In March this year, Hamilton’s father, Anthony, complained at the industry-wide practice of starving race drivers’ bodies of rest and sleep during the three-week Lent to be ready for race day. “Our guys are not getting sleep when it comes to this relentless seasons,” he said. “At least get the boys in, wake them up, give them a good food and drink each day, show them a bit of time at home. Tell them to have dinner with their families for the weekend, treat them like you do with your kids.”
But this weekend’s race is so difficult that the drivers are confined to their hotel for large parts of the race weekend, and then only during race weekend. They spend much of the others working out or playing pool, whereas the car has the driver using it.
The F1 teams are bitter and ill-disposed. There is now disagreement over the right way to decide the grid positions in a two-tier year, and lack of funding and other scarce resources has forced the world championship car constructor teams to limit staff to a core group of high-value people and a limited number of contractors. The track workers, spectators and journalists’ middle-ranking staff often work the hours of a factory and have no guarantees or benefits when they are done.
Earlier this year the British commentator Andrew Benson described what F1 is like, saying: “Most major venues in this country have nothing like it. They also have bosses who command respect and let plenty of bored grunt workers have a bit of life. In Formula One, the last resort of the clubs is sacked staff who will just go off and work the hours on the road they want to. There’s nothing for them to do in their free time other than play pool, drink beer and try to forget the day for as long as possible. A lot of them have the children they never had, or the mortgage they never had.”
Formula One has a corporate sponsor in Gillette-Chrysler, who underwrite the costs for the drivers and hosts of the race. Ferrari is owned by Fiat, Porsche by Volkswagen and Toyota is jointly owned by Honda and the former Toyota Chairman Yoshiaki Kinigami. Mercedes, who represent the autosport manufacturer side of the industry and also sponsor the Japanese team Toyota, has strong relationships with several main sponsors and companies but the four main hospitality centres are run by the teams and a few, like Caterham and Force India, largely by their fans.
There are slightly more than 100 race day personnel in each engine factory, which are run by the teams. While there are 5,000 staff at each race, 7,500 are in the hospitality centre supporting the event, 9,000 stewards are on duty and 7,200 people run the racetrack’s souvenir stands. Add the staff and cars servicing the stands and pits, and the total is probably more than 50,000 people.