LONDON – Formula One’s grands prix will be cut to three days starting in 2022 with teams expected to move from their current Sunday afternoon start time to late Sunday evening or early Monday morning, the sport’s CEO Chase Carey said Wednesday.
Carey said teams would most likely be at day two of the races, while cars would drive back to the pits by night. The sport’s other four races – in Mexico City, Toronto, America and Abu Dhabi – would not be affected by the format change.
Carey’s comment follows The Guardian report that the team bosses will not want to alter the current Sunday afternoon start time of 6 p.m. PDT unless F1 promises to do away with the slow pace of the day on pace the team-driving push out on track. In some races, teams spend several hours in the pits before the start of the race – five hours at the Monza track – to change tires and put their cars back in the cockpit.
“All teams support a three-day format because they know at that time we get to monetize the sport more,” Carey said on a press conference before the Monaco Grand Prix.
The current formula called “early Sunday evening” allows teams to race their cars to within 5 percent of time-qualifying speed, the Force India team pointed out. “Another example of this is Abu Dhabi, where 3.7 percent of the time the field is on track, instead of even at half that time,” the team said in a statement.
Carey addressed at least some of the risks that some drivers are wary of, hinting at likely quality of tire at the three-day format.
“Going to day two we can make tire management a lot better because the data you are getting every part of the day is much more accurate,” Carey said.
Pirelli is expected to limit the supply of tires at night-starting races because they are unlikely to last as long as day-starting races. An artificial-intelligence system in the F1 car will manage the supply of tire.
“But then the conversation starts about how to distribute it in the team,” Carey said. “If your teammate needs tires and your teammate doesn’t, and you have another guy who likes to compete and who has finished ahead of him over a few years, where does the distribution of tires go? Is it allocated in the same way? We don’t know yet.”
The three-day format would mean fewer points for drivers who fail to finish, and reduce the number of grands prix and championships that can be won, Carey said. “It’s a win-win,” he said.
More detailed analysis of the changes at the end of the year will determine whether they’re “desirable” or “appropriate” for the sport, Carey said. The question is whether fans are willing to get used to the new format, as Carey believes that is now the case.
“I don’t think the F1 fans that were there at the end of the last season would have said that anything we did was wrong,” Carey said. “When it was time to make a decision about them, they voted for what was the best way to move forward. That’s how we’re proceeding now.”
Carey said he believes that “eventually they will adjust and they’ll love it.”
Over the last three seasons, F1’s average first-place finishes have declined: 503 in 2015, 488 in 2016 and only 443 this year. The formula for the 2019 season did not include Renault as an entrant.
“We have understood the position of all teams,” Carey said. “We understand very well their feelings about it and we are totally committed to this and we will make this work.”