Horrendous weather conditions plagued the build-up to the 2015 United States Grand Prix with teams achieving minimal track time on Friday or Saturday. This led to a heavily condensed race schedule with qualifying taking place on the Sunday morning, and the only dry running over the entire weekend taking place in the race itself, and what a race it was!
With very little time to refine car set up for the race, teams and drivers went in to the race having to rely on pre-work ahead of the race weekend and instinct. The result was one of the best races of the season.
Wouldn’t it be great it all races could reach the levels of excitement achieved in Austin? Are there any elements of that weekend the sport replicate?
Let’s rule out the obvious, random sprinkler systems are not the way forward! As much as every commentator likes to refer back to Bernie Ecclestone’s flippant comment from a few seasons ago it’s not really a feasible option. Any claims of purest racing would be lost once and for all. So if controlling the weather conditions isn’t an option, what else can we look at?
Should Formula One consider a shorter race weekend? Condense the event from three days to two perhaps even one? The one day format seems to work in Formula E. On the face of it reducing the time a driver and team have to refine set up based on performances in Austin seems to bring raw talent to the fore. Drivers no longer able to rely on highly analysed data to define the best possible approach to a lap and the race. Driver and teams have adapt to what they have and respond to the circuit on the day. This lack of data seems to be what created great racing.
On the negative side, a one or two day schedule significantly devalues the product; circuits, promoters, and broadcasters are have to offer to the paying public and sponsors. If you remove Friday from the schedule ticket prices should be adjusted accordingly and as a consequence revenues will be reduced. So how do you reduce team’s ability to perfect set up and not devalue the overall product?
Why not move the Friday sessions to Monday? The amount of time spent at a circuit by teams will not be impacted rather shifted by a day. Teams will have chance to try out upgrades for future races, but do so with no immediate impact on the race weekend. Pirelli would get their wish for increased testing. Everyone wins!
By moving the Friday sessions to Monday teams may be more inclined to run junior or development drivers safe in the knowledge the race car would not be damaged ahead of a race weekend. Both Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen have recently called for a revamp of the format of a race weekend, could this be the way forward?
Of course in time team would adapt and invest in new technologies, Mclaren performances in Austin served to highlight that despite everything going on with the team they have a truly first class simulator, confidence in the data from the simulator had a huge impact on the teams performances and very nearly resulted in their best result of the year. If the race weekend format changed team investment plans would follow suit, but in the short term fans would be in for some thrilling races and F1 action on a Monday morning!