“It may be taken for granted that, rash as the Americans are,
when they are prudent there is good reason for it.”
Bernie Ecclestone has been fighting losing battles for the best part of a year. The F1 supremo favours a change in the engine regulations and such is his level of frustration at failing to deliver agreement on this he accused Toto Wolff of “killing F1”.
However, at least today’s big news will give Bernie some comfort that he retains absolute control in certain areas of the sport. Andrew Westacott, the CEO of the company which promotes the Australian GP told Motorsport.com, “It’s an FOM decision to commence the whole season on the date that they’ve proposed, and as default result of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation having the rights to first race, when the season starts, we’ll have our race – and it just so happens that it’s April 3 this year.”
Much has already been written about the motive behind this. Condensing the season means more back to back races, which reduces transportation costs. A significant number of the race weekend team personal travelled back to Europe following the Melbourne and Malaysian events, only to return a few days later to Asia.
Ecclestone has been forced by the new FIA regulation on start times to schedule some of the Eastern races earlier than he would have liked This means the core TV audience in Europe is now having to get up earlier to watch the races live – which for some is a disincentive.
Ironically, to comply with the start time regulation which insists a non-floodlit race starts at least four hours before sunset, Australia next year will have to be moved forward an hour to 3pm local time.
Westcott appears quietly content with this implication. “I’m pretty relaxed by that, because I think it will be great for fans locally, great for fans in Asia, and great for those who wake up for the start of the season in Europe.”
The promoter of the Malaysian GP also was positive about the local effect of an earlier start in Sepang this year. For F1 promoters, the logistics of getting people away from an event at a reasonable time is very important and this week’s debate about later start times in Europe to suit the TV audience will not have gone down well with those organising the races.
Back to backing Melbourne, Malaysia and China makes sense from a logistical perspective but TJ13 has learned there was another consideration behind this move.
The F1 season is a long and drawn out affair, beginning in mid-March and now ending the last weekend of November. This year the 19 races span 37 weeks including the four week August break.
In contrast, this year’s Indycar schedule sees 16 races, conducted between March 29th and August 30th. There are just 15 venues and the Detroit weekend has 2 championship races on consecutive days, all of which means the season is just 22 weeks long.
Indycar have played with their season scheduling over the years. Starting as early as the last week of January and ending the same year in October. They have recently settled on a very compact season – which in 2015 offers races for the fans every weekend bar six from the start to the end of the annual competition.
This kind of tight season schedule builds momentum quickly with the TV audience, Indy car started this year with 4 races in 5 weekends.
TJ13 sources reveal FOM to be keen on an annual schedule of F1 events which delivers many more back to back weekends over the course of the season and is even looking to trade this kind of schedule in return for a cancelation of the current August break.
A tighter season schedule is better for race team employee’s personal lives in terms of disruption, and this may be the trade-off made for axing the current August mandatory holiday.
In 2016, barring any more races being dropped, there will be 21 F1 events with the return of the German GP and the inaugural race in Azerbaijan.
How would you – the TJ13 readers – build a ‘doable’ condensed F1 race schedule for 2016?
You must consider matters like criss crossing the globe, the local climate and extreme weather seasons – which since the Bianchi report, the FIA expect to be accommodated.
The TJ13 team believe this can be reasonably done with just 8 non-race weekends.