OCTOBER 14, 2010
Two day Grand Prix meetings won't happen
Although last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix went off successfully despite a truncated track schedule after Saturday was washed out, it is unlikely that two-day GP meetings will receive enough support to be seriously considered as an alternative to the current F1 race timetable.
Last weekend was only the second time in F1 history that qualifying and race were held on the same day, the first also being in Japan six years ago when the Saturday schedule was wiped out by concern over an incoming typhoon.
Two-day meetings were discussed a few years ago as F1 addressed the issue of how to save money and accommodate more races. At that time, however, the thinking was based more around eliminating Friday and having practice on Saturday morning, qualifying on Saturday afternoon and race on Sunday.
Since then, however, F1 has banned in-season testing and teams believe that with the pace of technical development such as it is, the current schedule is already hectic enough. The prospect of reducing on-track activity to two days would place heavy demands on mechanics and technical personnel and would meet stern resistance. In some teams, such as Force India, Lotus and Virgin, one of the Friday sessions is also often given over to furthering young driver experience, which would not be possible within the constraints of reduced practice.
"Also," Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali said in Suzuka, "if you have an incident on Sunday morning in certain circumstances it becomes very difficult for you to be in a position to start the race."
Two-day meetings would also be resisted by circuit owners/promoters and all the commercial entities surrounding a Grand Prix, who obviously prefer to have an audience for three days rather than two. There would also be a corresponding reduction in the sport's media reach.
The teams are, however, keen to look into ways of better utilising race Fridays. One idea is to move scrutineering back and allow more track time than the existing three hours. That could impact on engine usage under the current regulations, especially with an extra race on next year's calendar. One solution would be to allow additional engines to be used by a third/test driver, which would ease both the current lack of opportunity for on-circuit parts testing and the difficult situation faced by rookie drivers, as well as giving Friday spectators more to watch.