Teams and drivers feeling the strain of compressed season

Grid atmosphere. 16.08.2020.
© XPB 

It might have been a very long off-season break because of the coronavirus outbreak, but just two months into the 2020 Formula 1 world championship and it seems that everyone is starting to feel the strain of an unprecedented intense, packed schedule.

After losing so much time earlier in the season, F1 chiefs have had to organise multiple back-to-back races. The season started with three races on consecutive weekends in July including a double header in Austria.

After one week off that was followed by another three races, and another doubleheader this time at Silverstone. Teams are now on a welcome weekend off before another series of three races at Belgium, Monza and Tuscany.

Happy as they are to be back at the race track after such an unwelcome long enforced hiatus in the first half of the year, the work load is nonetheless taking its toll.

"Three race weekends in a row, it takes its toll. I feel it in myself that you start to struggle," Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff told RACER magazine's Chris Medland.

"[At Silverstone] there wasn’t a single day where [the senior management and the engineers] didn’t work. I can tell you Monday morning, we were all in the office.

"For the drivers, it’s probably a little bit easier, because they can recover between the races. Having said that, it’s not easy for anybody.

"For the racing team, it’s particularly difficult, because you can’t go home — you need to stay out, you’re not seeing your family for more than three weeks, and that has happened two times in a row now."

The opinion is shared by others in the paddock, including Red Bull driver Max Verstappen who feels that the current concentration of races is pushing right ot the limit of what's possible.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing on the grid.

“I think for the moment it’s fine,” he told “We had a long break before [the start of the season.]

“But I don’t see this happening - well, hopefully - next year, where you keep doing triple-headers. I think that’s a bit too much.

"Two weekends in a row, I think that’s okay. Having a week’s break in between is fine," he continued. "But of course we have to accept that at the moment, we need to get the races in.

"We just try to do the best we can. I think we have three triple-headers in a row. That’s pretty much, I think, the limit."

Reigning world championship and current points leader Lewis Hamilton also felt that the packed calendar was asking a lot of everyone involved in F1.

“It’s definitely a challenge," he said. "Obviously, everyone’s in the same boat.

"I would say probably the journey of a Formula 1 driver fighting for a championship can often feel like a lonely journey.

“That’s magnified this year. Obviously having to limit the people who are in your bubble, and of course moving around."

But some drivers are thriving on the amount of races in such a short period of time, with Williams' George Russell among those revelling in the challenge.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing on the grid.

"I think for me, I’ve been really enjoying it. It allows you just to get in a groove and we’re doing what we love," he said. “And this is incredible, getting to race around the best tracks in the world.”

He added that it reminded him of the old days he spent karting: "I’d go away with my mother and father every single weekend on a Friday night to circuits up and down the country. It’s reminiscent of those days, so the memories are flooding back."

But even Russell is keenly aware of how much pressure the other members of the team are being put under.

"I’m loving it, but this is a team sport and I’m thinking of the guys and girls who are working daily at the moment.

"I do feel for the teams, they are feeling it,” he continued. "Even after the back of two British Grands Prix, where they stayed in their own beds on Sunday night.

"It’s going to be really tough on those guys where you’ve got a triple-header away from home, flying between all of the races."

There are currently 13 officially confirmed races on the calendar. Russia will be a 'fly away' race on September 27 followed two weeks later by a visit to Nürburgring on October 11.

After that there will be back-to-back races in Portugal and Imola, with further events at planned in the Middle East and a surprise return to Turkey on the cards, taking the season into December.

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