So the Olympics are over and the focus of the sporting world is returning to plain old, not-for-a-gold-medal sporting excellence.
The football season is already under way, the major tennis stars back in action ahead of next week’s US Open, but Formula One, having built up a head of steam in the early part of the summer, is now on holiday.
Having made the curious decision to stage a Grand Prix in Hungary during the first weekend of the London Games, when casual fans would have been forgiven for missing the action, the teams are having a break for the entirety of August, a month which has in the past been a fixture of Formula One.
Has the momentum been lost? Commentator and former driver Martin Brundle certainly thought so when he took to Twitter during the week.
“This F1 summer break is too long,” Brundle tweeted. “It’s like part one, then….. part two.”
Brundle has a way with words that wasn’t apparent in that particular tweet, but the point is valid.
Then again, so are the reasons for a summer break.
The theory behind it is simple – the season is getting longer, and everyone involved in the sport is being asked to spend more time away from their homes, their families, and their lives outside Formula One. The drivers deserve a bit of sympathy here, but the pit crews and mechanics who keep the show on the road deserve even more; they spend a large chunk of the year traipsing around the globe and seeing little more of it than their team garage and their hotel rooms. What they sacrifice comes without the perks, and salaries afforded to the drivers.
And it’s hardly any quieter during the off-season. There’s a good month of pre-season testing across Europe before the campaign begins, and before that there’s long days and nights getting the car ready. The winter break is, well, a nice idea in theory.
But the balancing act is between the welfare of the participants and spectacle, even that one extra week of summer break in place this year compared to 2011 has been keenly felt by fans.
Formula One is a sport that, with the possible exceptions of Silverstone and Sepang, follows the sunshine. As such, August should be a key month for racing.
Perhaps a compromise would be to have three three-week windows in future calendars. If you wanted to be serious about the break, organisers could enforce a factory lockdown, meaning no work could go into the car during those times.
It would mean one interval after the Pacific swing that begins the year, another in late July/early August during the European season, and a third before the final series of far-flung races in Asia and the Americas.
But with three weeks away, the season’s momentum would not suffer. Indeed, there was already a gap of that length this year between Bahrain on 22 April and Spain on 13 May.
That seems a better solution than one which has been whispered around the paddock – rotating the pit crews going out to Grands Prix so that no members of the team suffer burnout. The sport is doing its best to be seen to be taking cost-cutting seriously. Forcing a situation where it becomes necessary to hire more staff to cope with the demands of race weekends would strain the credibility of the fragile Resource Restriction Agreement.
The teams are already arguing amongst themselves about the rules for the 2013 season. A sensible calendar for next year would give them one fewer cause for concern and disagreement.
It would also send out a message that the fans matter to the sport. After a year in which that loyalty has been tested by having the sport taken off exclusively free-to-air channels in several places, a schedule that retains its momentum while keeping its participants as fresh as possible would be a gesture worth making.
Are you missing Formula 1 this weekend? How would you structure the calendar in 2013? Have your say in the comments section below!
- Formula One
- Martin Brundle