Ricciardo, Ocon throw their weight behind ‘Gulf swing’

Renault's Daniel Ricciardo during the press conference in Abu Dhabi. — Reuters
Renault's Daniel Ricciardo during the press conference in Abu Dhabi. — Reuters

Abu Dhabi - F1 evolved and adapted in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic with double-headers and lesser travel

By James Jose

Published: Thu 10 Dec 2020, 10:32 PM

As Formula One gets ready to bid farewell to an unusual season, at the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this weekend, there will be plenty of changes in the paddock for next season.

New drivers, a two-time world champion’s return, drivers switching teams, renamed and rebranded teams, the likelihood of one driver sitting out, will play out during the winter.

Next season also sees a record 23-race calendar, although listed provisionally for now and subject to the approval from the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) World Motor Sport Council.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will make its entry into the pinnacle of motorsport with it becoming the 33rd country to host a race. The night race will take place on a street track in Jeddah and has been pencilled in for November 28. It is the penultimate race on the calendar and will be followed by the traditional season-finale — the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

That will make it three races in the Middle East with Bahrain, the first country to host an F1 race, at the top of the calendar following the season-opener in Bahrain.

And RenaultF1’s Daniel Ricciardo and his teammate Esteban Ocon threw their weight behind a ‘Middle East swing’ or ‘Gulf swing,’ as seen in European Tour golf.

Ricciardo, who is set to join British marquee McLaren next season, and Frenchman Ocon, who will have the returning double world champion Fernando Alonso as his new teammate, felt that bunching the three races and making it a triple header makes sense.

“One thing I was always saying when I got asked on how do you feel about a 25-race calendar or something, I was always up for it but I did say that on the basis that logistically it makes sense when you try and tie geographically everything into a bit better coordination so that we can do it and not suffer with such jet-lag,” Ricciardo replied to a question by the Khaleej Times, during a video interaction ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP, on Thursday.

“So, I think to tie all three together would be nice as you say to be able to maybe do a triple header and not suffer with the jet lag. It’s nice that they have at least tied Saudi towards the end of the year with Abu Dhabi but it would be nice if Bahrain was tied in as well. I guess you can’t have it all. I think to squeeze more races in, that would be the way that it makes sense,” added the Australian, who has two third-place finishes at the Eifel GP at the Nurburgring and the Emilia Romagna GP at Imola, this season.

Meanwhile, Ocon too echoed his outgoing teammate and said they could take a leaf out of this season, while doing so.

F1 evolved and adapted in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic with double-headers and lesser travel helping immensely to make up a strong and revised 17-race calendar from the original 22.

“Obviously, that is what we have been doing this year, really racing locally and not making the trucks or the cars travel too much around,” Ocon said, when the same question was posed to him.

“Logistically, it has been working fantastically this year. Obviously, I’m not a logistical engineer but to be racing, for example, in Austria, staying there and then going close to the following race, so doing three races — Bahrain and Abu Dhabi at the end of the year, has worked fantastically. I don’t know how they will shape up the calendar again but if you put them all close together, it is also good for us. Not too different time zones, easier to adapt and I think it only benefits,” added the 24-year-old, who finished second at the Sakhir Grand Prix, last weekend.


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