New calendar poses problems

Formula 1 teams were waking up this morning to the reality of a nightmare few weeks of planning to get on top of the record-breaking 19-race 2005 calendar - with concerns already surfacing about staffing levels and testing programmes

New calendar poses problems

Although the actual number of races has not created much surprise down the pit-lane, it is the fact that there will be no less than six back-to-back events next year, with nine flyaway races, that is posing troubles.

This first of all means that mechanics will be away from home much longer than if the races were separated by two weeks - increasing the pressures on their family life.

McLaren technical director Adrian Newey said: "Some of our guys are already saying, 'where does this leave us?' People have got wives and children. If you look at the calendar, it's more than just [a matter] of the extra race.

"Quite a few of them are back-to-back and for the mechanics that means weeks away from home."

One possible solution is for teams to start employing two sets of staff to provide cover at alternate races - a system that works well in the ultra-packed NASCAR schedule. Such an option would be very expensive, however, and perhaps be out of the price range of some of the sport's smaller teams that are struggling for survival.

The other major difficulties caused by so many back-to-back events is that it compromises each team's ability to plan its testing programme. The run of four back-to-backs in the early summer, followed by the summer testing ban, leaves teams with no choice on when to run - and the dilemma now is how not to lose out in the race for development.

Williams technical director Sam Michael said: "We can handle 19 races, but we are trying to find out whether there are enough test sessions that we can squeeze in. We are trying to work out whether to do two days at each test or three."

The problem of sorting out the testing schedule is further compounded by the added difficulties teams have experienced in early winter testing caused by new regulations that force the need for long-run evaluations.

With engines having to last for two race weekends, and tyres for qualifying and an entire race distance, most meaningful testing now needs to take place over very long runs - something that teams have found nearly impossible to do thanks to mixed weather conditions and the invariable red flags that mar multi-car tests.

One leading team engineer told autosport.com: "We can no longer just do quick check runs - whatever we do now has be done over a long distance.

"With lots of red flags out there we need so much more time to continue and check everything, and it has been really hard in these tests to get everything done. It is factor we will have to take into account when we plan our 2005 testing."

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