F1 teams looking for staff balance in 2022 calendar

McLaren mechanics outside the garage

Formula 1 teams are united in their belief a balance needs to be struck between the financial motives of the sport and the impact it has on staff.

A 23-event calendar is expected to be announced later this month once the FIA World Motor Sport Council next meets.

It will make it the longest campaign in the sport’s history, a fact that will place additional strain on personnel within teams and connected to the circus more broadly.

With the racing season set to run from March to early December, F1 looks set to be in action on more weekends than not during that nine-month period.

“The thirst and demand for Formula 1 is what it is and it is always trying to measure that balance,” began Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

“I’m sure we could have 35 races if the promoter got his way.

“It’s finding that balance between not needing to have, effectively, two crews, that you can do it manageably with one crew to do an entire season.”

Red Bull fields largely the same staff at all events currently, as do most teams.

Going forward, that may have to change, a concept first proposed by McLaren in 2020 but which failed to gain traction.

“Unfortunately there was no enough support from the teams, so hopefully with the calendar we have in place now there is a chance to discuss again the topic because that’s something we could also definitely support from our side,” said Andreas Seidl.

Mercedes already has a rotation policy in place for some members of its team, though team principal Toto Wolff suggests that could be expanded, and even be a regulatory requirement.

“I believe that maybe we can come up with some innovative thinking and make rotation mandatory if it is within what we can afford,” he suggested.

“We have a lot of young engineers in every area that are not yet on the battlefield life, because there is a senior there who is the best in the group but maybe that’s an opportunity to actually put them in the hot seat.”

Adding to the complexity of the issue is the cost cap to which teams must now operate.

For 2021 that was $145 million, but that will drop to $135 million for 2023.

The larger teams have already had to trim or redeploy their staff in response, while the cost of crash damage has also had to be taken into account under the cap.

There is little wiggle room as a result, meaning something would have to give in order for teams to use additional staff – either sacrifices within their own operation to accommodate the additional staffing costs, or a raising of the cost cap.

The flipside for teams, and the sport more broadly, is that increased races brings with it an opportunity to bring in more revenue.

F1’s income is largely connected to the number of races it can host, and while there are hopes it can reduce the number in time the sport is not there yet.

The concept is, limiting the number of events would drive up competition, which in turn means higher hosting fees to the point where an equilibrium with current income levels are achieved with fewer races.

“I think we have the best man in charge to balance between income and workload, with Stefano [Domenicali, F1 CEO],” said Wolff.

“He has been running a team and he knows the strain on the people and that strain is enormous, particularly on the mechanics that need to be there much earlier, take the garage down, not always travel as comfortably as all of us and that needs to be taken into consideration.”

Seidl agreed, adding: “With Stefano, we have the right man in charge to work out the right balance there.

“I know personally also Stefano as a man of the people as well, from the past when I was dealing with him.

“He is in charge of a lot of people as well, so I hope he considers that as well and I am confident that we will find the right balance in the future.”

It is, in Horner’s view, a balancing act with the demands of the sport now different to what they’ve been in the past.

“I think the way all of the teams have dealt with that has been phenomenal and we are certainly not getting people saying ‘I don’t want to be at a race’,” added Horner.

“It’s balancing that.

“If you look back 15 years or even 20 years and you look at the amount of testing that used to take place in between the events and the amount of time that engineers, technicians, drivers would be sitting in a grand prix car between events, it’s significantly different now.

“But it’s always a matter of getting that ratio right and geographically getting that calendar with balance in it.”

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