Once upon a time, August was a hot month for motor sport…
Until a few years ago, the F1 calendar didn’t feature a mid-season break. It was quite common for the Hungarian Grand Prix to take place over the weekend known in Italy as “Ferragosto”, the nearest to 15th August. And for us Italians, “Ferragosto” can only mean holiday time.
Nevertheless, in 1998 for example, we put thoughts of the beach far behind us as we tackled qualifying in Budapest on 15 August and a day later, Schumacher and Ferrari went on to take one of the great Grand Prix wins – pictured above.
Those were the days. An F1 team is part of a company and, as such, it has an obligation to allow its staff a rest period. From 2009, this break has been regulated, first of all by an agreement between the teams, who were then gathered under the umbrella of the Formula One Teams Association, which required that one comply with a moral obligation to stick to the rule.
Then, in 2014, this agreement became part of the Sporting Regulations (Art.21.9.) It defined the minimum shutdown period as 14 days in the event that the gap between two consecutive races on the calendar be 24 days, as is the case this year between Hungary and Belgium, or 13 days, if the gap is only 17 days.
So what happens, or more correctly, what doesn’t happen in this break? The drivers make the most of it and go on holiday. The Ferrari duo of Kimi and Seb are planning to spend time with their respective families. And all work has to stop: no simulator, no wind tunnel and so forth.
You could claim that today, with portable computers and smartphones, there’s nothing to stop people working at home. But the teams themselves are actually very strict about ensuring everyone adheres to the rules. One interesting point: a few years back, the idea was put forward that there should be a further break around the Christmas holidays.
It was not approved, mainly because December and January are months that feature frenetic activity as teams rush to build their new cars.
Big Question: Is the summer break good for Formula 1?