By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Formula One is to stick with its three-day race format but with changes to the Friday schedule to cater for an expanding calendar, according to the sport’s managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn.
Schedule changes have been debated by teams and stakeholders as part of measures to improve the show and cut costs while reducing the burden on staff who face travelling to an unprecedented 22 races from 2020.
The sport has also talked of experimenting at three rounds next year with plans for sprint races to be held on the Saturday afternoon to decide Sunday’s starting grid instead of traditional qualifying.
Last Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix added to the discussion with qualifying delayed to Sunday morning due to Typhoon Hagibis.
“It was a Super Sunday in Suzuka and that naturally reopened the debate about the shape of an F1 weekend,” Brawn said in a Formula One review.
“This is an aspect of the sport we have focused on in some detail as we work towards the rules that will govern Formula One over the coming years.
“I’ll be honest and say that there has been strong consensus, especially among the organisers, for maintaining the three-day format of track activity, although with a different timetable.”
Brawn said Sunday had offered a great show packed into a few hours but that had a knock-on effect on the support series, which would be limited to the previous days.
Promoters are also keen to retain a format that allows them to sell more tickets.
“After careful analysis we have concluded that the best solution is to keep the event over three days, revising the Friday format but leaving the rest untouched, with qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday,” said Brawn.
The former Ferrari technical director and ex-Mercedes team boss said Formula One had taken into consideration the increased demands on teams and drivers so that they could arrive a day later than at present.
Thursday has traditionally been the media day, with no track running but drivers attending news conferences and available for briefings with reporters while mechanics prepare the cars for Friday practice.
This year has 21 races around the world, with Vietnam the latest all-new entrant due to debut in 2021 and additional races waiting in the pipeline.
Brawn said more details about the weekend format would emerge at the end of the month, when the new regulations are due to be published.
The 10 Formula One teams, governing body and commercial rights holders Liberty Media are meeting in Paris on Wednesday to try and agree a package of rule changes from 2021.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)