Arduous F1 schedule takes toll on driver health

Mon, 27 November 2023, 10:00

Nov.27 (GMM) Formula 1’s travelling schedule has become so arduous that an epidemic of illness marred the end of the long 2023 season.

“I sincerely hope that subscriptions to Lemsip are not within the budget cap,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner joked at the Abu Dhabi finale.

“It’s been a pretty brutal regime.”

That regime involved 22 races, including five in the last six weekends alone including the 12-hour timezone shift between Las Vegas and the Middle East within mere days.

“A little bit of flu,” admitted Valtteri Bottas when a reporter for Viaplay asked if he detected a frog in the Finnish driver’s throat.

Esteban Ocon was bed-ridden for much of the entire last race weekend of the season, although he managed to tough it out in the cockpit throughout.

“Usually you get sick when you come back from here,” said the Frenchman. “But we did one or two more races than last year and the body is not physically designed for that.”

Mercedes’ George Russell, also a representative of F1’s driver union the GPDA, admitted that his race to the podium on Sunday was particularly difficult.

“I was coughing every single lap,” said the Briton. “But when you’re strapped into the car, you can’t breathe. You can’t take a deep breath in to get the cough out.

“It was pretty miserable.”

Russell continued: “But it’s everybody, up and down the paddock. I’ve got so many mechanics who are ill, people in the engineers’ office, just really struggling with the constant time zone shifts.

“The body doesn’t know where you are, eating at different times, staying in different hotels, different environments, different climates. The body’s getting confused.

“I think there are talks for next year about personnel being regulated that they can’t do every single race.”

The calendar for next year swells to a totally unprecedented 24 grands prix, including many of the same timezone leaps – with schedule tweaks unlikely at such a late stage.

However, the teams and drivers appear to be on the same page about the need to lobby for changes beyond that – for the wellbeing of the sport’s 4000-strong travelling circus.

Aston Martin team boss Mike Krack agreed: “The way it has been discussed already up and down the pitlane, I think there will be some adjustments for the future.”

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