Toyota, Le Mans, 2015

No wonder FOM arranged Baku to clash with Le Mans

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

At the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 12th this year at around 4pm, the chequered flag will fall on the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix. And as one race finishes, another will begin.

From that moment F1’s eleven teams will face a race against time to dismantle their garages, pack up their cars and cover almost 9,000 kilometres as they head east to Azerbaijan. They will have just four days to have everything reassembled for the beginning of the first grand prix in Baku.

As they fly past Europe on their way to the European Grand Prix, a few jealous glances may be cast in the direction of France, as the World Endurance Championship competitors will spend most of June camped out at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

For the first time in five years a grand prix is being held on the same weekend as the French endurance classic. From the moment that was announced last September there was scepticism over Formula One Management’s motives for doing so, and there now seems little reason to doubt the goal was to keep F1 drivers from joining in.

Last week Daniel Ricciardo revealed he had been hunting for a place on the Le Mans grid in 2015. Unsurprisingly, given their closeness to FOM chief Bernie Ecclestone, Red Bull put the kibosh on that. But Ricciardo is one of at least three drivers known to have actively courted a place in last year’s race.

Porsche 919 #19 Nico Hulkenberg/Earl Bamber/Nick Tandy, Le Mans, 2015
Hulkenberg enjoyed a successful debut at Le Mans
Another was Fernando Alonso, but McLaren’s engine supplier Honda was against him doing so, perhaps due to the presence of domestic rivals Toyota and Nissan at the race. Nonetheless Alonso has spoken many times of his desire to win at Le Mans.

The third was, of course, Nico Hulkenberg – and it turned out to be the highlight of his career so far as he shared victory in a Porsche 919 with Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.

For the likes of Alonso, the allure of Le Mans is more than just the prestige of the race, it’s an opportunity to get away from F1’s restrictiveness and the increasingly disliked ‘designed-to-degrade’ tyres. At the end of last season he offered the view WEC is “much more fun” than F1.

WEC regular Andre Lotterer appears to agree. Having made a one-off start in the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix he was surprised at the muted performance of his F1 car – admittedly an uncompetitive Caterham – compared to his WEC Audi.

Last week F1 drivers called for an end to the use of ‘designed-to-degrade’ tyres and today they are meeting with leading figures in the sport to demand just that. Ecclestone has indicated he may side with them.

In the meantime arranging Baku to clash with Le Mans doesn’t just stop current F1 drivers from going there – and according to Hulkenberg many of them were considering it. It keeps F1 journalists away too, such as those who went to Le Mans last year, enjoyed the spectacle and wrote articles comparing grand prix racing unfavourably with it.

But motor racing fans will get to vote with their feet, their televisions and their browsers. While the vast Le Mans circuit can easily accommodate over 100,000 spectators, Azerbaijan’s capital will offer seating for just 28,000. And when the F1 cars hit the narrow streets of Baku for qualifying, the Le Mans cars will be hammering into the Dunlop Curves for the first of over 300 laps.

If it’s going to complete with the spectacle of Le Mans cars twinkling in the twilight, Baku will have to serve up something truly special.

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  • 90 comments on “No wonder FOM arranged Baku to clash with Le Mans”

    1. I don’t even need to consider watching Le Mans over Baku. If I miss qualifying and the start of a race on an uninspiring street circuit in a country F1 arguably shouldn’t even be visiting over the start and finish of one of the greatest motor races in the world, then so be it. It used to be pretty clear-cut for me: if there’s a clash then F1 takes priority, but that is simply no longer the case because other series are simply more enjoyable to watch at the moment, and they do so with less of the gimmicks and less of the politics.

      1. I’m not watching Le Mans, at least the parts that clash. I only watch Le Mans to see the cars flash by the screen, I don’t like their design any more than a I like current F1 cars, the brand names don’t captivate me neither does the scenery, above all I enjoy the speed and the novelty of the event. Le Mans has been for the past 15 years a vw group showroom, from time to time vw/Audi/Porsche bring some opening “bands” and then they sell cars lots of cars by monday.

        1. If you think those reasons are vaild for why Le Mans doesn’t captivate you, then I must insist on re-watching it again and join /r/WEC’s chat and discussion rooms. There is quite a bit more going on then the designs of the LMP1-H’s and the lack of prominent sponsors. Mini races happen all the time in endurance races, and every class always has a battle for position on track. The strategies teams employ to maximize distance on track by double stinting or triple stinting cars or drivers plays into the overall scheme of the race.

          A lot of times it is truly overwhelming to sit and try and watch an endurance race. Many of the most diehard fans don’t watch the whole thing. Many will leave it on in the background listening or glancing for that next epic battle because trust me – you won’t find better racing at the moment.

      2. @craig-o
        I’m completely with you. F1 chose poorly, and I’m watching Le Mans as it’s much more interesting to me than seeing a predictable F1 race in yet another oil fiefdom.

        I’ve been watching F1 do their best to alienate fans as Bernie talks trash about F1, the engines, the drivers, young people, women, or anything else and laud Putin and set up races with oil money. No thanks.

      3. Apex Assassin
        2nd February 2016, 18:34

        Well while you watch Le Mans from your high horse I’ll be watching F1 first and Le Mans second.

        I find the circuit and city intriguing and frankly if F1 stayed out of countries for political reasons then there wouldn’t be any races at all. In fact, a big part of what makes F1 great is going to countries that other sports are too scared to bother with, like communist Hungary, China, South Africa, etc etc etc.

        Nice try though.

        1. It’s not a “try”, it’s my preference. The fact that my opinion differs from yours on nearly every posting you’ve ever made, is a source of pride as you are a knuckle dragger.

    2. There’s probably also some requests from Baku to make sure journalists are watching what is happening in Le Mans rather than poking their nose around the poverty, monetary issues and political opposition.

      1. @optimaximal Not that they’ll be able to do that if the restrictions on reporting are the same as they are in China. This is what the visa application form for F1 journalists says:

        Please note that the visa only authorizes reporting from Shanghai International Circuit concerning the 2016 Formula 1 Pirelli Chinese Grand Prix. If media representatives wish to conduct any other reporting than the one applied for, they will have to apply again to their nominated Chinese embassy or consulate.

        1. Thanks for sharing this @keithcollantine, I had never heard if this restriction before.

    3. When this stupid WEC vs. F1 battle will be put to bed? It’s been nearly everywhere during the last few years.

      I’ll watch F1, as always. I might watch a bit of Le Mans from here and there if I have nothing better to do.

      1. See I’m the opposite, I’ll record/ download the F1 qualifying. Wouldn’t want to miss the start of the greatest race of the year.
        I’ll watch the F1 hoping for a massive pile up to show how stupid of a choice it was to go there.

      2. @huhhii

        When this stupid WEC vs. F1 battle will be put to bed?

        Probably never. It strikes me as a futile thing to complain about.

        1. @keithcollantine I just don’t see the point comparing two so fundamentally different series to each other. Apples and oranges.

          1. Why can’t fruit be compared?

          2. @huhhii I think it’s undeniable the similarities between the two run far deeper than the differences. It’s precisely the closeness between the two which makes it a short jump for any F1 driver who feels like a change. There’s probably nothing closer.

            1. @keithcollantine

              There’s probably nothing closer.

              I would say this is the case as both evolved in the opposite direction they ought to have taken. F1 is stressing reliability, longevity and economy, and Le Mans has gone prototype, small fuel tanks (pitting every 30 minutes) running on big slick tyres and giant aero profiles. F1 could have followed a rational evolution in terms of car and technological evolution and ended up with cars that look like current LMP1 cars, but LeMans tried to match F1 by ditching the focus on road cars and built fantastic prototypes instead. Anyway the competition in the 24 has been staged for the past 15 years. I can’t imagine any motorsport fan actually switching one for the other based on the racing. I do believe F1 fans are seeing lots of green grass on the Le Mans side but in the end f1 fans just want the best F1 they can get.

            2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
              2nd February 2016, 16:22

              @huhhii @keithcollantine Yes, but they don’t need to be in direct commercial competition. The overwhelming majority of WEC fans likely also watch F1 on a regular basis. A proliferation of young fans who think the WEC harks back to pre-gimmick golden age of motorsport probably isn’t causing crisis talks at FOM headquarters.

              The only way in which the WEC can harm F1 is by pinching its drivers, and since Hulkenberg allegedly turned down a full season offer from Porsche so he could drive a midfield F1 car, that doesn’t appear overly troubling. Elsewhere, Ricciardo and Alonso have expressed an interest in Le Mans, not the WEC, with the suggestion being they would still rather race in F1 on a regular basis. For Alonso and his brand-affiliation with Honda, he is, as many other former drivers have, looking at sportscars as a retirement option.

              Until the day arrives when a F1 driver in their prime preferentially chooses the WEC, or when top young talents start aiming their careers at LMP cars rather than at F1, F1 need not be so spiteful as to consider the WEC a legitimate threat.

            3. @keithcollantine, I have some questions over the fact that you are making a number of rather bold assertions (not to mention you are working from the assumption that the drivers could just walk into any team they wanted when we know full well that none of the LMP1 manufacturers could offer them a seat anyway…).

              You cite the example of Ricciardo and claim (virtually phrasing it as a fact instead of an unproven theory) that Red Bull made the decision to stop Ricciardo from competing at Le Mans to appease FOM. Why do you choose to dismiss out of hand the possibility that Red Bull were acting to protect themselves rather than FOM?

              From the point of view of Red Bull, Ricciardo is a valuable asset and replacing him at short notice mid season would be very disruptive to them, and they would be well aware that a number of drivers have been seriously injured whilst driving LMP1 cars.

              Don’t forget that, at around the time that Ricciardo would have been lobbying Red Bull’s management to compete at Le Mans, Kazuki Nakajima was being treated in hospital after a crash in a practise session for the 2015 6 Hours of Spa left him with a fractured vertebrae. Furthermore, they would also recall that Loic Duval had to be withdrawn from the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans after suffering from concussion injuries, whilst in 2012 Davidson suffered from multiple fractured vertebrae.

              When it is public knowledge that the ACO is trying to rush through changes to the chassis regulations for 2017 because, by their own admission, too many drivers were suffering from back injuries, would you want to risk letting your lead driver (Ricciardo was a long way ahead of Kvyat in the WDC at the time) taking part in that race?

              From Red Bull’s point of view, letting Ricciardo race at Le Mans offers few benefits – it is not as if they are struggling for sponsors or for media attention – and runs the risk that he could potentially be injured at a time when it would have a sizeable negative impact on the team.

              From their point of view, therefore, why take that risk? Force India might have considered the risk to be worth taking, but I can quite easily see why Red Bull would want to say no to Ricciardo’s requests for their own benefit.

            4. @peartree When did Le Mans move from being road car focused?

            5. @matt90 After Porsche got their first overall LeMans victory thanks to group 5 loose production based homologation rules.

            6. @peartree I thought the production classes had become a lot closer to road cars since Group 5. And prior to the Porsche win it isn’t as though the winner wasn’t normally a prototype.

          3. @huhhii – I think comparisons will always be made – F1 used to be the pinnacle of motorsport and WEC is attempting to stake a claim to fill the void. In reality, I don’t know what the pinnacle of motorsport is these days….

            F1 is still my favourite thing to watch that involves cars going round a track but since it is no longer really a sport (at best, you could call it “sports entertainment”) something else has to take the reins.

            For what it’s worth – the definition of “Sports Entertainment” is: Sports entertainment is a type of spectacle which presents an ostensibly competitive event using a high level of theatrical flourish and extravagant presentation, with the purpose of entertaining an audience. Unlike typical athletics and games, which are conducted for competition, sportsmanship, exercise or personal recreation, the primary product of sports entertainment is performance for an audience’s benefit, thus they are never practiced privately. Commonly, but not in all cases, the outcomes are predetermined; as this is an open secret, it is not considered to be match fixing.

          4. Fundamentally same. Drive fastest.

      3. For as long as F1 is relatively weak and WEC continues to exist in this form, the fight will continue, because WEC is closer to filling F1’s traditional rule (apart from the “mass popularity” part) than F1 itself is at the moment. When/if* F1 rediscovers what it is, or if either series ceases to exist, then the fight will end.

        * – I hate having to add anything to “when” because the F1 I remember – even from 6 years ago – would never have let itself abandon the high-racing, high-tech, high-skill, high-money perch it had: as recently as 2009, a bunch of team principals contributed to booting out a FIA president for that exact reason. Now, F1 is making itself high-money at all costs… …and not only is losing the other three elements that kept it aloft, but is losing the money too.

        1. WEC has issues of it’s own as their are only 3 teams that are anywhere near to each other and for this year 2 of them are cutting down from 3 to 2 car entries, also Nissan pulled out before they really started. I love both though and I will watch both at the same time, WEC on a tablet and F1 on a TV, I have 2 screens every day at work so this is no. When the F1 has finished that is about 3 hours of actual cars on track over Saturday and Sunday there is still 21 hours to watch Le Mans. As for the start of Lemans that’s about 7 minutes for the 1st lap then it all settles down and the end is only a minute to watch the winner cross the line as usually the winner is known for the last 45 minutes or more. Simple motor racing fans should just watch both.

          1. Who are you calling simple? ;)

            1. Simple, motor racing fans should watch both. And we shall.

          2. I guess then you never saw the 24hrs of Daytona? the last 6 laps were real nail-biting! F1 hasn’t had that in YEARS! It’s isn’t Le Mans but a lot of the drivers and team there are in WEC. I, for one, have been convinced that F1 has a lot more to do for me, as a fan, that is offered by WEC. You get to choose who you want to watch in-car (each manufacturer offers this) on their websites. Then there is the amazing team at Radio Le Mans! F1 I can only watch the live feed – which misses a lot of the action – and I don’t even know who we’re going to get since BBC isn’t doing it anymore.

            1. Daytona was close at the end but Singapore this year was close as well all race.

          3. I meant simple! Motor racing fans should watch both. I did not mean motor racing fans are simple. I realised I messed that sentence up but was hoping people realised what I meant.

      4. @huhhii Finally some sense! I enjoy both series but most people just seem to want to start arguments between the two. Both have flaws but are enjoyable for different reasons, yet the internet is seemingly convinced that one has to trump the other.
        Although for the record, it’s totally logical that Bernie and FOM would move to block drivers racing there… from an F1-centric point of view it’s a distraction to the sport and runs the risk of talent flight.

      5. When F1 Looks so much better, and drives so much faster that WEC looks like a touring car race. Oh wait those are generally fun…

        WEC is a series that offers compeling reasons to follow. The actual racing is stretched to long hours, not entirely thrilling etc. But the rules, the overtakes, the chassis + tyre performance are amazing. Also running for 5400ishkm in 24 hours… that is quite amazing 225km/h average speed. Average race speed in F1? Around 180km/h… ;) So until that average moves up significantly WEC cars will still be rather remarkable.

        Now F1 is the pinacle for sure, BUT other series sometimes do quite well. I would not be suprised if there are series around the world that take on some corners faster than F1.

        Still one thing that F1 has going for it is…. mostly best drivers + best engines. Nothing in WEC compares to Mercedes F1 engine in terms of efficiency. Converting petrol to power is strong-point of F1.

      6. Apex Assassin
        2nd February 2016, 18:38

        Maybe when F1 stops imitating a misguided endurance series? Too many of the regulations stifle what made F1 great and treads on WEC style rules. Also as the article says, F1 drivers want to race with proper tyres and as a fan that’s what I want to see as well.

        So fix the Pirelli issue and lose the daft engine and fuel regs and maybe F1 can find itself and resume it’s place as the pinnacle of motorsport.

    4. The last time there was a Grand Prix at the same time of Le Mans (2011 Canadian GP), I completely ignored qualifying, and would have done the same to the race if it clashed with the 24 Hours. Glad it didn’t, because I would have missed a whopper.

      This year, there will be 21 GPs – if Baku goes ahead. I have 21 chances to watch Formula 1 cars go about their business and explain to my family and friends the problems facing F1, and how ridiculous and self-centered it is, always thinking that it’s problems are the biggest in the world (Domenicali actually made this point in an interview some years ago).

      This year, as every year, there will be one 24 Hours of Le Mans. And I won’t even think of not watching it. That thought just doesn’t cross my mind at all. If F1 was in a better state, if there were less gimmicks, less whining, it would be a difficult choice. Damn, I probably would watch Le Mans on the TV and F1 on the computer.

      For some years, it seemed F1 and endurance racing were finally making peace with each other. Now, Bernie apparently wants to go on the offensive again. Well, I’m sorry, but if it’s going to be an all-out war between F1 and Le Mans, F1 doesn’t stand a chance right now.

      Unless it cheats. Which is a F1 specialty.

    5. Meh, Have been to Le Mans many times and F1 has it beat as a spectacle every time. Le Mans is boring to watch on TV and at the circuit most people watch the start, spend 22Hrs getting drunk and staggering around the fair and village then watch the formation finish (Lights to flag racing? really?) at the end.

      There are only a couple of cars worth seeing, the rest are pretty much just a bunch of touring cars making up the numbers and jumping out of the way every time they are lapped!

      Whilst I appreciate that it may be a challenge for the drivers, as a spectator sport it is pretty dull. Which is probably why the strippers are so popular!

      1. Complete rubbish, Le mans is easily the better event to visit, you get more access to the teams and drivers, you get more racing (There’s something special about walking down to the track at 2am and watching the cars go by at night), the whole event feels like a festival even more than the British GP (A proper drivers parade is something that you don’t get at a GP), I am a big F1 fan and to be honest I rarely watch the WEC races, but Le Mans is better than them all if your a spectator

        1. Don’t get me wrong, Le Mans is a great event to visit for a long weekend with a bunch of mates, and I have enjoyed it every time (although my recent long Spa weekends have run it close and I probably watched more track action there with the GP3 and GP2 races etc.). As a TV viewer however, F1 has it beat, which is what most of the posts here are talking about. There is no way I would miss F1 qualy or the race for any part of Le Mans.

          As for the GT battles @jons IF I wanted to watched a bunch of modified road cars racing I am sure that I could find better battles in any number of Touring car series on much better circuits without having to sit up for 24hrs and watch a race in which the other competitors make them look like mobile chicanes.

      2. You clearly haven’t watched much endurance racing in recent years, or simply don’t understand it… The GT battles alone are better than anything F1 has to offer.

        1. Too bad GT battles are fought by C-list drivers, which means no matter what happens there, it doesn’t have any weight. It’s like a football match with a scoreline of 5-4 from the third league: fantastic, but do we really care. You’re free to believe it’s “better than anything the FA Cup final has to offer”, but you may want to think about your criteria for a minute.

          1. C-list drivers

      3. Would agree. I’ve never seen it live, but on TV, it has to be one of the most boring races I’ve seen. Not a fan of the tier system of racing and I really can’t spend that much time watching a sporting event.

        I think people here are on the F1 bashing train, and which is why they would rather watch LeMans.

        I would rather watch a race on a new circuit. Baku’s layout seemed pretty interesting, and depending on the Championship table at that point of time, it might be a great watch. Maybe I’m a blind fanatic, but I would still rather watch a Live Formula 1 race over any other live motorsport event.

        1. When you think about it Le Mans is praised for having different classes in the race yet the idea of different engines in F1 creating a tier system was chastised. F1 has a few pay drivers like Maldonado but they have won high end titles like GP2, GP3 or other series somewhere down the line but LeMans has many pay drivers who really are just millionaires of limited talent and have not won any titles of note. Patrick Dempsey is a great story of LeMans but Maldonado is a disaster but Maldonado won GP2 and an F1 race whereas Dempsey is just a millionaire who bought his own team so he could compete. Bill Gates could drive WEC if he wanted but he could not drive in F1.

          I like both but to paint a black and white picture of one versus the other is incorrect and it does seem one rule for one series and another rule for the other series in fans opinions.

        2. Isn’t the point though not what series viewers prefer, but the fact that more and more F1 drivers are looking at Lemans because they are sick of the direction F1 has gone?

          This is more to me about what F1 drivers think of the current F1 cars/tires than a debate about which series the audience prefers or will watch on that day, although of course Keith points out viewers will be voting that day too by watching whichever they will watch.

          1. Years ago F1 drivers took part in loads of different racing series between F1 races. Probably more of a case of wanting to be in a race car as much as possible rather than having to wait 2 weeks between driving what with no testing and all that.

          2. RaceProUK (@)
            2nd February 2016, 20:11

            Isn’t the point though not what series viewers prefer, but the fact that more and more F1 drivers are looking at Lemans because they are sick of the direction F1 has gone?

            Are you sure it’s not just simply because it’s the Le Mans 24h, the world’s oldest endurance race, a race that’s been going for almost 100 years, and is one of the three ‘Blue Riband’ motorsport events alongside the Indy 500 and the Monaco GP?

            1. No question there is that element of Lemans being so iconic, and perhaps it is not new for F1 teams to block their drivers from going there, but to me it just feels like in the last few years drivers want to go there for a better racing experience, not just to say they did it while acknowledging F1 is the pinnacle. I’m not sure they’re feeling like they are in a pinnacle racing series right now.

      4. Disagree, 100%. Le Mans has had its lulls – mid 200s come to mind when no factories competed for the overall win – but at the moment, it’s way, way better than F1. The technology is far superior (the LMP1s can hold 8MJ of electrical power, while an F1 car can only hold 2MJ) and the cars are just much more spectacular. Have you been watching the WEC races? Last year’s were fantastic, amazing battles between the Audi and Porsche teams. This year it promises to get even better as Toyota bring a totally new car.

        I’ve also been to Le Mans. The real fans watch the full 24 hours, use the radio (Radio Le Mans) to know what’s going on and use a spotter’s guide if needed. Yes it does have a festival-like atmosphere to it, but that’s part of the race which you don’t really get anywhere else.

        I also disagree about the ‘bunch of touring cars’. The Porsche 911 RSR, Corvette C7.R, Ferrari 458 Italia (and 488 this year), Aston Martin V8 Vantage and, new for this year, the stunning Ford GT are much more than touring cars. They provide the best racing at Le Mans (did you see the Rolex 24 at Daytona just last weekend? 0.034 at the line between the two leading Corvette C7.R’s (in the GTLM class) after 24 hours of racing. When did you last see that in F1?) and are fantastic cars to boot.

        You’re open to your own opinion on the matter, but it doesn’t stop me thinking you’re completely, utterly, totally wrong.

        1. redbullcat, I think that you’ve missed a few rather important details when comparing the hybrid systems – when you look in detail at the regulation, you realise that it is in fact the WEC that has the more restrictive regulations.

          For a start, the maximum amount of energy that the MGU-K in an F1 car can draw upon is 4MJ per lap – the 2MJ power limit is the amount of energy which can be transferred from the MGU-K to the batteries.

          The bigger oversight you have made, however, is that limitation only applies to the kinetic energy recovery system (MGU-K), whereas in the WEC the 8MJ upper limit applies to the total of all of the hybrid systems.

          In F1, the thermal energy recovery system (MGU-H) is interlinked to the MGU-K – unlike in the WEC, where they are decoupled – and the MGU-H can therefore be used to transfer power to the MGU-K directly. The key point is that the transfer of power from the MGU-H to the MGU-K and from the MGU-H to the batteries in F1 is completely unlimited – so, in F1, there is actually no upper limit on the amount of energy that the hybrid systems can use per lap.

    6. What can’t attract me Of Lemans is its length. I agree with @huhhii there. But to be totally honest, if Baku turns out to be another borefest, I’ll just turn off my pc (as I did many times last year) and spend my precious time of Sunday, my only free day, to do something much fun than to see boring F1 cars or boring WEC cars.

      1. Much MORE fun than watching F1 cars or WEC cars (FRIC, my grammar sucks when I just wake up)

        1. You woke up at 1pm!?

          1. @john-h not everyone lives in GMT :P

            1. I actually thought 2pm CET which is worse but ok :)

    7. I certainly won’t miss Le Mans over F1, will just have to avoid spoilers until the the F1 race is available for download “somewhere”.

      It’s a travesty to make them clash, but considering the praise WEC is getting the past few years it’s not a surprise that F1 and fans who only follow F1 have taken a defensive stance. That’s what happens when you feel threatened.

      Hope Baku turns out to be a great race and I’ll watch it, but not live, not over Le Mans…

    8. It will be very interesting to see if this backfires. Will it perhaps put more focus on WEC than would have been otherwise? I will probably either flick between the two but probably only because of the novelty of a new circuit.

    9. FOM doesn’t really need to improve on the basis that WEC is enjoying a renaissance. It needs to improve because F1 is bad. Not seriously bad, tho, as some might say, but it’s been going down the slope for years.

      My very few petrolhead friends moved from F1 to endurance racing. And all that despite (I think) endurance racing being a much harder spectacle to watch. I was surprised by that but then again, having watched almost 18 hours of Le Mans last year, I can understand. Endurance racing has a charm of its own and it’s really stupid that they have to share the same weekend with other big categories.

      The 500, Le Mans and F1 should happen at different weekends. Specially so when F1 will be making such an enormous effort going from one side of the world to the other (even if a similar trip also happened between Brazil and Abu Dhabi in 2010, on much harder circumstances due to the championship being decided that weekend).

    10. I know where my first priority watching motor sports will be that w/end and it isn’t Baku.

    11. I would love to see some rebellion from F1 drivers in this case. You can force them to drive at Baku instead of Le Mans on a particular weekend but you cannot tell someone like Alonso or Button to shut up about it. So F1 drivers should simply praise Le Mans on the European GP weekend, post updates on social media and tell the world what a great race it is. The aim of FOM is to draw attention away from the 24-hour race and drivers can still make sure that FOM fails to do that.

      1. Yeah and alienate the sponsors and your team who have invested in F1 effectively spitting in the face of the people that pay a driver like Alonso 30 million a year. Maybe not a great idea?

    12. F1 is on the wrong track and the wounds of fans leaving are self inflicted.

      But let’s not get emotional.
      I’ll watch Baku qualifying and I’ll watch the Baku GP.
      I’m an F1 fan, and no matter what angle the cars park before the start, no matter how long their tyres will last; no matter how many different series can race simultaneously; no matter what gender the grid people are; no matter what level of geographical and hosting nation political correctness – I will watch F1 before any other series.

      1. Hear hear!

        We are all here because we are first and foremost F1 fans. Whilst we may flirt with other series and formulas, F1 is still he main focus for many of us. Including me!

        That said, F1 is much quicker and easier to catch up on ;-)

    13. I have a DVR, so I can watch both. So long as I don’t know the results of qualifying nothing is lost watching it hours later.

    14. That weekend represents a few difficulties for me. Back when I started getting into Motor Racing (as opposed to just F1 with a bit of MotoGP), the Audis and Peugeots at Le Mans always seemed to be on a busy weekend for me. Recently, certainly the last few years, I’ve made strong efforts to watch Le Mans, including the practice and qualifying sessions, and even had the race on the radio as I walked to church on the Sunday morning, and checking the results the very second I left.

      I love F1, and there’s very little that would mean I don’t watch it (As the last few seasons have proved at times), but Le Mans and Endurance racing is so special. I can’t think to miss out on it. I missed this year’s Race of Champions, and that’s the only other chance we really get at seeing Formula 1 drivers in a different discipline. That’s a shame.

      I think the scheduling needs to be taken out of the hands of the championship organisers and put in the hands of the FIA or some other overseeing body, so that these races don’t clash. Drivers should have the opportunity at trying different disciplines, and fans should have the chance of going to watch them.

      1. Technically, the calenders are in the FIA’s hands, in that it is the FIA that approves the international schedule. There are few grounds it is permited to use to refuse a race, but it is supposed to endeavour to keep world-level races clear of each other so they don’t stomp on each other’s audiences too much. Admittedly, that’s not fully possible due to 5 championships currently holding that status and at least 50 races involved (that for various reasons can’t simply be scattered across the 52-week year evenly). There is nonetheless every reason not to have the blatantly deliberate clashes (based not only on date, but on time!) between F1’s and Le Mans’ sessions when they are probably the two series most likely to steal fans from each other.

        The FIA has a mandate not to allow this sort of thing, especially when Baku’s timing breaches the four-hour window rule that was supposed to be in place for safety reasons (one of the few reasons the FIA is permitted to bar an event from happening on a given date). It makes it look like this isn’t simply Bernie trying to grab as much money as possible. It’s the FIA aiding and abetting the situation, to the detriment of motorsport in general and the FIA’s power over it in particular.

    15. I am an F1Fanatic more than I am a LeMansFanatic. So there’s my preference. But in 2016 we can record things you know. ;)

    16. I have this fancy shmancy thing called a recorder. Something that will allow me to watch one now and the other later… :-P

      1. Some people don’t have access to recording boxes :P I don’t even have Eurosport on my TV to watch Le Mans!

      2. I don’t even have a TV license, so if I follow one (via Twitter) I have to have spoilers for the other. (And before anyone asks, my computer can’t run any of the Twitter apps either, so filtering tags isn’t an option). So It’s Le Mans radio or F1 radio for me (I’ll have the former – it’s been a no-contest situation since 2010 and will remain so for the foreseeable future).

        1. I don’t even have a TV.

    17. It’s amazing that FOM would go to such lengths to lock horns with the race at Le Mans. If they had scheduled Baku for the following weekend, the teams would have had a relatively easy 10/11 days to shift the circus to Baku, leaving the 4 day turnover for the much shorter, overland trip to Austria. I can see no other reason for this odd schedule than the desire to mess with the 24 hour race.

      1. I don’t think Austria’s an overland trip either because Azerbaijan isn’t close enough to Europe, but the rest of the point stands rock-solid.

    18. @keithcollantine

      Could it not just be a case of unfortunate scheduling?

      If you check the original proposed calendar and compare it to the current one you can see that not only does Hungary fall within the Olympic timeframe but it also means there was only a 2 week summer break.
      I remember the teams explicitly complaining about this and asking Bernie to re-jig the calendar to make it it a 3 week break.

      By moving Hungary to the other side of the German GP you create a 3 week summer break but also produce a triple header of Baku, Hungary and Germany. As far as I’m aware the teams also don’t want 3 back to back races (When was the last time that happened?). Once you apply that constraint it turns out the only way to schedule the calendar is to have a race clash with Le Mans.

      Now that isn’t ideal but out of the 3 races they could choose to clash (Austria, Britain, Baku) they chose Baku which I think was a sensible choice given it’s new status. It’s still not a brilliant schedule as now the British GP clashes with the final of the Euro’s.

      1. You mean football? Who the hell would miss motor racing for chavball.

        1. Wat is this ball kicking?

          It seems to clash on purpose.

    19. I can remember the 2011 Le Mans / Canadian GP weekend very well, because I was at Le Mans! As soon as the chequered flag was waved, we rushed to our car (parked on the Bugatti circuit), left the circuit by crossing the tarmac at Tertre Rouge on drove home as fast as we could. Due to traffic, we arrived home a bit late, but thankfully the rain meant that we hadn’t missed too much. As it turned out, it was one of the most thrilling F1 races of the last decade.

      This year I will hopefully be in the grandstands at Le Mans again. It’s really a shame that I won’t be able to catch a single glimpse of live action from Baku, but hey, if the FIA want us to choose then so be it.

    20. i agree this isn’t a good situation for racing fans, but i remain an f1 fanatic. it has priority over everything else.

    21. Never had any real interest in endurance racing… played a few games with the cars in them but that’s about it.

      Will happily watch a short highlights package of Le Mans if it happens to be on and I happen to flick onto it, but won’t go out of my way for it so F1 wins for me… regardless of where in the world it is.

    22. The start is no problem for me. It’s been a while since I’ve watched Q1s and Q2s. I pay attention to Q3s and that’s it. Mostly because most european races start early here and I’m quite tired, so I put an alarm for sunday and then watch the whole race.
      So that’s Q3 on a tablet for me. As for the finish, well it depends, if it goes down to the wire, I’ll pay more attention to LM, after all, there is quite a while of racing in Baku after LM is done because the track is so long I’m foreseeing a situation similar to Singapore (well perhaps not so much, as it isn’t as twisty).
      One thing that amuses me is how people hushed me when I started being suspicious about the clash and now more and more people agree that it’s been done on purpose. I’m not saying Keith does, obviously, but I’m seeing a subtle change of attitude in the networks.

    23. Formula One has always clashed with some major events around the world be it Olympics, the Daytona or Indy (or another NASCAR-race) or a race from the WEC. It’s no big deal as the amount of people who really want to watch both is so slim we don’t even matter. And then what is all the fuzz about, you can’t watch both live? In an year where people can’t even watch F1 live it’s not the worst thing to watch a race afterwards. Besides everyone is already saying ‘Im not going to miss brilliant Le Mans for a dull Baku’. For all we know Audi’s crash in lap 1 and Porsche’s are gone whilst Baku is the scene of the race of the century. I’ll be watching Le Mans simply because I’m a bigger sportscar fan than a F1 fan. Make your pick, watch what you want and if you like watch the other one afterwards.

      Besides let’s not forget how many drivers really were allowed to race in Le Mans by their teams in the first place…

    24. The real backwards thinking in this approach by F1 to purposely clash with Le Mans is that having drivers compete in both series is somehow a negative for F1. Having F1 drivers compete at Le Mans only enhances the prestige of the drivers and in turn F1 as well. Especially when F1 drivers are part of a successful team, particularly a winning team.

      How many times was Nico Hulkenberg’s name mentioned in reference to F1 before, during and more importantly after the race last year? It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is good for F1! This kind of publicity can help bring more fans to F1. As I already stated, this truly is backwards thinking on the part of F1.

    25. Is this really anything new?

      With the exception of the past few years there has nearly always been an F1 race (Usually Canada) on at the same time as Le Mans.

      I recall Martin Brundle missing commentary duties for ITV several times because of Le Mans when he was still racing & Anthony Davidson has also missed Montreal a few times since he started commentary for BBC & Sky as he’s been at Le Mans.

    26. On a somewhat related note, the Daytona 24 hours field was stacked this year. Some of the best guys from Indycar, Nascar, V8 Supercars, WEC/ELMS, touring cars, junior open wheel and other GT series were competing. The race will be on Youtube soon enough if you missed it.

    27. After Hulkenberg’s achievement, I was happier to see him in F1. He simply had an extra title to his name, though clearly the most prestigious in his palmarés. I never saw his WEC duty as more important, as indeed he is a full-time F1 driver and raced at Le Mans in his spare time. Minor competitions (because Le Mans is part of, but isn’t, a championship, and the WEC as a whole isn’t yet ready to challenge F1’s importance) add to F1’s charm: top drivers fighting out. One has won Le Mans, the other raced in IndyCar, there’s the reigning GP2 champion – let’s put them together and see how they do against each other! That’s F1, and while I saw part of the race last year and was willing to see more of it this year – Hulkenberg certainly sponsored it quite a bit – I never considered dropping F1 for the WEC. And while Baku is an unknown yet, people seem to be wiling to miss it for Le Mans, so this is an own-goal by FOM. Leave people a weekend to see Le Mans alone, and the week after it they will watch the GP. If they have to choose, well… at least Baku is quite distant from La Sarthe, so attendants will likely have no choice!

    28. RaceProUK (@)
      2nd February 2016, 20:15

      For the first time, I have a genuine beef with a headline here; it really does seem deliberately worded to provoke an emotional response. But when you actually look at the facts as they exist, what little evidence exists to support a purposeful clash is circumstantial at best. As other posters have already pointed out, such clashes have happened before, and will likely happen again, not just with le Mans, but also other major sporting events, motor or otherwise.

      There’s only 365.24 (on average) days in a year; clashes are inevitable.

    29. I’ll be recording the F1 Qualifying and will join that recording when the Le Mans field strings out. In regard to the start of the GP and end of Le Mans- we will see. If Le Mans is exciting- F1 can wait. Ludicrous to have them on the same weekend.

      1. Sounds like a good plan. It’s only qualifying anyway, 50+ cars taking the start of Le Mans is one of racing’s great spectacles. There’s always a lengthy safety-car period when they have to repair one of the barriers at Le Mans – ideal for catching up with the F1.

    30. Call me a cynic though but surely it would be a great opportunity for some of the lower grid teams to “legitimately” let one of their pay-drivers actually shell out for a full race weekend without physically having to drop a driver? It seems win-win – driver in mid-grid team not in contention for any championship gets to do something a bit different, team goes “well Mr. 8-Friday-Sessions-A-Season – some more cash where that came from and we’ll let you have the car for the weekend!” without any awkwardness about “benching” the main driver.

      I don’t see top teams like Red Bull letting Ricciardo or Mclaren letting Alonso do it, but Force India letting Hulkenberg? Or Sauber/Manor letting anyone with some cash do it? Can’t automatically see that they’d not relish the opportunity.

    31. ‘Baku will have to serve up something truly special.’ Unfortunately, we won’t know until it’s too late.

    32. “As they fly past Europe on their way to the European Grand Prix” Ha Ha “fly past”, so we now fly past Europe for the European Grand Prix?

    33. I don’t like this track.

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