Not all F1 team bosses on board with expanded schedule
At least one says 25 races are ‘too much’
Formula 1 team bosses aren’t sure whether having 25 races a year is a good idea or not. As part of the 2021 rules announced this week, F1 reduced the number of days in a race weekend schedule, opening up the possibility of up to 25 races in a season.
While each team will be paid more with each new race, it isn’t clear whether this will result in teams making more money, because of the additional costs involved. The big worry is that they won’t make a great deal more — and they will wear out their staff and have to pay more to rotate staff.
Until 2013, the F1 calendar was limited to 17 events, although there was the potential for extra races if all the key players agreed. Things changed when FIA president Jean Todt signed what was known as the Concorde Implementation Agreement, which opened the way for 25 races, on the basis that the federation would get paid $1 million for each additional race over 20.
Even then, the teams were pushing back, saying that an increased calendar would prove to be too much for their personnel. Liberty Media argued that it would reorder the calendar to make for more efficient and cost-effective journeys. But that has been very hard to do. One of the biggest problems is not the number of races but rather the fact that the sport is a great deal more global than it used to be. In the old days there were only a few races outside Europe. Today those are the majority.
“It’s too much,” says Mercedes’ team boss Toto Wolff. “We need to concentrate on making fewer races into bigger events.”
But Ferrari’s boss Mattia Binotto says that he is not sure.
“We are not all convinced at the moment,” he says. “I think it’s part of the discussions we may need to have with F1. It is a compromise at the end. It is an extra effort financially and I’m even not too sure it will be to our benefit. It depends on where we are going racing in the extra races. How much are the revenues for those ones. There are a lot of points that will need to be addressed. Still, it’s a matter of being positive, collaborative and finding all together the right answer.”
Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul thinks that new races will bring in more revenue.
“I’m pretty sure that the figures can work,” he says, “so it can still be economically positive to expand the calendar, to increase the number of races, it’s really a stretch for everyone and I think the main question is a question of quantity versus quality. Having said that we live in a world where we need to have as much and as frequent touch points as possible with the fans, with the media, with digital, creating content. We are in a world of content, where you need market share, you need to be visible, you need the exposure. It’s a difficult one.”
Zak Brown of McLaren thinks that a better solution might be to alternate races.
“I think when you have new countries that want to embrace Formula 1, that is a good thing,” he says, “and it exposes us to new parts of the world, but maybe instead of having 25 races, which I think is achievable, though it would require doing things differently than we do today, then I think maybe alternating some races on the calendar would be a good compromise to grow the sport without straining the system.”
At the other end of the grid, Claire Williams, deputy principal of the Williams F1 team, believes that more races will be very difficult.
“Twenty-five is a lot,” she argues. “Twenty-two races next year is an awful lot and all the teams are having to look at the impact of that on personnel, just purely from a lifestyle perspective and having that work-life balance, it’s incredibly difficult. We’ve all got support personnel that we can rotate in and out. I think obviously for the bigger teams it might be an easier challenge from that perspective: they have a bigger budget in order to bring in more people.
“From a financial perspective though there is an off-set, so obviously we go to more races, there is more money in the pot. It’s not the end of the world.”