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Sport: Wolff’s next concept: Mandatory race crew rotation

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Following on from his suggestion of mandatory track time for junior drivers, Toto Wolff wants a ruling for the rotation of race crews.

a man wearing a uniform: Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in the Belgium paddock © PA Images Mercedes boss Toto Wolff in the Belgium paddock

As the Formula 1 calendar continues to grow, with 23 rounds expected for 2022, the impact this gruelling schedule could have on Formula 1 personnel has been frequently mentioned.

And Mercedes boss Wolff feels a way around that could be to force teams into changing their staff around for race weekends, perhaps giving opportunities to young employees to step up into the race team.

“I think we have the best man in charge to balance between income and workload in Stefano [Domenicali, F1 president],” Wolff told reporters.

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“On the other side, he has been running a team and he knows the strain on people and that strain is enormous, particularly on the mechanics that need to be there much earlier, take the garage down, not always travel as comfortably as all of us and that needs to be taken into consideration.

“We have a rotational scheme in there to take some of the pressure off, but I believe maybe we can come up with some innovative thinking and make rotation mandatory if it is within what we can afford.

“We have a lot of young engineers in every area that are not yet on the battlefield life because there is a senior there who is the best in the group. But maybe that’s an opportunity to actually put them in the hotseat and put a ceiling on the race attendance.

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“Maybe we do it at 20 races and there are three races where you need to bring someone else. Obviously the detail lies in the devil (sic). But similarly, what I’ve said before on young drivers, that could be an attempt to reduce the strain, particularly on the mechanics, all the people that work in logistics and the engineers.”

Daniel Ricciardo around the outside at the Dutch GP start. September 2021. © Provided by PlanetF1 Daniel Ricciardo around the outside at the Dutch GP start. September 2021.

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McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl fully supports Wolff’s idea, saying it was one that was brought up several years ago but did not gather enough backing.

If it was to be put back on the table McLaren would very much be in favour, while Seidl also returned to the idea of rotating certain races on and off the calendar to explore new markets, yet keep the number of races under control.

“First of all, the idea Toto mentioned I think we have brought up two years [ago] but unfortunately there was not enough support from the teams,” he said.

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“So hopefully with the calendar we have in place now, there is a chance to discuss again the topic because that’s something we could also definitely support from our side.

“In terms of race calendar, I think from our side, Zak [Brown] and myself have made clear what we think should happen moving forward.

“Regarding, let’s say, having the right balance between the commercial interests we all have and regarding the workload we can put on our people, we think a calendar moving forward which is focusing more on exclusivity and quality with around 20 races per year.

“And maybe have some races in there that rotate from year to year, so in order to be also available for new markets and so on would be the right balance.

“But as Toto said, I think with Stefano we have the right man in charge to work out the right balance there.

“I know personally also Stefano as a man of the people as well, from the past when I was dealing with him. He is in charge of a lot of people as well, so I hope he considers that and I am confident we will find the right balance in the future.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also spoke of a need to find the balance between Formula 1’s interests and the welfare of its people.

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“It’s a gruelling calendar. It’s like in any sport, the thirst and demand for Formula 1 is what it is and it’s always trying to measure that balance. I’m sure we could have 35 races if the promoter got his way,” said Horner.

“It’s finding that balance between not needing, effectively, two crews, that you can do it manageably with one crew to do an entire season.

“It’s gruelling, it’s demanding and particularly through these COVID times, with the calendar changing and triple-headers coming in and you look at the logistics of part of the tour later on with Brazil, Mexico and then to the Middle East, it’s tough. It really is tough.

“I think the way all of the teams have dealt with that has been phenomenal and we are certainly not getting people saying ‘I don’t want to be at a race’. It’s balancing that.

“If you look back 15 or 20 years at the amount of testing that used to take place in between events and the amount of time engineers, technicians and drivers would be sitting in a grand prix car between events, it’s significantly different now.

“But it’s always a matter of getting that ratio right and geographically getting that calendar with balance in it.”

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