Hello everyone, Spy here, reporting from the Nürburgring, or Imola, or Snetterton or wherever the heck it is we are this week. Every race track is different; every circuit has its own character but every pitlane and paddock* are the same.
We line up in the same order every week and one concrete apron is much the same as any other. You simply cannot imagine how many near-misses there are this week with people forgetting they’re in England, blatting around in the golf carts on the wrong side** of the service roads.
Of course, this week everyone would probably be falling asleep at the wheel anyway, so the odd frisson of danger is probably a good thing to get the adrenaline pumping. The triple-header is tough. Maybe not in terms of people keeling over – but things will be missed: a bit of finger trouble will creep in because people are tired; teams are running low on spares – particularly those that shipped a lot of damage in Austria – and compromises may have to be made; the medical centre will be dealing with the crushed fingers and sprained ankles that usually don’t become common place until the end-of-season flyaways. Basically, it’s a bit gruelling –but only a bit.
The media seems to want us to say it’s hell on wheels, but it’s not like we’re mining coal or digging ditches. Truth be told, the hours aren’t particularly unusual: while Spy’s never done three grands prix in three weeks, at this time of year it’s not unknown to go race-race-test-race-race.
Still, the paddock doesn’t like it. The paddock is unhappy. The paddock is giving senior FOM management the stink-eye. It’s not so much the triple-header itself as the potential for this to be the shape of things to come. Officially we’re being told the triple-header is a unique situation necessitated by the World Cup. Or rather, by the World Cup Final being in the wrong place. It’ll kick-off next Sunday at about the time the drivers would be making their first pitstop. Or at least arriving in the pitbox. Whether or not there was anyone there to put new tyres on would depend on who was playing in said Final.
But, is there an ulterior motive? It’s not exactly a secret that F1 is keen on expanding the calendar – but equally there’s been no hint of the mandatory minimum 14-week winter break being scrapped, or of the summer shutdown being shutdown.
As we’re unlikely to get more weeks in the year, that implies squeezing more races into the existing 36-week window. You could stuff 12 back-to-back sets into that – but nothing more. From the logistics point of view, 12 double-headers would be perfect – but the world isn’t perfect, and it isn’t likely to be possible to make that sort of schedule work when you’re also trying to leave a week free for Le Mans, ensure the Monaco Grand Prix hooks up with the Cannes Film Festival, avoid pairing Silverstone with the Wimbledon Final, keep Belgium and Germany separated by a summer break; avoid monsoon, typhoon, hurricane and plague-of-locusts seasons and absolutely don’t go to France in July or August.
Spy has an idea. We have a Hollywood theme tune for F1 now, so why not go one step further and acquire some Hollywood CGI? We could knock out a 20-race season in 10 days, by holding all the races at Ricard, two a day for ten days, with the track reconfigured each time to look like somewhere else. Paint in a convincing landscape, CGI a massive crowd and away we go. Job done in two weeks, feet-up for Spy, drinks with the little umbrellas all-around, watching the drama unfold over the next nine months from a sun lounger by the pool. Think MasterChef – but with better food and added overtaking.
Of course, if Liberty inexplicably ignore the bone Spy has just thrown them, and we’ve got to do it old-skool, then maybe the triple-header is the way it will go. Or maybe they’re just chucking it in to make us appreciate how easy double-headers are. Or maybe it is, y’know, just about the World Cup.
* except plumbing. There’s enormous variability in the plumbing. Not important to you, very important to Spy, especially here in the Magical Land of Chicken Madras.
** the wrong side is the right side. You can see why people find the UK puzzling.