The current mantra of Formula 1 is one of being bigger, faster and the F1 calendar is another example of that.
A relentless pursuit of money, first by F1’s ‘ringmaster’ Bernie Ecclestone, and now F1’s current owners Liberty Media.
Certainly over the last 40 years, the trend has seen the addition of more and more races being the primary method of acquiring revenue.
When we look back at the calendar historically, The last major change occurred in 1972 when the calendar was increased from 12 to 15 races per season.
Between 1976 and 2003 we saw between 16 and 17 Grand Prix per season, then in 2004 the number was increased to 18 for the first time.
2005 again saw an increase 19 races, and by 2012 we saw 20 races. The current season comprises of 21 races which came into effect for the first time in 2016.
If the latest owners Liberty Media have their way by 2019 there will be a staggering 23 races per season.
Many have been in favour of this trend due to the obvious benefits in terms of revenue increase, but probably for the first time ever we hear of a team that would rather go the opposite way and reduce the number of races per season.
Renault Sport F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul warns that the increasing trend of more and more races will actually harm the sport, rather than improve it.
“We have to be able to get in touch with fans, but also the races need to be something special again” says the Frenchman to Motorsport Total, a German magazine.
It could be argued that this summer 5 Grand Prix were needlessly competing against the football World Cup, Wimbledon Grand Slam and the Tour de France, for public attention.
“We have to convey a message of pride, motivation and energy,” emphasises Abiteboul.
“But how are we supposed to exude the same enthusiasm we used to, when they drove for just fifteen races, we’re all tired and exhausted.
“Without this energy, it’s difficult to keep the spark, it’s routine for us, but it should not a commonplace job, we have long lost the balance. “
The Renault boss thinks that a reduction to just 15 races per year would actually increase the value of the sport, making it more exclusive.
A very Bernie esq model indeed!
“Then you would have to go to the organisers and tell them: ‘Look, we have to come from 21 to 15 races, six falling off the edge – Now apply for it! “ says Abiteboul.
The elephant in the room for such a move would obviously be the races themselves, in particular the ‘classic’ events which simply cannot afford to pay Liberty as much as the newer, state sponsored events.
“I realise this would be a risk” says Abiteboul,
“The current setup of F1 demands that it has to make more money each year, with more people, more locations, more prize money, more of everything…
“[but] there should be a crisis, and then we should try to rebalance, “
The obvious casualties would be races such as Silverstone and the German Grand Prix, who already struggle massively to afford the F1 circus visiting them.
Indeed Silverstone had already triggered a break in their contract last year after Liberty took over.
It would be questionable whether Formula 1 could even afford Monaco. The Principality is currently the only venue that does not have to pay a fee to host a Grand Prix.
What do you think about the current number of races? Should we see a reduction? Should we see an increase? Let us know in the comments.