnel and drivers under the weather, either having picked something up in India or the immune system simply saying “OK thanks, I’ve had enough now!”

Drivers were struggling to stay hydrated, especially Paul di Resta, who was taken ill in India. He lost three kilos there and was still sick as he drove a superb race in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

f1  The Formula 1 schedule takes its toll

It is with trepidation that many teams and people in F1 talk about ‘the calendar’. So many conversations include, “so what do you know about the calendar?” and “what do you think Bernie will decide to do with the calendar?” The fact is we don’t even have a final version of the 2014 calendar, but we are all waiting like we’re about to find out our exam results.

The provisional calendar for next year does seem to be set out better, with fewer blocks of time away, but there are a lot of standalone races which cause everyone trouble and a lot of expense. Having Australia as a standalone means everyone effectively flies there for five days and, with all the teams based in Europe, this is a big expense. Some people, though, may go directly from the final pre-season test of the year in Bahrain, as we swap Europe for the Middle East for testing.

At the weekend we all heard the almost concrete rumour that neither New Jersey nor Mexico City would make it for next season. Korea does look as if it will survive the cull, appearing in April rather than in October and, after bidding farewell to the final Indian Grand Prix, apparently F1 could be back there in 2015 after signing a five-year deal with Bernie.

My worry is that the more races you put on, the less important each individual event is. TV audiences will not watch them all, and if you can take 20-plus Sundays out of your year then the likelihood is that people will not dedicate time to qualifying and practice sessions that also go out live on many TV channels.

f1  The Formula 1 schedule takes its toll

Yes, NASCAR is an incredibly popular series that seems to run more weekends than there are in a year, but they split race team personnel so burn out is not an issue. This system, though, is not a route that Formula 1 teams say they want to go down.

Wheels come off, things are dropped during a pitstop, and people (not me!) leave their luggage beside the carousel and walk out the airport without it.

But as much as a season takes its toll, I cannot wait for Austin and Brazil. The end of the season always has a special feeling, and this year a couple of big names are leaving the sport which will only add to the emotions. Four days to wash clothes, pack more clothes, prepare for filming and head back to the airport… time for more paracetamol and vitamin C I think!

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f1  The Formula 1 schedule takes its toll

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18 comments on The Formula 1 schedule takes its toll

  1. Mr Bojanglis, 5 November 2013 12:56

    It must be really tough on the Teams Personnel. They really will need to have two Teams of Personnel. If Bernie is pushing the enverlope on the amount of GP’s a year…Which is Great. For Us F1 viewers /Fans.

  2. Steve Hyde, 5 November 2013 13:41

    Couldn’t agree more with you, Lee, about “viewer fatigue”. For the last 3 races, I’ve watched the race live but skipped the preamble and switched off immediately after the chequered flag.

    Clearly, having the championship decided early is a turn off: the repetitiveness of everything makes it easier. I’m not talking about your excellent interviewing style but the podium ceremony, the sterile replies from drivers, the problems with tyres. It’s all much of a muchness. Add to that Vettel’s domination making the race all but a foregone conclusion and it’s hardly surprising if people tune out.

    Plus, of course, watching live invariably means sacrificing a Sunday afternoon. That’s not too bad at the beginning or end of the season but in height of summer, my wife starts to get a bit annoyed if I’m “stuck inside glued to the box.” It wasn’t so bad when it was only every other weekend, but this year seemed to be extreme. Having said that, can anyone imagine Bernie taking any notice of what ANYBODY else thinks? Having said all that, I will, of course be glued to every second for the first race of the new season. Let’s hope that the new regs cause a good shake up and that tyres aren’t the limiting factor they were this year.

  3. Carlos Sanchez, 5 November 2013 14:29

    I prefer QUALITY, not quantity!…

  4. Robert Smith, 5 November 2013 14:36

    I think viewer fatigue is a very real possibility, especially amongst those who consider themselves “hardcore” fans and watch practice, qualifying and the race religiously. From a personal standpoint, F1 no longer feels like a special, not-to-be-missed event. If I was to miss a race, after nearly 25 years of not missing any, I’m not sure I’d be too bothered about it.

  5. R.E.B, 5 November 2013 16:28

    It is simple fact of economics that if you subsidise something you get more of it. Subsidise butter production and you get butter mountains, wine and you get wine lakes and so on. Due to all the government subsidies around the world we now have a surfeit of F1 races where there is little real consumer demand. Mr Ecclestone and CVC are not the free market pioneers they pretend, they are simply chasing state aid around the world. This is important because it will stop, as do all economic free lunches eventually. F1 in its current form is not viable without this massive state aid, and is therefore destined for a very rude awakening. Not that I think this will be a bad thing. indeed it may be a blessing.

  6. Bob Kindred, 5 November 2013 16:54

    Must be strange waiting for two more processions & you rightly question whether TV fans will watch a calendar of 20+ races, but 7 Vettel wins on the trot means I for one will pass up on Austin & Interlagos however better those circuits are than most. I’m 99% who the winner of both will be. However Bernie mixes the venues, predictable winner(s) is a turn-off & I’ve been watching GP racing for 46 years.

  7. Jim, 5 November 2013 17:49

    To continue the theme, after 30 years of love for F1 the thrill is gone (and has been gone for a couple of years). And based on comments from all around the world of racing – not just F1, not just four wheels – this malaise is real and afflicts a great number of people. People are expressing dissatisfaction, some root kind of disconnect.

    The need for me to sit down and watch what happens as it happens, if I watch it at all, does not burn in me anymore. But I still read pieces like this and want to comment! Maybe there’s hope? Maybe there is still more happiness yet to come?

  8. Bob G, 5 November 2013 18:09

    I have great sympathy for how drained so many team personnel are now. Viewer fatigue is nothing by comparison.

    We may have things better in the US. Most races hit our screens at 8AM Sundays. It’s easier to find that time than if races were in the afternoon. Mostly I watch live but F-1 is obscure enough in the US that it’s safe to record a race and watch it later not knowing the outcome. After 15+ years I’ve given up on practice and most qualifying. For at least 4 tracks only a tight championship makes me find the time. This year instead I’ve done chores or headed out with family. Sorry Bernie.

  9. Rich Ambroson, 5 November 2013 19:06

    Carlos Sanchez is 100% correct in his request for quality, not quantity. The new venues are generally not quality.

    R.E.B. makes good points about BCE not being such a free market individual, but one who pursues corporate charity via state (taxpayer) funds.

  10. The Original Ray T, 5 November 2013 21:05

    I must be missing something, there is absolutely no reason to watch Austin or Brazil, the constructors fight for second place is no more interesting than in previous years.

    It’s easy to get viewer fatigue watching GPs in countries where no one even bothers to show up locally, while running around a dull TilkeDrome.
    Meanwhile, all those cool and exciting European GPs got cancelled.

    Oh dear, team burnout and all managers and designers have to console and comfort them is millions of Euros. First world, “problems”.

  11. Steve W, 6 November 2013 09:41

    I watch them all and I’m not getting tired of it. But I’m sitting in the comfort of my living room and watching from the DVR at my convenience…

    I do feel sorry for all the hard-working folks in the paddock though.

  12. IM, 6 November 2013 10:35

    I have completely stopped treating races as individual events – they all roll into one and I’ve more or less stopped watching except (i) if I really have nothing else to do – which is rare (ii) for the ones which are a bit different – meaning Monza, Spa, Monaco.
    Korea, China, Abu Dhabi, India – what’s the difference????

  13. C C, 6 November 2013 12:30

    For me, Bernie has accidentally given us the 10 race championships of old as most F1 fans know the major 10 to watch (Australia, Britain, Belgium, Italy, Brazil, USA, Japan, Monaco, Canada, Germany).

    Anything over and above that at a Tilkedrome is just ‘decoration’ to get the cash in for CVC and only worth watching if its Championship dependant.

    Like others, i’m just waiting for the ‘cash bubble’ to burst, so that we can have a re-org and make decisions that don’t only come down to profit (and yes, making decisions for money reasons and profit reasons are too different things)

    If the above i’ll miss China, Korea, Bahrain, Malaysia and Abu Dhabi.

    In the 80′s and 90′s, Bernie had it ticking over nicely. How did he get us in this mess?

  14. Intrigued, 6 November 2013 12:44

    “this year a couple of big names are leaving the sport”
    Mark Webber and…who else?

  15. Colin Rose, 6 November 2013 15:50

    I agree, I agree, I agree wit all that has been said.
    Been following F1 for over 50 years, hate the modern tracks, the standard engine noise, the sheer number of races, the wrong focal length of the onboard cameras – I could go on and on. The sad thing for me is that I cannot find anything about current F1 that I can excite my grandsons about. Bernie did a lot of good for the sport but I am afraid that he has gone well past his sell by date and I worry that his long term legacy will that of the man who killed the golden goose.

  16. David H, 6 November 2013 21:18

    Thanks as ever for your insider perspective Lee.

    Sorry to hear more Korea and India…. BE would put a race on the moon that was tape delayed if it meant more nickels—all that matters to him and the anonymous CVC suits. Putting it as politely as possible I look forward to his exit from F1.

  17. Pedro Paiva, 6 November 2013 22:18

    I could imagine the logistics challenge, not to mention the physical challenge of all teams. Interesting point on viewer fatigue. I’ve been following F1 for almost 30 years now and I really don’t bother missing races in those new circuits like South Korea, Singapore and etc. I would never miss Spa, Monza or Interlagos, though. The fact is that, looking back, it may as well be more than 10 years since I last watched a race that kept me on the edge of the seat. I feel like I’m watching a chess match.

  18. Josiah, 8 November 2013 09:49

    Well I’ve never really had the luxury of being able to watch practice nor qualy, nor do I really think I missed anything that a report couldn’t tell me. Where I live it’s hard to watch a race live, much less in English. So more often not ill download it and watch it later, and try and avoid spoiling. But much like other people have stated before, most races can be skipped. Either it’s a procession or a DRS fest, and neither of which really interests me.

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