Teams split over merits of two-day F1 race weekends after Imola trial

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Formula 1 teams are split on whether or not two-day race weekend formats should be pursued in the future following its trial for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

F1 condensed the race weekend at Imola into just two days of running to ease the logistical pressure following the Portuguese Grand Prix one week earlier.

It also acted as a trial for a possible format change that has been mooted for the future, reducing the amount of practice running given to teams and limiting the total time spent at the circuit.

Drivers were given a single 90-minute practice session on Saturday morning before qualifying later in the day, marking a significant reduction from the existing four hours of practice currently on offer.

The reduced running divided opinion throughout the paddock, with Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer saying the format was “not Formula 1”.

“I think it’s got to be from a fan’s perspective – do the fans like this kind of format?” Szafnauer pondered.

“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.

“Coming into this 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.”

Szafnauer felt that bigger teams with greater resources would still retain an advantage with limited on-track running, even if they could not pore over their data typically picked up on Fridays.

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

“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.”

Williams head of vehicle performance Dave Robson felt it would not be “too difficult” for teams to adjust to reduced running as they would all face a similar proposition, but said engineers would be eager to maintain as much track time as possible.

“It is one of those things that it affects all the teams almost equally, so I think if that’s what the sport wanted to do, I don’t think it’d be a big problem,” Robson said.

“You know what engineers are like, we don’t like change. I think we would soon learn to adapt and still make the most of it, so it’s sustainable if that’s the way we want to go.”

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl welcomed the additional challenge of the two-day format, but questioned the commercial impact of reducing on-track action.

“We like this format of two days, this compact format,” Seidl 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 saving 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 it.”

Toto Wolff echoed Seidl’s thoughts, saying that while his Mercedes team relished having to become more adaptable with a limit on running, the format may not work commercially for all circuits.

“I like it very much,” Wolff said. “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.

“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.

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

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