‘So many people ill’ with ‘brutal’ expanding F1 calendar taking its toll

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen celebrates with the Red Bull F1 team.

It is more than just the driver behind a successful racing team.

Mercedes driver George Russell said he had “so many mechanics who are ill” in Abu Dhabi, while Red Bull team boss Christian Horner admitted the final stretch of the F1 2023 season was “pretty brutal” on the paddock.

The season ended with five races in six weeks as the F1 circus travelled across the continents, ending with a double-header from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi that saw a huge swing in timezone, along with an 18-hour flight between the two venues.

This ended a record 22-race calendar that will be expanding to 24 rounds next year, but those within the F1 paddock hope to see changes to ease the load next year.

George Russell: F1 drivers ‘have it best’ among expanding calendar demands

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

The expanded F1 calendar has come with a degree of regionalisation attached for 2024 to try and ease freight demands next season, though the amount of time staff members will spend away from their families will grow ever greater next year.

For Mercedes driver Russell, he hopes to see regulations brought in for a maximum number of races non-drivers can attend to ease the demand on them.

“I think the drivers, we have it best from every single person in this paddock, the way we travel,” Russell told media including PlanetF1.com.

“We’re in a very fortunate position. But everybody up and down the paddock – I’ve got so many mechanics who are ill, people in the engineers’ office, just really struggling with the constant time zone shifts, the body not knowing where you are, eating at different times, staying in different hotels, different environments, different climates.

“The body’s getting confused. I think there are talks for next year about personnel being regulated that they can’t do every single race. I think that would be a good thing.

“I don’t think it’s sustainable to 4,000 people, I think it is, to do 24 races a season, especially when you see how geographically it still doesn’t make a huge amount of sense.”

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When speaking ahead of the final round of the season, Red Bull team principal Horner made a joke about how under the weather his team were feeling – but it was an underlying feeling that the calendar remains “brutal”.

He added that the FIA and F1 themselves are aware of the issues surrounding staff members, so hopes for a solution that can avoid staff burnout.

“I sincerely hope that subscriptions to Lemsip are not within the budget cap!” Horner said with a smile to media including PlanetF1.com in Abu Dhabi.

“It’s been a pretty brutal regime. When you look at the last… This is five races in six weeks. So for the mechanics in the garage, for the travelling staff, it is a brutal end to the season.

“Of course, that’s a little accentuated by the time difference… We were effectively working in the Japanese time zone in Vegas, and then a 12-hour swing to come here.

“So it’s something that’s been raised with Formula 1 and the FIA – their personnel, they feel it as well, and I think solutions are being put in place to the future to take into account the toll that it does take on not just the staff, but all the travelling circus that is associated with Formula 1.”

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