F1 drivers and staff say “brutal” Las Vegas Grand Prix schedule took its toll

Formula 1

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Thursday’s gruelling, late-night schedule left paddock, garage staff and drivers sleep deprived for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

A five-hour repair programme to remove water valve covers from the street circuit pushed second practice back to 2:30am on Friday morning in Las Vegas. The extended, 90-minute session ran until 4am local time, leaving teams with a tight turnaround before third practice and qualifying.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said that it was understandable to have teething problems but that the toll on team staff had been immense.

“First off, of course, there’s going to be many lessons to learn,” he said. “And I think that one of the things we [need to] look at is the running schedule, because it’s been brutal for the team and all the men and women behind the scenes.

“I think everybody is leaving Vegas slightly fucked, one way or another,” Horner continued. “It’s been a brutal weekend for everyone behind the scenes and I think we need to look at how we can improve that for the future.

“During the day, we’re running so late at night, maybe to run it a little earlier in the evening because you’re never going to keep every television audience totally happy.

Horner argued that a US race should be timed for local audiences. “If you ran at eight o’clock in the evening or something like that, it would just be a bit more comfortable for men and women working behind the scenes.”

Zhou Guanyu said that, especially with a packed opening ceremony schedule, Las Vegas had got the balance wrong. “I think in general, my feeling every weekend, especially when we come here, is that there’s quite a lot of activity going on. Maybe a little bit quite extreme, especially after the day we had on Thursday or Friday, whatever day you call it.

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“So it’s not the easiest weekend for everyone, for the whole paddock here, because we never get much sleep,” Zhou admitted. “But it is the first race in Vegas. I think next year they are looking to maybe reduce a little bit Thursday so we can have a bit more time with the engineers and all these other things, more racing than other things.”

Daniel Ricciardo said that Thursday’s delayed running had left staff playing catch-up ever since. “After Thursday, that late session, I feel like I’ve been or probably all of us have been a little bit delirious.”

“It’s kind of felt like a bit of a whirlwind since then,” he added.

However Ricciardo was eager to emphasise how much he had enjoyed the event. “The paddock is huge. It’s had a bit of atmosphere, I think it’s been alright.”

Matt Harman, Alpine’s technical director, said that the event had been a new challenge compared to F1’s existing night races. “It’s almost like you’ve got the time zone shift plus doing a night shift,” he said.

“It has been a bit challenging but I think as a team we knew that would be the case. We would get to put some things in place to help with that, and I think we’ll get through it.”

However, Harman said that changes would have to be mades for the health of paddock staff. “It’s one of those things we should talk about in the future to make sure that it’s all set up for wellness and these sorts of things.”

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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25 comments on “F1 drivers and staff say “brutal” Las Vegas Grand Prix schedule took its toll”

  1. About the schedule maybe they tried too hard having everyone happy. Night race, in the USA but with European viewers, in the end didn’t it backfire a bit? Like Toto Wolf angrily pointing out about the delayed FP2 session that “no European watches anyways”.
    I didn’t watch it live as it is a bit early in the morning but mainly because there is no particular points of interest left in this end of season. Looks like having sessions at midnight local time is quite late, maybe there’s some adjustments to do ?

    1. There are a lot watching live the F1 pratices as my friends and I do and even do this live. Even if we must stay awake or getting up in the middle of the night.

  2. among all the criticisms, I was watching the 2007 Indy race and there was no atmosphere, thin crowd and just a non event by comparison.

    But it’s a fair point that if they want an American audience, they have to time it for them

    1. Indy had good crowds before the tire debacle. Understandably, they totally alienated the fans that year and lost all good will. Anyway, I hate the Indy road circuit. So, I have no desire to go back. But the crowd wasn’t a problem.

  3. Yeah, F1’s insistence on scheduling races primarily for European viewers should’ve been abandoned years ago.
    Bianchi’s accident in 2014 have helped changed things for the better somewhat, but clearly it’s still not enough.

    The people at the top keep insisting that F1 is a global sport, but it sure as hell still isn’t acting like one.

    1. Not all event timings seem geared towards viewers in Europe, though, especially qualifyings for daylight North American events + some other sessions & or the Miami GP race.

    2. I couldn’t care less as an European. I almost always watch on delay, because I prefer to create my own schedule, not FIA or anyone else. I can avoid spoilers for a few hours or more without issues, so all is fine. Plus I can pause the race when I need to, replay whatever I want when I want it… Now I can’t imagine watching it live in any case, it’s too convenient this way; for me that is.

  4. Perhaps having the practice sessions & qualifying two hours earlier each, i.e., FP1/18:30, FP2/22:00, FP3/18:30, QLF/22:00, wouldn’t be a bad idea, after all, in case of a considerable delay, so better for everyone involved, drivers, other team personnel, spectators, security staff.

  5. Teams should have kept a different timezone than the local one. Where 22:00 and 0:00 are your afternoon, like nightworkers do everywhere in the world.
    The moment you live according to the local timezone is where you just harm yourself.

    And yes that means sleeping when there is daylight in Las Vegas, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find hotels with blackout curtains. That’s the only way to function optimally during the sporting sessions.

    1. I think you’ll probably find that they do and they did. It’s been talked about many times how the F1 teams run their own timezones for night races.

      The media do also. Although some cities are better suited for it than others. The BBC commentary team were saying the time shift was easier in places like Singapore because you can get basically any meal at any time of day—this is not the case everywhere (apparently).

  6. I thought a component of the scheduling was the fact that Clark County wanted as little as possible distractions for commuter traffic.
    And the fact that Vegas is a night destination….hides the ramshackle, rundown, dirty, dusty desert dwellings around the perimeter

    1. All makes sense. Vegas is truly depressing in the light.

  7. The timings of this race were all very weird. I’m very much in the camp that it is a world championship and if the time the race is run falls at 2am in the UK then so be it. A 10pm local time start meaning its 1am for all of the east coast USA was an odd decision for a race that is trying to get more people in the US to follow the sport.

    Anyway, despite the negativity I enjoyed the Vegas weekend and look forward to it again next year, even if it means watching a re-run instead of live action.

  8. The second free practise was obviously not scheduled, but it’d be better to just drop the silliness and schedule the weekend conveniently for all Americans. Start at 18:00 in Las Vegas. That’s already past sunset, and it’s a good starting time of 21:00 in New York, and still very workable at 22:00 in Brazil.

    Let the Europeans catch up when they care to wake up, it’s fine. Nothing is missed by watching it a few hours late, and having one 04:00 race a year is still fun for the young(er) fans.

    1. Sunday 01:00 is at least better than anything from Monday 00:00 to 05:00 as is the case in East Asia, Southeast Asia, etc., for the daylight North American, Sao Paulo, & Saudi Arabian (this year also the Qatar GP) GPs.

      1. Definitely, but but while making some changes to better accommodate everyone is normal and smart – they can’t please everyone all the time. Especially when F1 wants to appeal to (North) Americans, Europeans and East Asia.

        Having ‘the’ big US race at 01:00 for the entire eastern US is not great.

        1. MichaelN Valid points, although just on my behalf, the US GP sprint had the same start time for me as the Australian, Japanese, & LV GPs for Eastern Time & I eventually watched that live despite some initial skepticism when the session timings got published.

        2. People saying start at 6pm local timee are forgetting one important thing to get ready for a 6pm start you would need to close the road this circuit is a public road . To guarantee a 6pm start time you might to close the road the public 3pm . Local authorities might not willing to do that.

          1. Stephen Taylor Albert Park, Monaco, & Baku seem to do well with even earlier start times.

          2. @jerejj Melbourne and Baku don’t open the streets in between sessions. They’re basically closed for the entire week.

            Part of the LV track was open in between sessions which was part of the deal required to secure the event, I believe—to minimise disruption.

    2. Indeed, race times might have been an argument several years ago, but in this age of streaming who cares how late the race is really? Only challenge is to not look at newsfeeds beforehand :)

  9. I used to envy everyone working in F1 but can’t even begin to imagine what it must be working a triple header WITH 2 sprints then going back home, then working the night shift at Las Vegas and packing everything before traveling the world round to Abu Dhabi for the GP plus the end of the season test.

    It’s been a gruelling season. They need to get rid of the triple headers and plan the year better for less travelling.

    1. @fer-no65 I couldn’t agree more about triple-headers, but unfortunately, FOM & FIA don’t bother using all the realistic opportunities to avoid them, which for next season, for example, would be starting the season & holding certain events earlier, as well as filling the unnecessarily lengthy intervals towards the end with Brazil & LV, etc.
      Zero argumentation for still having them since COVID stopped affecting matters.

  10. Some more negativity from RBR. What else to expect… The team who got its WDC gifted in 2021 for the show. Lol

    1. @madmax Mercedes were the 2021 Champions so not sure what you talking about…….

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