The Ongoing Struggle to Achieve the “Perfect Calendar” in F1

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After experiencing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, China is set to return to the Formula 1 calendar. With the inclusion of the Chinese Grand Prix, F1 has reached a record-breaking 24-race schedule, which is currently the maximum allowed under F1 and the FIA’s commercial agreements.

The 2024 schedule maintains the same 24 events as the original 2023 plans but has undergone several adjustments to enhance its sustainability by grouping regional races. The aim is to gradually move towards a future “perfect calendar,” as mentioned by former F1 sporting director Steve Nielsen, who is now with the FIA. Nielsen stated in December of the previous year that they have a strategy in place to achieve a much better calendar within a few years, making incremental changes by moving events by a week or so.

While efforts have been made to create a more logical calendar, a quick glance at the 2024 schedule reveals that F1’s quest for a “perfect calendar” is still a work in progress, as Nielsen suggested. In an ideal scenario, races would be organized back-to-back based on geographical proximity or at least logical air connections.

The goal is to minimize long-haul trips for team personnel and other paddock members, enabling them to stay in regions like Asia or the Americas instead of flying back and forth after every race weekend. On the other hand, the dreaded triple-header races, which appeared twice in the 2023 calendar, pose a significant challenge. One example is a grueling three-week stretch to Austin, Mexico, and Sao Paulo, during which teams are unable to return to their factories or see their loved ones for three consecutive weekends.

Apart from the human toll, there’s also a sustainability aspect to consider, as reducing air miles is crucial in F1’s commitment to achieving a net carbon-zero future by 2030. One way to gauge the calendar’s sustainability is by calculating the total distance traveled by personnel if they were to attend every race. Taking into account direct flights to the nearest airports and assuming most staff fly out of London, the 2023 calendar amounted to an astonishing 208,075km, equivalent to nearly five trips around the world. These are conservative calculations, emphasizing that achieving such a utopia is far from realistic.

Unfortunately, the figures for the 2024 calendar don’t show a significant improvement, with a total distance of 194,455km, representing only a 7% decrease. So why is the reduction in travel distance so minimal?

In the upcoming year, F1 has made some gains in the Middle East by scheduling back-to-back races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, both races now take place on Saturday nights due to the 2024 Ramadan schedule. This arrangement allows teams to stay in the Middle East at the beginning of the season. However, since pre-season testing takes place at the Bahrain Grand Prix venue, this effectively creates a de facto triple-header.

The challenges quickly multiply from there. Australia remains a standalone event, requiring teams to embark on a 34,000km round-trip journey before returning to Asia for the Japanese Grand Prix, which has been moved forward to April from its traditional autumn date. Although this change moves the popular Suzuka round out of the typhoon season, it also creates another one-week gap before China’s return. Hence, while F1 has brought the two races in the Far East together, it has failed to take full advantage of their geographical proximity.

Miami and Canada are now standalone events as well, separated by the first European races in Imola and Monaco. Montreal has decided to maintain its June date due to concerns over chilly weather in early May. Following these events, F1 faces its first triple-header ofthe season, with races in Spain, Austria, and Great Britain. This is followed by a more logical Hungary-Belgium double-header to conclude the first half of the season.

The second half of the season starts with a Zandvoort-Monza double-header, which remains unchanged from 2023. Next up, the Azerbaijan-Singapore double-header is relatively manageable, as Baku offers reasonable connections to the east.

However, after a three-week gap in October, the dreaded Austin-Mexico-Brazil triple-header returns. Teams then have a two-week break to recover before facing yet another triple-header. The record-breaking season concludes with a grueling sequence of races in Las Vegas, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi, with the final race taking place on December 8.

In its calendar announcement, F1 acknowledged that fixing the calendar won’t happen overnight due to contractual obligations and weather concerns. The intention is to move towards greater regionalization of the calendar, reducing logistical burdens and improving sustainability. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali expressed that the journey towards a more sustainable calendar will continue in the coming years as part of their Net Zero 2030 commitment.

Considering the five standalone flyaway races and the three challenging triple-headers in 2024, it is evident that F1 still has a long way to go in achieving its goal of a more sustainable and “perfect calendar.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about F1 calendar

What is F1’s objective in creating a “perfect calendar”?

F1’s objective is to create a “perfect calendar” that is sustainable, logical, and minimizes the logistical burdens for teams and personnel. The goal is to regionalize the calendar, reduce long-haul trips, and improve the overall efficiency of the race schedule.

How has F1 attempted to make the calendar more sustainable?

F1 has made efforts to make the calendar more sustainable by grouping regional races and minimizing long-haul travel for teams and personnel. The aim is to have races twinned back-to-back based on geographical proximity or logical air connections, reducing carbon emissions from travel.

Why are triple-header races a challenge for F1?

Triple-header races pose challenges for F1 due to the demanding schedule they create for teams and personnel. These races involve three consecutive weekends without returning to the factories or having time with loved ones, resulting in physical and emotional strain on the individuals involved.

What is the impact of the calendar on F1’s sustainability goals?

The calendar’s impact on sustainability is significant, as reducing air miles is crucial for F1’s commitment to achieving a net carbon-zero future by 2030. Minimizing travel distances and optimizing logistics play a crucial role in reducing the environmental footprint of the sport.

Is F1 making progress towards its goal of a “perfect calendar”?

While F1 has made efforts to improve the calendar’s sustainability and logic, achieving a “perfect calendar” remains a work in progress. The 2024 schedule shows some adjustments, but there is still a long way to go in terms of regionalization and minimizing travel distances to reach the desired objective.

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3 comments

FastCarFreak July 6, 2023 - 10:04 am

F1’s got big goals 4 a “perfect calendar” but it ain’t easy. dey tryin 2 be sustainable n reduce all dem long trips, but dem triple headers r a real challenge. keep pushin, F1!

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RacingFan123 July 7, 2023 - 4:43 am

f1 is tryin 2 make a perfec calendar but it seemz lyk a long journy. they want sustainability n less trips but tripel headers stil a problm. hope they mak it work!

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RaceTrackRacer July 7, 2023 - 4:53 am

F1 wants a perfct calendar, but it’s tuff! they tryin 2 be greener n cut dem long flights, but trips wif 3 races in a row r a headache. hope dey find a way 2 make it all work out!

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