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Yay! As Formula 1 fans, we may get less F1 for the same or more money next year. If teams get their way, and AUTOSPORT seems to think there they will, F1 could change their Friday practice schedule from two 90-minute sessions to just one 90-minute session late in the afternoon…say, around 5pm.

F1’s quest for austerity—even though Formula One Management says things couldn’t be better—seems to have taken root at the fans expense. The series has had three practice session for time immemorial starting on Friday with two 90-minute session but teams reckon they can delay their arrival by a day and save money in hotel expenses and the like if the cancel FP1 on Friday and just engage in the FP2 session at a later time.

It remains to be seen what the race promoters will say about this proposed change but I can imagine that less running and reducing the F1 package by 90 minutes means ticket sales for Friday would suffer. If I were a race promoter, I believe I’d ask for a prorated refund for the reduction of the entire race package.

Given the lack of compelling support racing at many venues, would you be inclined to give Friday a miss if it were only one 90-minute session? Teams reckon fans will like this better as they won’t have to miss a full day of work or school…uh, ok. I guess that’s fine for locals but most folks travel a far distance to go to the race an it’s not like the circuits are just on the north side of our local town that we can drive over to in the evening. Let’s be honest, most fans will simply delay their trip by a day as well meaning less hotel revenue and track-side revenue. Hello? Is this thing on?  Testing, testing. What world are these folks living in?

Here’s the deal—frankly speaking—the series may need to cut costs but you’re doing it at the expense of fans and not the teams and their silly 2014 engine regulations which have put the series into a financial spiral of doom. Let’s be honest, cutting costs by firing employees, eliminating Friday practice sessions and other nonsense is really masking the elephant in the room.

You decided that a hybrid power unit would be great and spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the development and discovered, much like the LEED certified construction design industry, it’s damned expensive and out of the budget for many. Who suffers? The fans.

So in order to find ways to cut costs, you actually would like to run the cars less. Color me reactionary but I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here—you’re actually saying that in order to cut costs, you’ll just cancel FP1? Hell, why not just stop qualifying too and show up on Sunday morning, have a 30-minute test session, grid the cars up in the order they finished the last race, then run for an hour and a half and go home. We could compact the whole session into one day.

Good grief! Is this pragmatism run amok? I would much rather have them use last year’s V8 engine (a much less expensive engine option) and run more over the weekend than use this $500 million dollar debacle of a lump—the amount spent developing the new power unit—and chop 90 minutes off my F1 race weekend.

Would ticket prices for Friday be cheaper? Would you stomach the biomass on Friday to go see the cars for 90 minutes late in the afternoon? The wonder of Friday is that the race promoters made a full day of it with two F1 practices and some support sessions in between. It’s a fun day at the track but now it’s just a big slap in the face. I can’t tell you how infuriating this concept is as a fan. Cutting costs so fans see less F1 while they nurse the elephant in the room over pride of running hybrid power units that the series clearly can’t afford. Thank you, F1…please continue your efforts of discovering ways to punish your fans for your missteps in regulatory management and proper cost analysis.

Force India and Sauber aren’t too keen on the idea and say that the track time is critical for them as a revenue generator by bringing in young drivers with cash to drive on Friday. They also feel they lack the resources to simulate like the big teams do and track time is needed to vet the car and changes made or upgrades developed.

If you think I am off track in my philippic about the power unit being the reason, then read Mercedes team boss Paddy Lowe’s reasoning to justify the removal of FP1:

“I think the rationale is to reduce the workload on the cars significantly through the weekend and also to reduce the consumption of parts, particularly power units, which is one of the major costs for all the teams, but that’s a particular burden for the smaller teams.”

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • JasonI

    Did Bernie due and leave Tony George in charge?

    • I am not completely convinced this has much to do with Mr. E to be honest. I think it is the strategy group with teams and FIA. Bernie may have listened but I suspect he’ll have issues with the race promoters that will give reason for pause.

  • JasonI

    Die

  • JasonI

    I said at the beginning of this season that teams might skip practice to save engine usage, but I thought I was kidding.

    • You were prophetic. :)

      • Maybe they’ll compress practice to Saturday morning with quali at 5p and eliminate Friday altogether.

  • Maybe if they made a two hour session, late Friday that would make sense. Kind of a middle ground since most teams don’t run a full program in P1 anyway, they still get some good running and still save on hotels and such.

  • The Captain

    And if you really want to look at how the new engine regs are hurting the sport, compound in the fact that the Merc dominance is mostly due to the new engine they developed. Good on them… but booo that the other manufactures can’t catch up by rule. So the new engine regs are so expensive that they are bankrupting the teams and now they want to cut back on track time hurting the fans… and the rules against engine development means the merc cars have a long term baked in advantage.. hurting the fans.

    None of this had to happen either. And could have made for a great element that’s missing. I just don’t get why the FIA didn’t have the balls to tell the manufactures that wanted this engine that they could develop one and run it… but the V8 would still be allowed too. There, bam, all problems fixed. If Merc, Honda or Renualt wanted to be “road relevant” they had the option to do it themselves, and the incentive to make it better than the V8 (you know…advance the tech and performance) while the small teams could keep running a tech they know and is cheaper. So the rich Merc team can spend tons of money on the v6 Turbo and develop it as they see fit, and Chateram could run the V8 that cost them little.

    TLDR: Had they just simply opened up the engine regs none of this would have happened!

    • JasonI

      It really seems like the people making these decisions (DRS, KERS, engine regs, tire regs) don’t actually know much about cars, and racing cars specifically.

      • Tom Firth

        Not interested in cars, interested in what works best for the bank, given they own it. Screw us, where just a means to an end, A catalyst to make more £££££.

        That’s what it seems like anyway.

        • Tom Firth

          Ok it’s not that simple but I’m so annoyed and frustrated at the direction the sport I absolutely love is going in. It’s just ridiculous, F1 mostly with recent decisions but most the rest of it too. It’s ludicrous.

      • Tom Firth

        The people at the track, the engineers, the drivers, the fans etc are the ones interested in the cars.

  • JasonI

    They should take Grace’s suggestion and just race at Spa every weekend. Problem solved.

    Next.

  • PM

    I hate the new strategy group. They make selfish decisions that dont have regard for the true hardcore fan. I would like to see a representative for fans as a part of the group. Maybe even a fan vote option?

  • rapierman

    I seem to recall this movie, “The Secret of My Success”, where Michael J. Fox played this farm boy with an MBA wanting to get ahead in life yet stuck in the lower rungs, so he pretends to be an exec to get a taste of doing the job. A side arc was the character battling to keep a company afloat, suggesting that money be poured into a war chest while the CEO was running the company into the ground and thought he could save it by selling off pieces to keep it from a hostile takeover.

    The reason I say this? I feel that the FIA, Bernie and/or big F1 teams are represented by that CEO and the smaller teams, drivers of those teams and/or those team owners are assuming the role that Fox had.

    I know how that movie ended. I may have to hope for that particular ending for Formula 1.

  • At 5pm? On some tracks, that will be dusk… No valid tire temp data. I think a better idea is a fixed program of testing for all teams Friday afternoon with no time limit…. Long run, short run, high fuel, low fuel, upgrade testing, etc. Then use the Saturday timed session to tweak the car for a quali session. I know they are trying to get it condensed into TV time, but most of the broadcasters are streaming the FP1 and FP3 sessions anyway….

  • charlie w

    When I heard this, the first thing I thought about were race promoters. Again, this suggestion only proves that the participants are not serious about cost cutting. It will take the demise of a present team before the crisis hits home to them.

  • Dangough

    Friday at a Grand Prix for me has always been about 2 things:

    – Walking round the circuit checking out viewpoints I don’t normally see, or finding the best place to watch (If I havn’t been there before)
    – Taking pictures of the cars with my proper camera (before locking it away somewhere as its too bulky for the rest of the weekend

    Doing this stuff on Friday helps to make Saturday usually the most fun day of the weekend.

    Removing a session from Friday would certainly make me think twice about turning up, or at least turning up late, and would therefore have an impact on my saturday experience too!

    I’m usually more sanguine about some of the issues discussed on this site (Noise, tyres, DRS, etc.). They come and go. But someone trying to offer the fan LESS of what they pay to see in the name of cost cutting really winds me up!! Friday has been a problem for a while since pre-qualifying disappeared but the solution is to find more stuff to make Friday relevant, not to just cut friday adrift!!