By Atakan Uzun
Controversy has emerged over the so-called human cost of the proposed 2022 Formula 1 calendar, which was passed unanimously by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council on Friday, the 14th of October. This calendar consists of a record-breaking 23 races in a single season, on 6 different continents. According to a statement by F1, ‘the 2022 season follows an unprecedented two years for Formula 1 in which the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a revised calendar of 17 races in 2020 and 22 races in 2021 – a huge achievement given the international nature of the sport’.
According to the Formula 1 website, ‘the season will begin in Bahrain on 20 March and finish in Abu Dhabi on 20 November, one month before Christmas – with Miami hosting the first of two races in the United States’. The Jeddah circuit in Saudi Arabia will host the second race of the season. Meanwhile, after the race was cancelled in 2020 and 2021, respectively, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the revised Albert Park circuit in Melbourne, Australia, will be back on the calendar in 2022. The Shanghai International circuit in China will not return to the calendar, having last held a race, which was F1’s 1000th race in April 2019.
The prestigious Imola circuit will replace it to hold the Emila Romagna grand prix in April next year. The Miami circuit is set to become the newest addition to the F1 calendar, which will hold a race in May. Following on from that, the Spanish and Monaco rounds retain their place on the F1 calendar, while the Montreal circuit in Canada makes a return after it last hosted a race in June 2019. The exhilarating Singapore and classic Suzuka circuit in Japan are also due to make an appearance in October next year after both were unable to hold a race in the last 2 seasons. Apart from these additions and returns to the calendar, the F1 calendar remains unchanged. However, a widespread consensus and debate have emerged about the excessive number of races that will appear on the F1 calendar in 2022.
According to Motorsport.com, four-time F1 world champion and Aston Martin driver, Sebastian Vettel, ‘we mustn’t neglect that we are a group of people and human beings travelling around the world’. These thoughts were shared by former team-mate and current McLaren driver, Daniel Ricciardo, who elaborated further by saying, ‘[we’re] away from families for long periods of time, especially the triple headers, so you need to kind of rely on your teammates to help you out if you’re a little a little down or missing home or whatever it is’. Thus, there is a broad consensus amongst the drivers about the imposed human cost that this approved F1 calendar will have on the 10 teams. However, these thoughts by the various drivers were not shared by the team principal of Alpha Tauri, Franz Tost. He said ‘I think we all should be happy that we are in a position to be in Formula 1 and to have 23 races. And if someone doesn’t like it then he should go home’.
In summary, the widespread thoughts of the F1 drivers and staff across all the different teams must be given further consideration. While fans around the world enjoy and long for more races to be added to the F1 calendar, there is a lack of discussion about the extra burden that will be imposed upon the staff that are either required to spend more time, travelling to races, overseas, or work extra and long hours at the respective factories of each F1 team. This may have consequences for the smaller teams, notably the Haas and Williams F1 teams, which have much lesser resources, compared to the elite and bigger manufacturers, such as Mercedes and Ferrari, who will be able to afford to have 50% of their staff, trackside, and 50% of their staff back at their respective factories of Brackley and Maranello. Crucially, it also means these staffs have less time to spend with their families and relaxation time to recharge their batteries, between races.
One cannot forget the environmental impacts of more races on the F1 calendar. Inevitably, more races will lead to the production of more carbon emissions, through more flights to get to these races, and the pollution created by the F1 engines. While F1 has been striving to become more carbon-efficient, it still has a long way to go to become a global motorsport leader, in being carbon neutral. Alternatively, F1 should be aiming to hold around 15 races and reduce its calendar, to save costs for the smaller teams and give staff, more respite between races. Indeed, what is extremely concerning about the 2022 F1 calendar, is the continuation of triple-header races, in the aftermath of the summer break. On the 28th of August, the Belgian Grand Prix will be held. In the subsequent week, the Italian Grand Prix in Monza will take place, while the Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort will be held. This continues a trend of these triple-header races that were held in the 2021 F1 seasons.
As suggested by veteran F1 racer, Sebastian Vettel, consecutive races should be held on similar continents in countries with close proximities to each other to offset the production of carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. If F1 wants to preserve the mental health of the staff across all the teams, and the future sustainability of the smaller independent teams, then it must make steps to reduce the excessive number of races that are on the calendar. It cannot continue a push for further races for the sake of further profit, above the needs of staff and drivers across the dynamic F1 paddock.