Timberlake concert prompts US GP schedule change

Formula 1 has made an unprecedented change to the qualifying timetable for the United States Grand Prix due to a Justin Timberlake concert.

Timberlake concert prompts US GP schedule change
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Teams have been left frustrated after the Saturday schedule for the Austin event was changed to encourage more people to stay at the venue for the evening's concert.

The FP3 session will run as normal, from 11:00 to 12:00. However, the usual two-hour gap before qualifying has been extended to four hours, with the session now running from 16:00 to 17:00.

The FIA was asked to change the schedule by new bosses in an attempt to make more people stay for that night's concert – although equally it could encourage music fans who were only planning to attend the show to come early and see the F1 cars in action for the first time.

The change was discussed in Thursday's team managers' meeting in Baku.

Teams are frustrated because the change will disrupt a routine that has hitherto been set in stone.

It extends the working day of crew members, ensuring that they will finish two hours later than normal, but without the benefit of a late start that comes with night race schedules and so on.

Saturday is the one evening when mechanics do get some time off, as the cars go into parc ferme.

There's also a concern that better resourced teams will take advantage of the longer gap by planning changes of parts that they wouldn't normally be able to do in the two-hour gap.

However, the bigger picture is that teams are concerned that the change sets a precedent, and that there may be further requests from F1 in the future for similar reasons, and which might have a bigger impact on their workloads.

The change also impacts TV schedules, with qualifying now starting at 21:00 GMT.

Fan boost

Austin chiefs had been pushing for such a change to the schedule for several years, as they believed attracting music fans to watch F1 action could help lift interest in the racing.

Bobby Epstein, COTA's CEO and founder, said: "To be clear, Justin Timberlake nor any element of his concert performance prompted the change of time for qualifying sessions.

"The request to hold qualifying two hours later in the day was made by us to allow for a closer connection in the overall programming and provide a unique opportunity for music fans to experience and share in the excitement and drama of Formula 1 racing. All three day tickets to race weekend include access to the two major concerts planned."

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