Formula 1

F1 staff will find remote working "phenomenally difficult"

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F1 staff will find remote working "phenomenally difficult"
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Co-author: Alex Kalinauckas

Formula 1 bosses and engineers will find it ‘phenomenally difficult’ to do their job remotely in the future, says senior Williams figure Dave Robson.

The rapid expansion of the F1 calendar, which has scheduled 23 grands prix next year with plans for that figure to increase to 24 in the longer term, has prompted questions about the strains being put on staff who attend all the races.

Team bosses Toto Wolff and Mattia Binotto have already made it clear that they want to try to skip races from next season, and senior engineering staff are also considering if they should take on a less taxing schedule.

However, Williams’ head of vehicle performance Robson believes that while technology does make it possible to work remotely from factories over grand prix weekends, there are some things that are missed by not being present at tracks.

Robson missed the recent Turkish Grand Prix and felt that there were some unexpected complications that came in not being a part of the garage team.

“I can do everything remotely, I am all geared up [at the factory] but it is phenomenally difficult,” he said. “You realise how much of the nuance and how many conversations you miss, and how difficult it is to tie things together.

"It is not easy - especially when the conditions are like they [were in Turkey]. If it had been a straightforward and dry weekend, I think it would have been a lot easier, partly because I wouldn’t have felt the need to get involved, and partly because I think it would have been easier with fewer unusual things to worry about.”

Mercedes chief Wolff said that the growing number of races would prompt teams to make plans for more staff rotation, amid the risk of burnout from forcing people to work so many weekends.

"You must not forget that the hardest working people are the ones that set up the garages and take them down and the mechanics that will have overnighters if something goes wrong," he said.

"You need to question how long that is sustainable and whether you implement a different system by having a second crew that can take over these toughest roles. This is something we are looking at at the moment."

The calendar expansion is encouraging more staff to work from factories rather than constantly travel, but F1 has been considering a ban on the ‘remote garages’ that teams have set up at the factories for those who don't want to travel.

While these bases have proved invaluable in recent years, as they run strategy and engineering options throughout grand prix weekends, Robson thinks teams would be able to operate perfectly fine without them if they had to.

“It is possible to live without them,” he said. “If you go back far enough in time, they wouldn’t have existed and the team on the ground can do a perfectly good job of keeping the car safe and legal, which are the two most important things.

“So you could manage without it so as long as everyone was following the same rules as they were then. It could be done, whether overall it would be better I don’t know."

An engineer at work in the garage

An engineer at work in the garage

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

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Series Formula 1
Author Jonathan Noble