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2016 Formula 1 calendar change cancelled Christmas for McLaren

As the new season comes closer, behind the scenes stories emerge of the pressure the teams have been under to get ready and McLaren has revealed th...

2016 Formula 1 calendar change cancelled Christmas for McLaren

As the new season comes closer, behind the scenes stories emerge of the pressure the teams have been under to get ready and McLaren has revealed that the alterations to the 2016 Formula 1 calendar meant its staff had to work over the Christmas break to make sure its new car would be ready for the first winter test.

The Australian Grand Prix was set to take place on 3 April in the original draft of the 2016 F1 calendar, but the revised schedule pushed the race forward to 20 March and also moved the first test at Barcelona to 22 February.

McLaren Racing’s operations director, Simon Roberts, explained on the team’s official website that it was forced to alter its build plans over Christmas to pass the FIA’s mandatory crash tests to make the first test of 2016 in time.

McLaren build

He said: “Our entire build programme wasn’t lined up for that. So we knew we had a problem to solve. In terms of our design and engineering capacity, it’s a relatively straightforward re-planning exercise – there’s less time to get the work done, so everyone works a bit harder.

“But the build schedule is on a critical path – it needs to pass all the FIA safety tests and be ready for the first test, which was also brought forward. In that situation, you can’t just re-plan, you need to do something different.”

McLaren implemented a shift pattern that had 110 personnel working over the Christmas break, but Roberts insisted that this decision meant the team was back on track with it original schedule for 2016.

McLaren build

He said: “In simple terms, we put about eight shifts of work back into the programme over a five-day period – a fantastic effort. In total, there were about 110 people involved and we looked after our Christmas workers with a competitive package.

“We had a really good response, and people seemed to enjoy it too – it was a bit weird, not having all the time off, but there was a good spirit in the place. Everyone knew why they were doing it, and it really cleared the decks.

“Most pleasingly, it meant that, once we came back in the New Year, we were back on schedule – and it felt like the programme had always been phased that way. It was an incredible effort.”

JAonF1 technical advisor, Dominic Harlow, explained that any delays in building a new car, as Ferrari’s Sergio Marchionne stated had occurred to the Scuderia’s 2016 preparations, could have damaging knock-on effects for teams throughout the early season.

He said: “Things that can sometimes happen [if a delay occurs] is that you then end up with a slightly less evolved car at the first race and then a more developed car when you get back to Europe after the flyaways, with a potentially bigger update package for Barcelona.”

Marcus Ericsson

Sauber is another team that was caught out by the alterations to the 2016 calendar and the Swiss squad will not bring its new car to the first winter test as a result. The team will take part in the session with an updated version of its 2015 machine that will feature the livery Sauber will run this season.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix and Le Mans clash

The changes to the 2016 F1 calendar also ended Nico Hulkenberg’s hopes of defending his Le Mans 24 Hours crown with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship, as the date for the inaugural Azerbaijan Grand Prix was moved to clash with famous endurance race in 2016.

The German driver admitted that while he was disappointed with the move, driving in F1 for Force India was his primary concern. After the calendar was changed, Porsche has since decided not to field the third entry that Hulkenberg drove at Le Mans in 2015 as part of a cost saving measure being implement by its parent company, Volkswagen.

Hulkenberg said: “It is disappointing for sure, but I have always said that Formula One is my first priority. This is where I’ll keep attacking.”

WEC Porsche Le Mans

What do you make of the effect calendar changes have on F1 teams? Should the FIA set the schedule in stone earlier? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or have your say on the JAonF1 Facebook page.
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