F1 drivers pile on pressure for changes to end ‘repetitive’ race weekends

Thomas Maher
Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris, and Carlos Sainz pictured during the Las Vegas Grand Prix press conference.

Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso, Lando Norris, and Carlos Sainz pictured during the Las Vegas Grand Prix press conference.

Some of the leading F1 drivers have hit out at the incredibly busy schedules they are expected to put up with on top of the racing.

With F1’s race schedule swelling year-on-year, with 2024 set to host 24 Grands Prix, the long weekends and multiple back-to-backs and triple-headers mean that, by season end, many of the drivers are feeling the repetitiveness of the media demands.

Las Vegas hosts the penultimate round of the 2023 season this weekend and, with the weekend all about pomp and circumstance, the workload for the drivers is higher than usual as F1 has gone all out to embrace the imagination of the public.

Carlos Sainz: Maybe Formula 1 is overdoing it a bit

Asked to discuss the balance of the spectacle versus the on-track sporting side of things this weekend, some of the drivers spoke out about how they feel the sport’s frequency is leading to the approach to weekends being very repetitive.

“Let’s say there are some things that you are looking forward to more than others,” Carlos Sainz said on the matter.

“That is always the case. I do believe, looking forward and looking into the future, we’re going to need to reconsider, a bit, the way we go racing at the weekends because our schedules are getting busier and busier every year that goes by. The weekends are almost starting earlier, rather than starting later.

“We are adding races to the calendar and it’s getting to a point where I think, sometimes, everything feels a bit repetitive and everything feels a bit overpacked and we’re trying maybe to overdo it a bit. So yeah, being constructive or trying to be critically constructive.

“There are things that I actually think they do a lot for the sport and it’s good to put on a show and to make the sport better. Then, on the other hand, there are other things that feel very repetitive and almost they don’t add any more for the weekend.

“And we need to reconsider the way we just shape the whole weekend. Because yeah, we are at the risk of being too repetitive and too out there, also. I’ll keep the details obviously to myself and my team and F1, but I think that’s my overall opinion.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris added to the voices of discontent, echoing Sainz’s thoughts and indicating a similar stance to Max Verstappen in showing distaste for the driver introduction ceremony that had been held before the press conferences began.

“I don’t have a lot more to add, to be honest,” Norris said.

“I think Carlos said it pretty well. I mean, it’s definitely more of a show now than it was a few years ago. To be honest, I just want to come here and drive and come here and race.

“Never been the biggest fan of doing these types of things like we did earlier. It’s not what I enjoy doing. I know a lot of this stuff is just part of it and I’m not saying anything against it, but yeah, I do this job because I want to come and drive and race cars and things like that.

“I don’t simply enjoy… I’ve never been the biggest fan of doing these types of big events and shows and things like that. So yeah, but I guess it’s part of the job and it’s a business and all those things. And that’s how it has to run at the end of the day. So yeah, that’s it.”

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Fernando Alonso suggests idea to reduce Thursday media commitments

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, who has seen the F1 schedule swell from 17 races annually to 24 during his time in the sport, said he had no problem with some races being given more media attention but that media commitments before the weekend even starts results in the drivers not having a whole lot to say.

“I have to say that I think places like this one and with the investment that has been done and the place that we are racing, I think it deserves a little bit different treatment and a little bit of extra show of what we did today,” he said.

“The weekend is going to be, I think… I’m OK to do extra for these types of events. But maybe yeah, it could be balanced somehow and reduced maybe, our schedule, somewhere else.

“We’ve been saying that, yeah especially the media commitments that we have ­– and it’s nothing against you guys – but it seems like they will repeat what we have to go through, especially on Thursdays.

“I think you are all very curious to see how the track is and what is our feeling tomorrow when we go in the car. And you will not get that.

“You will get, today, a lot of hours and interviews and one-to-ones and TV sessions and TV pen and things like that of something that we don’t know what to answer, because we’ve never run on this track.

“Maybe tomorrow after the free practice we don’t have any time with you guys. And so maybe on Thursday, we can use the time a little bit more wisely and try to help the promoters or whatever in a different way and maybe give you something extra on Fridays after we run.”

Carlos Sainz: 24 races is the limit with these weekend schedules

Pushed for his thoughts on whether more needs to be done to improve the wellbeing of everyone working in F1, considering the gruelling travel schedule and intensity of the workload, Sainz said he feels drivers have it the easiest compared to many in the paddock.

“I’m not sure if this is the right place and right time to discuss the details of a weekend and what everyone has to be involved with,” he said.

“I do consider the drivers, we are the privileged ones. We get to travel business or first class or private. We get to go to the best hotels. We get to arrive on Tuesday, Wednesdays rather than on Mondays. We get to leave on Sunday night, rather than on Monday morning.

“I don’t like speaking from the privileged position that I think drivers are in. Yes, it’s true that we are under pressure more than ever, then we have a lot of media commitments. But I do feel like inside our teams, or within the 100 people that travel to the races in Ferrari, we are a bit of more in a privileged position. And I don’t like complaining because of that.

“But I do believe that moving forward, 24 races, I think is the limit with the kind of schedules that we have now. I think a lot of teams are going now into rotational programmes with mechanics, engineers, and just speaking to a lot of teams in the paddock, everyone is channelling themselves to do rotational programmes.

“Obviously, I don’t think you can rotate drivers. But yeah, let’s see. Let’s see where the sport goes.

“I’m curious to see what are the ideas for the future, because I do strongly believe that moving forward there need to be changes for the weekend format or the way we go around media events and commitments because 24 races I think it’s going to be the limit or on the limit and to keep everyone’s health, not only the drivers, but mechanics and people that travel around is going to be important.”

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