At this year’s British Grand Prix, I had a casual chat with one of the F1 big cheeses during which I suggested that they put one person on the F1 calendar planning committee who actually flies economy.

The suggestion was half jest but mostly truth, as the 2017 and 2018 F1 calendars have seen the freelance element of the F1 paddock undertaking some frankly insane routes to get between rounds with no direct flights. Needless to say, the big cheese in question has access to direct charter flights beyond the wildest dreams of a journalist...

Singapore #1

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Judging by the 2019 calendar, which was released in draft form in Monza on Friday afternoon, F1 took half my suggestion to heart. They’ve put together a calendar without the crazy back-to-backs that made 2017 and 2018 so challenging (Montreal-Baku, anyone?), but it’s a calendar that is going to be significantly more expensive for anyone footing their own travel bills.

It’s impossible to put together a calendar that will please everyone, of course. Leaving to one side the various deals X race has to run in Y month, or the national holidays and other sporting events that need to be accommodated around the world, there are two sides to the F1 calendar battle.

For anyone whose travel is bankrolled by another entity (team members, say, or employees of newspapers or sponsors) the cost of travelling the world is of limited importance. It’s a factor, of course, with even large papers now electing to keep their journalists at home for several races per year to save costs, but it is not essential.

Those employees with families prefer a calendar that gives them the odd weekend at home, with summer and winter breaks that make sense with the school year. Half-term weekends off are an added bonus.

Employees and family types will likely greet the 2019 calendar with some delight, as the lack of back-to-backs (there are five, but they almost all make some degree of sense) gives them time at home to do whatever it is people with real lives do.

For the self-financing, however, the current version of the 2019 calendar represents an approximate 20 percent price hike for the cost of covering the entire season.

Working in Formula One turns everyone into a part-time travel agent, figuring out how to get maximum bang for buck. The end of the 2018 season will see me on the road from Singapore to Sao Paulo, as booking a round-the-world ticket for the final round was the most cost-effective way to complete the year - even with nine weeks of hotel stays to take into account.

Formula 1 - Circuit Of The Americas

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For as long as I have been in Formula One I have been working the calendar, spending the much missed week between Australia and Malaysia in south-east Asia, capitalising on an Emirates return to Melbourne that included Kuala Lumpur as a stopover (and a free race, in effect). Every gap between races has been an opportunity to save money while seeing the world, focusing on extended stays in southeast Asia and central America where living costs are low but the joy of life is high.

The 2019 calendar offers limited opportunity for such exploration, as the gaps that do exist take place in parts of the world where either the cost of living is high, or where opportunities for safe and responsible tourism are low. But that is a personal gripe, not a professional one.

Credit should be given to those responsible for putting together a calendar that is both practical and feasible from a planning perspective. Perhaps the 2020 calendar will take the ever-increasing cost of covering the sport into account...

Formula 1 2019 Draft Calendar

1. Australia - March 17
2. Bahrain - March 31
3. China - April 14
4. Azerbaijan - April 28
5. Spain - May 12
6. Monaco - May 26
7. Canada - June 9
8. France - June 23
9. Austria - June 30
10. Great Britain - July 14
11. Germany - July 28
12. Hungary - August 4
13. Belgium - September 1
14. Italy - September 8
15. Singapore - September 22
16. Russia - September 29
17. Japan - October 13
18. Mexico - October 27
19. USA - November 3
20. Brazil - November 17
21. Abu Dhabi - December 1

 

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