At the end of this week we’ll see the provisional 2022 Formula 1 calendar after it goes before the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) in Paris. And before it has even been confirmed, it is causing a fair bit of controversy.
Well, certain opinions on it are, anyway.
The calendar is going to feature 23 races, which might beg the question ‘So why all the fuss?’ given that was the original number on this year’s schedule too. But those races are going to be crammed into a shorter period, with the season set to end in mid-November in order to avoid a clash with the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next winter.
And that is leading to some more brutal scheduling, with triple headers still being utilised despite an insistence they wouldn’t be after 2018, and then another vow that the recent use of them was solely due to Covid-19. But once the genie’s out of the bottle…
“In former times, engineers had to go to tests after race weekends”
So with the calendar’s release imminent, World Mental Health Day on Sunday was quite aptly timed as it called into question the wellbeing of some of those involved in the sport who have to sacrifice so much to pull off the schedule. And it also led to what felt like a tone deaf response from AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost.
“We know now that we have 23 races,” Tost said. “It’s fantastic, good job from FOM, I am looking forward to it.
“Regarding the people at the track. First of all, we are a race team. They all should be happy that we have as many races as possible and, of course, we take care of the people, for example the mechanics after a race weekend they have three days, four days off where they can stay at home. And also, press, marketing, all the people which are at the race track have some free days after the race weekend.
“Engineers it’s a little bit more difficult but also, if I remember back in former times, they had to go after a race weekend to tests which means that they also had to work there.
“I think we all should be happy that we are in a position to be in Formula 1 and to have 23 races. And if someone doesn’t like it, then he should go.”
Tost is not alone in welcoming next year’s 23-race schedule
Not quite the response I think people were expecting. But then Tost has never really had much time for complaints about anything to do with the job. And I’m going to try and see things from his point of view a little more in this column.
Because if we’re being vulnerable following World Mental Health Day, I had a really tough spell in my personal life for much of 2019 and working in F1 was actually a massive help. The support of specific people within the paddock, the distraction of being in a high-paced environment at the track so that my mind couldn’t always be on other things, it all helped.
But the long flights didn’t. Or the late evenings working on the other side of the world from where your mind was. And I can only imagine what that is like for people who actually want to be present somewhere else, as opposed to my position of wanting to escape.
The reason I’m mentioning that, though, is because it shows the same scenario can actually impact people in completely contrasting ways, and that’s something the recent calendar talk perhaps doesn’t address.
The ‘they knew what they were getting into’ argument doesn’t hold water when the calendar keeps expanding
In Monza, I overhead two F1 workers discussing the schedule while we were in the Gents (lovely thought, I know), and they were so excited by the prospect of having to go straight from Turkey to the US and then remain out in America before traveling on to Mexico. That was when Turkey was on the UK red list, but it reminded me that there are plenty of people who work in this sport who can’t get enough of the opportunity to see the world and don’t have a home life calling.
But even for those with a home life – whether that’s family, friends, other interests – that they hugely miss, it is still a job to pay the bills. People perhaps get too caught up in the notion of F1 being a dream job, when the word ‘job’ is still in there. It’s hard work, there are parts that people hate, but that’s why someone is paying them, just like any other job in the world.
And just like any other job, that means you don’t get to do what you want to do all of the time. But you are at least compensated to keep a roof over your head and hopefully well enough to have those other interests to return home to.
Life in the paddock isn’t all glamour
The expanding calendar is a positive sign when it comes to that compensation, because it shows the demand for the sport around the world. The 23 races doesn’t even include Qatar, where we are heading in November but then will start a separate 10-year deal to host a race in 2023. But Miami is joining and there is interest from Africa as well to join the schedule.
The more races there are, the more money that teams eventually receive directly, but also the more fans and markets are reached, boosting profitability too. And if the team is profitable, the employees’ jobs are more secure.