F1’s 23 race calendar is a record – but not the longest its teams have worked

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Once it became clear the 2022 F1 calendar, announced yesterday, would feature 23 races, staff welfare became a recurring theme. The mental, physical and social effects of such a gruelling calendar came up throughout the Turkish Grand Prix weekend in media conferences with drivers, team principals and officials.

Ironically, these were the wrong people to grill, not least because 10 team bosses collectively signed the 2021-25 Concorde Agreement – or at least were party to the sign-off by powers above their heads – which states that the commercial rights holder shall not, without full team consent, present a calendar containing more than 24 grands prix in a calendar year.

By implication, then, the CRH may include up to and including 24 rounds. If team bosses had any problem about this many events they could have declined to put pen to paper. Indeed, where once the number of events was an issue in that major teams could afford to rotate staff, this factor no longer applies under budget caps: all teams are treated equally, and it is up to them to decide where their spending priorities lie.

Although all drivers questioned expressed their concerns about the effects of an extended calendar, they of all players in the paddock have the easiest ride in that they fly privately, are chauffeur driven, live five-star lifestyles and in certain instances earn more than the payroll of some of the teams on the grid. Under those circumstances, what can drivers say (when asked directly) other than to voice concerns about the matter?

New Miami race will boost schedule to 23 races
Team principals accepted the schedule because more races equal more money equals more jobs – across the board, within the entire team. Reduce the number of races and team income drops accordingly, not only in terms of prize money but also sponsor income. Here is the rub: Teams currently employ an average of 700 people of which around 100 travel to races, so 14%. Additional events create opportunities for the other 86%.

That said, regardless of team consent and driver platitudes, the overriding question is whether a 23-race schedule and the associated travel activities are workable, or whether F1 has indeed bitten off more than it can chew calendar-wise. Sure, it is a heavy schedule, but is it inhumane or just inconvenient for around 100 travellers per team in an industry directly employing around 10,000?

For starters, every civilised country – for which read those in which F1 teams are domiciled – has labour laws that stipulate precisely what hours employees may work over a certain period. If teams operate outside of those provisions, employees have every right to legal recourse – yet no court cases are known to have occurred in F1.

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Travel and/or being away from loved ones for extended periods is not restricted to the F1: salespersons do it, as do truckies, pilots, oil rig and ship workers and so on. In many instances said travellers do so for longer periods with fewer comforts and often for less remuneration and less job satisfaction than in F1. When they tire of travel, they switch jobs, not expect the business to change.

Report: Tost defends F1’s 23-race calendar – ‘Anyone who doesn’t like it should go’
Ultimately it is a matter of choice, passion and temperament, and thus no different to other careers. To expect a business, any business, that involves intensive travel for 14% of its workforce to change its modus operandi is simply unrealistic. After all, there are internal opportunities aplenty, plus for every F1 team member there are probably 10 capable outsiders who would jump at the chance of working in F1 in some shape or form.

As the number of events steadily increased, so the number of test days decreased, with remote working further reducing the need to travel. During a recent survey I undertook among six team about remote working during race weekends the average number of staff in their ‘mission control rooms’ was 35. These would previously have needed to travel. This number can only increase, reducing travel.

Cedric Selzer, who was the equivalent of race engineer to Jim Clark when the Lotus driver won the 1963 F1 world championship, gave an interesting perspective on the matter of staff overload. Selzer (whose autobiography “If You Come Second You Have Lost” is worth seeking out) build the team’s cars off blueprints during the off-season, but he and his team mates – two per entry – drove the transporters across a Europe in-season, then tended the cars once at the circuit.

“We drove in shifts – as far as Enna (in Sicily) – then put in all-nighters, as many as were needed,” he recalls, adding that European rounds were drive-to races with customs points at every border and a raft of currencies per journey – no Easyjet, truck stops or credit cards back then. How many F1 races did he do that season?

“There were 24, 10 of which were world championship events and the rest non-championship races, but no less demanding for it.”

A total of 32 such races were scheduled that year (including two on the same day, as not all teams necessarily contested all of them). Granted, the proportion of events outside Europe was not as high as it is now. But nor did staff 50 years ago enjoy the benefit of a mandatory curfew on their race weekend working hours imposed by the rules as today’s crews do.

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When air travel was needed it was by turboprops without the conveniences or speed of current aircraft. South Africa featured on the calendar and was a long haul, plus teams travelled to the USA and Mexico. Between those two races they headed for Detroit to fit a Ford engine to a ‘mule’ Lotus Indianapolis racer. No time off then?

Clark won at Monza in 1963, the 27th race for F1 cars that year
“Of course not, we were there to work,” Selzer laughs.

Under the circumstances it is little wonder that Selzer recalls being away from home for well over a month on occasion, with three flyaway races falling within that period. He, though, considers himself fortunate to have escaped Tasmanian duties – his colleagues drew the wrong straws and were sent Downunder for a series of events that later became known as the Tasman Cup. They were away for six weeks…

“We had a different mental attitude,” says Selzer. “We did it out of passion for the sport, not the money.”

When Selzer decided to settle down, he sought a stay-at-home job in motor racing – there were fewer teams and opportunities then, but he managed to find one – hitting the road occasionally. Times have, of course, changed, and predominantly for the better; attitudes have softened, again for the better, but the fundamentals remain the same: choice, passion and temperament.

Without those key ingredients a travelling career in F1 is bound to be unhappy, whether the calendar has three races or 23. Then the only option is to be one of the 86% – and that spread surely presents opportunities enough.

1963 grand prix season

DateEventVenueCountryNotes
5th JanuaryNew Zealand Grand PrixPukekoheNew ZealandNon-championship
12th JanuaryLevin InternationalLevinNew ZealandNon-championship
19th JanuaryLady Wigram TrophyChristchurchNew ZealandNon-championship
26th JanuaryTeretonga TrophyInvercargillNew ZealandNon-championship
10th FebruaryAustralian Grand PrixWarwick FarmAustraliaNon-championship
17th FebruaryLakeside InternationalLakesideAustraliaNon-championship
4th MarchSouth Pacific TrophyLongfordAustraliaNon-championship
11th MarchSandown Park TrophySandown ParkAustraliaNon-championship
30th MarchLombank TrophySnettertonGreat BritainNon-championship
15th AprilGlover TrophyGoodwoodGreat BritainNon-championship
15th AprilPau Grand PrixPauFranceNon-championship
21st AprilImola Grand PrixImolaItalyNon-championship
25th AprilSyracuse Grand PrixSyracuseItalyNon-championship
27th AprilInternational Aintree 200AintreeGreat BritainNon-championship
11th MayInternational TrophySilverstoneGreat BritainNon-championship
19th MayRome Grand PrixVallelungaItalyNon-championship
26th MayMonaco Grand PrixMonacoMonacoWorld championship
9th JuneBelgian Grand PrixSpa-FrancorchampsBelgiumWorld championship
23rd JuneDutch Grand PrixZandvoortNetherlandsWorld championship
30th JuneFrench Grand PrixReimsFranceWorld championship
20th JulyBritish Grand PrixSilverstoneGreat BritainWorld championship
28th JulySolitude Grand PrixSolitudeGermanyNon-championship
4th AugustGerman Grand PrixNurburgringGermanyWorld championship
11th AugustKanonloppetKarlskogaSwedenNon-championship
18th AugustMediterranean Grand PrixEnna-PergusaItalyNon-championship
1st SeptemberAustrian Grand PrixZeltwegAustriaNon-championship
8th SeptemberItalian Grand PrixMonzaItalyWorld championship
21st SeptemberInternational Gold CupOulton ParkGreat BritainNon-championship
6th OctoberUnited States Grand PrixWatkins GlenUSAWorld championship
3rd NovemberMexican Grand PrixMagdalena Mixhuaca (now Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez)MexicoWorld championship
14th DecemberRand Grand PrixKyalamiSouth AfricaNon-championship
28th DecemberSouth African Grand PrixEast LondonSouth AfricaWorld championship

2022 F1 season

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 16 comments on “F1’s 23 race calendar is a record – but not the longest its teams have worked”

    1. Those were completely different times where fathers did not typically see their children for months on end. I’m not sure what the point of the comparison is here, society has moved on hugely since those times. Yes we can shift where the blame lies for the 24 race limit, but I have absolute sympathy for travelling parents that need to be away from home for so many races.

      There is also the issue of sustainability and aiming to make sure that back to back weekends involve low amounts of travel which does not seem to be happening very well. In years gone by, the central European season with travel at either end was a model that did kind of work, and although there are obviously remnants of this today, having events close by seems to be secondary to signing contracts and making money. Of course F1 needs to do this, however the balance is not correct imho.

      These are just my views on the subject and although I enjoyed reading the article very much, personally I don’t see why the comparison makes any sense. It’s like comparing modern working methods to Dickensian days or something, and saying well it was like that in the past and now look at our soft generation, we need to get back to that style of working or else get out of the kitchen:

      “plus for every F1 team member there are probably 10 capable outsiders who would jump at the chance of working in F1 in some shape or form”

      I don’t like the premise of this model, sorry.

    2. Once again a very nice read, Dieter.
      I never knew there were so many non-championship rounds back then. I thought it was just the Indy 500 in the 50s and maybe a couple more rounds in Europe.
      Those were such different times back then, with simpler cars, simpler circuits and simpler races. Sometimes I wish F1, or motor racing in general, would be a little bit more like it was in the ‘old days’. Just some guys going round a track and exploring the limits of what is possible. Motor racing just being a sport and not filled with politics.

      1. @srga91
        You simply need to watch some other motorsport beyond F1, mate ;) IndyCar, Australian Supercars, WEC, Isle Of Man TT, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (no technical limitations!).

    3. “Travel and/or being away from loved ones for extended periods is not restricted to the F1: salespersons do it, as do truckies, pilots, oil rig and ship workers and so on. In many instances said travellers do so for longer periods with fewer comforts and often for less remuneration and less job satisfaction than in F1. When they tire of travel, they switch jobs, not expect the business to change.”

      You do realise you are saying that at a time when several unions in Europe and the USA are either calling for major strikes by HGV drivers, or have already balloted members for strikes, over pay and working conditions? There is currently a huge amount of public pressure on the haulage industry to change – the talk for months has been about an employment crisis in the haulage industry, resulting in a rapidly ageing workforce as there are few new young employees wanting to join that sector.

      Similarly, pilots for American Airlines are currently in the process of voting on whether to hold a major strike, whilst other airlines in the USA are facing protests and potential strikes by ground workers and pilots. Meanwhile, it’s only a couple of years ago that multiple airlines in Europe were also struck by large scale strikes, such as British Airways and Easyjet, by their pilots in a dispute over pay and working conditions – they aren’t just passively sitting there and doing nothing.

      People do, and have, been taking action in those sectors to put pressure on employers to reform and change working conditions – they haven’t just sat there and done nothing. Why should it not be the case that, if there are those within the sport who feel that the demands are becoming unreasonable, they should also likewise be prepared to voice their discontent?

      Why should it be so “unrealistic” for those involved to ask whether the sport could or should change its operating model? Is it only unrealistic because people are stuck in the mentality that, since we’ve always done it that way, there’s no reason to change?

    4. I’m not sure if this is a fair comparison to be honest. Almost half of these 24 races were either home events in Britain or they took place in a neighbouring country. Places like Nurburgring or Monza also aren’t exactly an arduous trek to make from base, 1960’s travel arrangements or not. They only really needed to ‘drive transporters across Europe’ to a handful of these, and even places like Enna or Karlskoga aren’t so far away you couldn’t pack up and head back home relatively quickly.

      1. Agreed – not a fair comparision. Most of the calendar above, is optional/by invitation. Your choice if you wish to participate, not necessarily contractual.

        Can’t help but think this article’s based on a book plug.

      2. You appear to have clearly demonstrated no understanding of travel arrangements of that era. Autobahns only went so far, then one drove on old narrow winding undulating roads passing through villages etc. Arduous driving in normally unreliable old converted machinery. This is before mobile phones/internet/laptops/satnav.
        Am a 60’s guy & have viewed many Shell/BP sponsored old real type short movies of race meetings of that era. When the camera panned the paddock, the equipment & conditions, if one did not love it, wouldn’t be there.
        Today’s modern well-equipped transporters on smooth roads & truck stops are a breeze by comparison.

    5. That is a good point @DieterRencken and very true as well. The season had basically 365 days, therefore African and South Pacific races were held over the winter when today we have a 4-month break. Which underlines the point of how hard it was on drivers and team personnel being away from home. It is also true that not all attended all the non-championship races, but at the same time they were perfectly capable of racing outside of Formula 1 as well. In 1963 Jim Clark finished 2nd at Indy 500 and won the Bettenhausen Memorial…John Surtees and Willy Mairesse had won the 1000 km Nürburgring SportsCar race, etc… In addition, there were separate F1 based championship in South Africa and Argentina that the world championship crews mostly did not really attend. Yet, as busy as the teams and drivers were, all that racing was not as overwhelming for fans as a long season is today. Racing was more local and it was not on TV, so folks would read about it in a newspaper eventually…they did not spend some 4-7 hours watching it two out of every three weekends from March to November. Which is what we are doing. Sure, nobody is forcing us, but…

    6. So the excuse is, we had a macho culture in the previous century we must have one now.

      I see, the subject of being overworked and not having the opportunity to rest as important if not more important as the safety of a car.

      Should we really consider it normal that employees aren’t capable of having a social/family life, and don’t have the opportunity for rest and relaxation.
      Is it just because it revolves around the psychological side of a human that one can expect to hear the rhetoric of “don’t be a weakling”, “if you can’t cope with it there is the door”.

      A paradigm shift is necessary to keep the human factor into mind. At this moment it’s just all about making money no matter the cost…

    7. There really isn’t any argument against the logic in this article.
      Life is about choices, sacrifices and opportunities – unless you aren’t privileged enough to have any of those…

    8. Most of the engineers working in F1 would likely find no difficulty in finding a job that would enable them to stay in the country all year, but most of these guys love the sport as much as we do. Of course, it’s not easy to be away for so long, but they’re not forced to work in the sport, they choose to, and I can’t say I’m not jealous of them.

      That being said, it would be interesting to hear the opinion of someone working within a team as to whether a shorter winter break with more spaced out races is preferable to a more condensed calendar with more triple headers.

      1. @mashiat
        You’re making a great point! Indeed, we never really hear from the engineers! I’d like to know more about them.

      2. Indeed it would be great to hear from them. I am not an F1 engineer, but in my late twenties and up into my early thirties I worked for a corporate; as part of my job I travelled abroad pretty much every week and a number of my colleagues did too. Did we hate it? We loved it! For me, this amount of traveling was the icing on the cake. Strange to think about this now, as I would hate it today.

        So I’d say that these engineers are likely to be in this same mindset, working at the pinnacle of the industry they love AND get to travel all over world, all year round. They’re likely to be young with no imminent plans to settle down. They’re with like-minded people working hard and playing hard together – all on expenses. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d described their ‘predicament’ as living the dream!!

    9. During this same timeframe of the early 60s NASCAR routinely had 50+ races scheduled. When the great driver David Pearson drove for Cotton Owens he was required to drive the team transporter back to the team shop in South Carolina.

    10. It was more but not as mentally intense. Cars were much simpler to assemble, and their preparation was much more simple. Imagine if current cars were around back then? Imagine changing over fifty power units a year? And running race simulations? 28 races would be a killer. Maybe the simpler times back then sort of eased the mental aspect, but today is not yesterday. Just to survive is a stress.

    11. it’s just too much, and it’s not needed

    Comments are closed.