Triple-header, testing key concerns for 2014
5 October 2013
The expanded 2014 F1 calendar contains several potential headaches for the teams, not least the demands placed on personnel, but two areas in particular are already causing much head-scratching.
The most obvious concern surrounds the inclusion of a 'triple-header' run of races, comprising Monaco, New Jersey and Montreal, and the logistics required to ship a full team from one of the most perilous events across the Atlantic to compete again the next weekend.
New Jersey is one of four new rounds included on the provisional 22-race calendar issued in the run-up to this weekend's Korean Grand Prix and, while the US event still has its doubters, the teams have to plan for its confirmation when the final schedule is issued towards the end of the year. New Jersey had been expected to form a double-header with Montreal, but with at least one free weekend beforehand to allow the shipment of equipment from Europe.
“Logistically, it's obviously going to be more of a challenge than this year, but the biggest issue at the moment looks like being the triple-header,” Mercedes team manager Ron Meadows told journalists on the opening day of the Korean event.
“We need to speak to FOM but, in FOM, we have a fantastic partner who arranges all the logistics. They do a fantastic job so, if they think it's achievable, it must be achievable, because they've never failed us yet.”
Meadows optimism – particularly taking into account the extra commercial opportunities presented by the additional venues - wasn't met with the same response by other team managers, who have already expressed concern over a schedule that takes in 22 races in 38 weekends.
“For us, the biggest headache is definitely personnel because, as a small team, we have to cover all races, tests and even demo events with the same number of people, the same crew,” Sauber's Beat Zehnder explained, “The more events you have, obviously the more difficult it gets. Then the triple-header… I think we would have to start packing up on Saturday in Monaco to make it to Jersey!
“Technically, it will be very difficult to have a back-to-back from Monaco to Jersey because, normally, the freight will leave for Canada, let's say, on the Saturday before the race. And so that's why, if you're only able to send your freight on a Monday or a Tuesday, it compromises your weekend quite a bit.”
Ferrari's Massimo Rivola was the most out-spoken in terms of the length of the calendar, admitting that he hoped to see it trimmed back to more manageable levels.
“To be honest, I'm still hoping we come back to the 20 races, as per the current sporting regulation,” the Italian insisted, “I can say that, even for a top team, it's something almost impossible, to be honest. We have more freight, so it's not that a top team has such a big advantage having such a back-to-back. It's going to be almost impossible to do it. But as I said, we will see the real calendar and then we figure it out.
“At the moment, the calendar is not the best calendar possible in terms of logistics. Even the first race in Australia, [standing] alone, is not ideal. From the logistics side, I would prefer to stop and do a race in a back-to-back coming back from Australia. For sure, there are some good commercial reasons behind this that I am not aware of, but we will see. When the calendar is 100 per cent fixed, we will manage it.”
As well as the additional races, however, the return of in-season testing adds to the pressure on the teams, and some even believe that these sessions, even though they are scheduled to take place at circuits immediately after race weekends, could be the main problem in terms of managing workload on personnel.
“The schedule looks very interesting - and certainly challenging,” Force India's Andy Stevenson noted, “We like new venues and enjoy the challenge [but], for our team certainly, the thing that we are going to find very difficult is the in-season testing. The four in-season tests are going to stretch us and that's something we're not looking forward to.
“We haven't focused on it too much just yet. It was only announced last week to the teams, or to the public in general, and we'll wait until the calendar has been ratified before we put any resource into understanding exactly how we will deal with it. As always in F1, if a challenge is put before us, we will make it work.”
“It's the in-season testing that's probably going to push us to the edge,” Caterham's Graham Watson agreed, “We had the meeting yesterday with the other teams and discussed the venues we were potentially going to go to. We started putting that down on a calendar and it started to look quite a daunting task.
“Obviously, we'll have to manage the personnel as best we can to achieve that. I think, like all regulation or rule changes that happen in F1, we all start off thinking 'how are we going to do that?' and, year in, year out, we seem to achieve it, get to the end of the year, look back, think 'OK' and move on to the next year.
“It is difficult when the calendar's not 100 per cent fixed and you're trying to pre-empt what's going to happen - but the Monaco to New York does look particularly challenging…”