Two-day format is ‘not Formula 1’

Date published: November 6 2020

Valtteri Bottas runs wide in his Mercedes during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Despite liking the idea at first, after the Emilia Romagna GP Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer is now firmly against the two-day format.

While Formula 1 got a taste of a two-day race weekend at the Eifel Grand Prix when bad weather caused Friday practice to be cancelled, the concept was introduced by design for the first time at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The idea of scrapping Friday practice and having just one 90-minute session on Saturday before qualifying was an attempt to reduce the logistical strains on teams of getting to Imola, just one week after the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Szafnauer at first was looking forward to the format, but after experiencing it has made a sharp u-turn, believing it is not what Formula 1 is about.

“I think it’s got to be from a fan’s perspective – do the fans like this kind of format?,” he asked, quoted by Motorsport.com.

“I thought I would like it, but it’s a bit foreign to me. After 23 years of having Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it feels a little bit odd and unnatural.

“Going into the weekend I was completely open for it, thought I was going to like it. But now I’ve got this uneasy feeling that it’s not right and not Formula 1.”

The theory was that with teams having less time to get to grips with the track it would help to mix the order up a little bit, but it was largely business as usual.

Valtteri Bottas took pole for the Emilia Romagna GP, over half a second clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in third, while the Dutchman’s late DNF meant Lewis Hamilton won the race with Bottas completing a familiar Mercedes one-two.

“If you have greater simulation tools and techniques back at the factory, being prepared to come here helps in such compressed practice and qualifying sessions,” Szafnauer explained.

“If this is what is going to happen in the future, then we’ll start putting infrastructure in place back at the factory in order for us to be able to optimise, just like some of the others.”

However, McLaren’s team principal Andreas Seidl was in favour of the two-day format. He just isn’t sure what financial impacts dropping the three-day schedule could have on the sport.

“We like this format of two days, this compact format,” he said.

“We like this additional challenge in order to get on top of your own game within this 90 minutes on Saturday morning.

“But in the end it’s a discussion that is led by Formula 1. It depends obviously a lot on the contracts that are in place with promoters, with TV stations and so on.

“If it’s something that could also help us save running costs, and would help us also to spend less time away from home, especially for our mechanics and engineers, it’s something we will be positive about.”

Imola-PA

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff also liked how “compact” the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was.

“I like it very much, it’s so compact. [There’s] lots of adaptability needed. You just have to get the car in a good position straight from the get-go, there’s not a long time to analyse data and run the simulator overnight,” he explained.

But once fans are back in the grandstands consistently he feels a three-day format is needed.

“I don’t think it works for every track. I think there will be big races, hopefully with a lot of spectators again, where a three-day event makes a lot of sense – thinking about Melbourne and the amount of people there, and the narrative, the content that we can provide around these tracks,” said the Austrian.

“I don’t think it’s fit for everybody, but I think for [Imola], it works really well.”

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