NOVEMBER 21, 2023

Exhausted F1 travellers delirious for Abu Dhabi finale

As the dust settles after F1's new Las Vegas centrepiece, plenty of discontent is brewing over the burden being placed on the human beings who make up the travelling circus.

Daniel Ricciardo, Las Vegas GP 2023
© Red Bull

Several photos, for instance, have emerged depicting the driving stars of the sport yawning their way through the race weekend - due to the timing schedule that resolved around a Las Vegas boxing match-style 10pm Saturday race time.

But the manhole cover delay on Thursday meant that drivers were still revving down the 'Strip' at an ungodly 4am - mere days before a wholesale timezone leap to Abu Dhabi for the season finale this weekend.

It was definitely doubtful, admitted Alpha Tauri driver Daniel Ricciardo when asked about the timing schedule.

"If it's an option, they should move the whole thing forward for everyone's health and safety. It would be better for everything - including giving everyone a bit more juice in their tanks.

It did feel like we were all a little delirious, the Australian admitted.

One of Ricciardo's bosses, Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko, sides with the concerns.

Many of our people fly to Abu Dhabi via Europe. Or to Dubai? No, it's Abu Dhabi. I'm already confused, he laughed to Servus TV.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he was flying back to Europe immediately after the Las Vegas chequered flag to be home with his wife and child for a day before making it to Abu Dhabi in time for Thursday's proceedings.

I think all of our minds are on the moon somewhere, he smiled.

F1's race calendar has swollen to 23 grands prix this year and 24 in 2024 - with the end of the season particularly cluttered with double and triple-header race weekends taking place over long distances and vastly different time zones.

There is a 12-hour time difference in Abu Dhabi, and you have to get rid of the jet lag and be completely sharp again, Marko said.

He says that's actually the reason why Red Bull decided to schedule for both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez to give up their cockpits to rookie drivers in initial practice in Abu Dhabi - for a well-timed rest.

We were aware of the timezone issue so that's why we're doing it with both cars on Friday, said the Austrian.

One is Isack Hadjar, and the other is the Formula E champion, Marko added, apparently forgetting Jake Dennis' name.

"He is not a junior driver, but he spends most of his time in our simulator. Now he gets a better feeling between the simulator and reality.

The regular drivers will therefore lose some practice time, but we thought it was the best approach.

As for the hectic calendar and the Las Vegas-Abu Dhabi timezone clash right at the end of a long season, former F1 driver Christijan Albers thinks the FIA needs to up its game.

The big problem is that the FIA is not growing with the organisation, he told De Telegraaf.

Money should be going into getting better people, and they're missing that at the moment. I really think they have really failed in the last few years on that.

Verstappen was in a conspicuously foul and critical mood over the Las Vegas GP over a range of gripes, but Grand Prix Drivers' Association director George Russell thinks the biggest challenge by far was the timing schedule.

As far as the jet lag is concerned, it was the toughest race of the season, said the Mercedes driver. And now there's Abu Dhabi. There are 4,000 people who now need to make that trip.