Changes are certainly afoot in the Place de Concorde. Tardiness is no longer tolerated as the FIA have upped their game and produced an F1 calendar for 2016 – on time. Well… the old adage does suggest ‘on time is late’, 5 minutes early is on time. But hey, baby steps….
“The maximum number of championship events in a season has been increased to 21 (from 20),” the FIA reported last night. Yet in December 2014, the WMSC announced the 2015 calendar, which contained 21 races. Of course this included the ‘fake race’ – the return of Korea – so clearly the FIA knew this was never going to happen and this is why they have only just announced the appropriate regulation change to allow 21 F1 races each year.
That said, given the summary of COTA’s current financial state as proffered by co-owner Bobby Epstein who claimed, “we’re screwed” following a disastrous US GP weekend, the likelihood of a 2016 F1 event at the Circuit of the Americas is greatly diminished.
Whilst COTA is listed as one of the 21 race venues for 2016, it is asterisked with the following note, “subject to agreement with the promoter and ASN”. This is a little strange given COTA was awarded a 10 year F1 contract by FOM and there appears no reason why the national association should revoke/revisit the circuits license.
Of course 21 races would mean the penalty free allowance of F1 engines for the year rise from 4 to 5 for each car and unless Bernie and Jean can get Mercedes and Ferrari to cut prices, this will mean a rise in cost for the customer teams. Further, certain teams have suggested a calendar with more than 19-20 races creates a tipping point where they may need to increase personnel and create two race weekend teams which alternate to ensure employees do not burn out.
Of course there should be more pie to go around with more races on offer, but this depends on whether Bernie can get his credit control department doing the job they are paid for. Silverstone have not yet paid for the 2015 and and neither have COTA. If word gets around, more of those pesky wide boy ticket touts who promote F1 races will be doing the same.
Politics are also evident in the calendar. Malaysia have lobbied for their race hosting fee to be reduced. The result is that Sepang is scheduled as the next race after Singapore. Given the distance between the two is just 300 kilometres and a 55 minute flight, the Malaysian GP may well feel the pinch that Austin suffered this year with fans choosing the nearby Mexican GP instead of the one at COTA.
There are 7 back to back races planned for 2016 in a season which stretches for 35 weeks and the most challenging will be the dash from Montreal to new kid on the block – Baku. Then again a direct flight (if you can get one) is just 14 hours, so what’s the big deal?
Certain media outlets have questioned whether the race in Germany will really return in 2016. Well Hockenheim appear to believe so as they are selling tickets at present – the German’s apparently like to buy them for Christmas presents – as their is an early bird discount.
So here’s a question for the jury, what are the chances of this calendar actually happening as it is now?
- March 20 – Australia
- April 3 – Bahrain
- April 17 – China
- May 1 – Sochi
- May 15 – Spain
- May 29 – Monaco
- June 12 – Canada
- June 19 – Baku*
- July 3 – Austria
- July 10 – Great Britain
- July 24 – Hungary
- July 31 – Germany
- August 28 – Belgium
- September 4 – Italy
- September 18 – Singapore
- October 2 – Malaysia
- October 9 – Japan
- October 23 – USA**
- October 30 – Mexico
- November 13 – Brazil
- November 27 – Abu Dhabi
*race start to be scheduled to avoid conflict with the conclusion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
**subject to agreement with the promoter and the ASN