In Formula One, The Schedule — Not The Staff — Is The Problem

The series' ever-expanding calendar means more time on the road for crew members — and more criticism from men like Franz Tost.

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Image for article titled In Formula One, The Schedule — Not The Staff — Is The Problem
Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)

At the close of last week, AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost waved away all criticism of Formula One’s busy 2022 schedule with one very pointed — and gendered — statement: “If someone doesn’t like it, then he should go.”

Tost’s flippant critique, as reported by Autosport, comes in the wake of growing questions about F1's 23-race 2022 schedule, which will break all previous records regarding season duration while also keeping race teams on the road for more days and weeks of the year during several stretches of two to three races in a row.

Tost told Autosport that he was proud of F1 series personnel, saying, “It’s fantastic, a good job from FOM, and I am looking forward to it.”

Advertisement

But then he dove in to attempt to debunk the growing criticism surrounding the extended schedule.

“Regarding the people at the track. First of all, we are a race team. They all should be happy that we have as many races as possible and, of course, we take care of the people,” Tost said. “For example the mechanics after a race weekend they have three days, four days off where they can stay at home.

Advertisement

“And also, press, marketing, all the people which are at the race track have some free days after the race weekend.

“For engineers it’s a little bit more difficult but also, if I remember back in former times, they had to go after a race weekend to tests which means that they also had to work there.”

Advertisement

He summed it up quite succinctly, with no attempt at sugar-coating his words: “I think we all should be happy that we are in a position to be in Formula 1 and to have 23 races. And if someone doesn’t like it, then he should go.”

Since the 2022 schedule was announced, race team members have taken to Twitter to highlight the unspoken extra work they’d be doing away from home.

Advertisement

One feeder series crew member noted that, during a 16-day streak of travel, “our average working hours was 14h30 per day. 16 consecutive days working 14h30. And that’s a doubleheader.”

During a Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ post, a Renault crew member shared his working schedule: “We do around 12 hours on a Wednesday and Thursday, 16 hours on a Friday, 12 on a Saturday and Sunday... It is a tough job. We do long hours, with short rest periods. We are away from home often and the different time zones, take a toll on you at some point.”

Advertisement

A sensational BBC story, too, reported on the worst of life in F1. Divorce is commonplace among crew members, as is the ever-present danger that you could be injured at any time.

Tost, and many other folks on Twitter, have argued that F1 staff should simply be thankful to be working in the series — but even having a very cool job doesn’t negate the physical, mental, and emotional toll taken by long hours, little sleep, and a constantly changing environment. With sleep deprivation and excess physical exertion comes brain fog, emotional instability, accidents, and a weakened immune system, among other health risks. Long working hours have been linked to hypertension, diabetes, and a “metabolic syndrome and is closely linked to ischemic heart disease, stroke, and increased mortality.” Business travel, too, has been linked to chronic disease, and traveling employees are more likely to suffer from those chronic diseases than their non-traveling peers, even after adjusting data to account for preexisting conditions. And these things don’t even take into account the impact a crew member’s mental and physical state can have on their loved ones.

Advertisement

No amount of pride in your work can combat these very real side effects of a more intense work schedule. Having your dream job doesn’t make you immune to overwork.

Further, Tost’s use of the pronoun “he” has been criticized by many of the people in the paddock who don’t identify as male. One study of women in the medical field found that women in traditionally male-dominated industries face work-related burnout in different ways than their male coworkers, which include reconciling one’s career with one’s childbearing years, salary equality, a lack of role models or mentors, a lower number of promotions, biases, and an increase in sexual harassment. Women already tend to feel devalued compared to their male coworkers; Tost’s choice of words doesn’t help that.

Advertisement

To put it simply, a higher number of races can be a good thing for F1 and its commercial interests, but there needs to be a better balance between commercial success and the very human element that helps power F1 week after week. The problem is not the staff’s inability to accommodate more overwork; it’s the problem of the series schedule for pushing staff past its limits.