Formula One team bosses recently agreed a deal with the sport’s commercial rights holders to hold 24 races next year in 2024. This is hardly a surprise given this season there were the same number of events due to be held but for the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix due to concerns over the lingering effects of Covid-19 in the Asian country.
The FIA have insisted the annual schedule is to become a regionalised affair as part of their push towards net zero in 2030. This has put some race organisers noses out of joint having held their place on the calendar for a significant time.
F1 calendar reschuffled
Japan has been moved from its regular autumn slot to join the early season flyaway events before the European leg of the schedule begins. Azerbaijan will move to September and Qatar will now back to back with the finale held in Abu Dhabi.
However given certain climatic constraints and current contractual arrangements F1 has admitted there will always be some travel required that cannot be fully regionalised.
Two of the six races in the America’s will remain early in the year with Austin, Mexico, Brazil and Las Vegas being back to backed in the autumn months.
Yet the demand to host Formula One races has grown such that there are now around 30 venues all pressing for a place on the annual calendar.
Brown talks of 30 Grand Prix
McLaren CEO Żak Brown now reveals how F1 supremo Stefano Domenicali is to square his claim that in fact 30 race venues will be accommodated in the coming years.
“I think 24 is the limit. Stefano [Domenicali] is going to set it as such.
“There’s a demand for probably 30 grands prix. So I’d like to see a day where you have 24 grands prix, but in order to embrace more markets, maybe you have 20 fixed grands prix and eight rotational so you’re in 28 markets 24 times a year.
Clearly in recent times both German and French Grand Prix have made way for new events, although their lack of state backed sponsorship has been part of the reason for them disappearing from the F1 calendar.
Silverstone shows the way
Silverstone which hosts the British Grand Prix despite once being the perennial ‘sick man of F1’ under the reign of Bernie Ecclestone, has demonstrated how without state funding and continual improved facilities it can grow an F1 event from 300,000 over a weekend to this years almost half a million spectators.
Gene are the days when teams employed young single male petrol heads who would give up their lives and travel the world in search of glamour as part of the Formula One circus.
Aston boss believes ‘solutions possible’
Now employing thousands of employees, the F1 teams are having to reconsider how they manage the race personnel more effectively to prevent burnout and a staff exodus.
“The 24 races has been debated a lot,” said Aston Martin team principle Mike Krack. “We have also the double headers, the triple headers.
“I think, all in all, it is probably not far from the limit of what we can do or what we can accept. But I think it is down to the teams to find ways of making this sustainable for their employees.
“I think all the teams do that, discuss that, try to find solutions. But again, it shows the strength of the sport, and it is something that we have all agreed to. And now we have to find ways of making it happen in a sustainable way for everybody.”
Vowles argues other series have “more than 32”
Ex-Mercedes head of race strategy who was always on the pit wall during the Hamilton era of domination believes other motor racing series cope with far more than the 24 currently agreed under th eConcorde agreement.
“There are racing series that are doing 32 or more weekends a year. It’s just an optimisation problem. How do we make a life that is sustainable for everyone whilst continuing to perform?” queried the new Williams team principal, James Vowles.
Meanwhile the Ferrari team boss, Fred Vasseur reckons Formula One should remember how far it is come in recent years and how the sport often struggled to keep races on the calendar for an extended period of time.
Malaysia and India have come and gone despite F1 claiming they were ‘necessary’ for the manufacturers exposure to these populations.
F1 needs to remember recent difficulties
“I would also try to avoid being arrogant,” cautions Fred Vasseur.
“Five years ago we were fighting to find 16 or 17 promoters keen to do the races. Today we have a huge success, and I would avoid to say, ‘No, I want to stay at home next weekend. I have a barbecue with my wife!’”
With this years race in Imola cancelled due to catastrophic flooding in Emila-Romagne, a number of Sky F1 fans had called for the channel to run a virtual F1 weekend instead to raise money for the family’s in trouble.
Karun Chandhok posted on twitter, “Or we could have a weekend off and remind our children we exist?🤷🏽♂️” – May 17, 2023.
Sky F1 pundit blasted by fans
The ex-F1 driver was immediately reminded by other F1 fans firstly he chose to do the job he does and would have been in Italy anyway had the floods not occurred.
@meadows14 replied: “I’m so sorry for Karun that he has to earn a presumably high 6 figure or higher salary to be away from home around 15-20 weekends per year in some of the most beautiful locations on the planet, covering a sport he loves.
Should we start a GoFundMe?”
The Sky F1 presenter has recently had his first child and his comments clearly epitomise the stress other F1 employed workers may feel.
More F1 events – inevitable
@xys_thea agreed with others stating: “And last but not least, You chose a job where you knew you’d have to travel for 9 months of the year, you get paid very well for that and get to do what you love. You don’t like that, change your f**king job.”
The commercial rights holders of Formula One have proven they know how to expand the sport and reap the rewards. Stefano Domenicali recently pushed through a regulation change to add a second qualifying session to Sprint weekends to create incremental competitive on track action for the viewers despite criticism for from the drivers.
It could be Formula One creates a series of ‘non-championship’ weekend events as were held back in its early years. Here new team trackside crew members could be bloodied along with reserve of junior drivers who get some time to drive a real life F1 car.
Regardless, if the demand is there, Formula One will find a way to serve it.