Bernie Ecclestone was forced to receive especial permission from the WMSC for his 2016 calendar of 21 races. However, the debate over the maximum number of races a year the teams can cope with given their current structures has been around for quite some time.
Back in 2011, Jenson Button told F1’s official website that 20 races a year was the absolute limit. “For us drivers I think it would be okay, as we love racing and therefore the more races the better. But for the mechanics and engineers it means being non-stop on the road, and they do not have big opportunities to go home to their families. So in this respect I would say that 20 races is enough.”
“Anything more than that would be too much, as these guys are here when we arrive in the morning and they are here when we leave in the evening and I think that they are working a lot harder than us, and they do deserve a break sometimes.”
Speaking at this year’s Stars and Cars, Toto Wolff reiterates this sentiment and his concern on the matter. “It’s definitely a lot for the travelling team. Nineteen races already was a lot this year and next year back-to-back races are quite difficult.”
There are six race weekends back to back, where the race crews get no time to travel home. As he did with the inaugural Russian GP, Bernie has scheduled the controversial new event in Baku right after another race on another continent. This of course gives the media less time to get into Azerbaijan and do some extracurricular reporting on the record of the countries approach to human rights issues.
The Mercedes boss believes he will have to consider changing the staffing structures in Brackley, which would probably require recruiting more staff. “We need to have a look at the organisation – everyone is getting pretty tired at the end of the season – and I am not sure we can actually cope with 21 races in the current structure”.
“We have to be looking at maybe having second shifts, rest times after the race weekends. It’s quite a complex thing to do for next year.”
Given that costs are an issue for the Formula One, it appears perverse that teams will now have to spend more on staffing to deliver another race to what many believe to be an already bloated and inefficient calendar.