Formula One staff risk burnout as the sport presses ahead with it’s brutal calendar.
SunSport has been contacted by team personnel desperate to express their concerns at the gruelling schedule.
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F1 has lined up a total of 10 races in 13 weeks — with staff working 16-hour days, and that’s before you factor in travelling.
One senior team insider told us how lives could be put at risk given the hours staff are being forced to work as the sport mounted it’s comeback.
An experienced mechanic says they are considering quitting after growing disgruntled by, not only the workload, but by the double standards within the teams.
The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I’m the closest I’ve been to walking away. I feel like I’m part of an experiment.
“I’m about done with it. Missing my family and playing by the rules when the drivers and management go off home every week.
“Yet I have to obey rules and stay in my bubble … Apparently wealth and status means you’re immune.”
Teams have raised concerns over the gruelling schedule.Source:Getty Images
ONE RULE FOR THEM
While F1 drivers and team bosses have been going back home in between the opening three races, other staff have remained on the road and kept in isolation due to the coronavirus.
The sport achieved a successful restart after the opening race of the season, the Australian GP, was cancelled back in March.
The two races at the Red Bull Ring were exciting and there were no positive cases of COVID-19, as staff obeyed strict lockdown protocols.
But while teams have been in containment away from their families, racing drivers have been openly heading back home, most notably Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas.
The situation is now even worse in Budapest for this weekend’s Hungarian GP, where UK residents risk prison for being out of their hotel rooms or either at the racetrack.
It means that as soon as the F1 curfew is imposed at 1am, staff will be forced back to their hotels before the track is reopened at 9am, leaving them with six hours sleep.
F1 attempted its first triple header in 2018 when races were held in France, Austria and Silverstone.
The men behind the scenes are living off different rules.Source:Getty Images
Back then, Otmar Szafnauer, who is now team boss of Racing Point, admitted the hectic schedule of those three consecutive races had affected his team.
At the time, Szafnauer said: “It’s the first one we’ve ever had and it’s a bit tiring to go from one to the other to the other.
“I can see it in the mechanics and the service personnel, they’re pretty much exhausted. I didn’t anticipate it would be this bad.
“People told me beforehand that it was going to be very difficult but I just thought, ‘Yeah, sure’. But it really is.
“I think the people making the calendar have taken that into consideration for next year and we won’t see a triple header.”
While there were no triple headers in 2019, F1 has opted for them to get this season up and running before planning to do up to 18 races.
And there could be a further blow to already weary team members as there is a feeling that F1 is set to announce more races in consecutive weeks at Portimao, Imola and Hockenheim.
Another worried team member told me: “They won’t do anything about the curfew until someone crashes and dies.
“Extending the curfew back one and a half hours, just costs everyone sleep. It is the same about driving when tired.”
SunSport quizzed F1 drivers about the impact on their team members with Lewis Hamilton admitting it could get “strenuous” while highlighting their reluctance to speak out.
Hamilton says everyone is pushing through during this weird season.Source:Getty Images
“It’s an interesting subject to talk on. At the moment, being that there’s been no racing for so long, I think diving straight in and having these three races, so far, everyone’s upbeat, everyone’s excited,” Hamilton said.
“But it is odd that in-between the races, not being able to get back home. At the moment, it’s not an issue as far as I’m aware.
“But I can see it being strenuous in the following three back-to-back races that we get to have.
“The men and women within the team, they generally keep their feelings to themselves and they channel that into their work. That’s what we do.
“You don’t normally hear anyone really complaining. But we just have to manage it. It’s just this year I would say that it’s going to happen. Fingers crossed hopefully.”
‘THE REAL HEROES’
McLaren’s British racer, Lando Norris also singled out the mechanics and engineers for praise, saying they were real heroes.
While Norris also admitted they would be feeling the strain of such a hectic work schedule.
“From my side, I am fine and feeling as excited and energised as I need to be. But by the end of it, it would be nice to have a break,” Norris said.
“I have been away for three weeks but it is harder for mechanics and engineers than the drivers, in terms of the hours they spend at the racetrack.
“They have to be here at stupid o’clock working on the cars already and they work to stupid o’clock in the evening getting everything ready for the following day.
Red Bull pit crew work on Alex Albon’s car.Source:Getty Images
“Then on Sunday they have to take everything down and get the car ready to take to the next event.
“So they are the guys who deserve the more respect in terms of the hours they work.
“They have a trainer who looks after them physically but no matter who you are, three weeks in a row travelling and working until late, it will take a toll on your body, no matter what, so they are the real heroes.”
F1 has used the blocks of races to help build up a schedule. With several teams facing crippling finances due to the lack of running during the coronavirus, getting the sport up and running has been of most importance.
But the workers are now feeling the strain.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.
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