F1 edging towards 20-race seasons

Abu Dhabi won't be F1's newest venue for long: South Korea and India are next

Abu Dhabi won't be F1's newest venue for long: South Korea and India are next

The confirmation of the British Grand Prix on the 2010 F1 calendar yesterday confirms next year’s schedule will be the joint-longest ever.

With the first Indian Grand Prix planned for 2011, F1 may soon see its first 20-race championship.

New additions

At least one new race is planned for the 2011 F1 calendar – last month we had our first look at India’s F1 track plans.

On top of that the Czech Republic is considering a bid to hold an F1 race in Prague, potentially as early as 2012.

Existing or recently-dropped events may provide further opportunities for expansion. Sadly the French bid to revive its race at a new circuit in Flins has been abandoned. But FIA president Jean Todt has indicated he is supportive of the French round returning to the calendar.

The chances of the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis being revived look remote as the circuit owners seem more preoccupied with developing the struggling Indy Car series.

But there may be a chance for F1 to return to having two rounds in Germany. This was the norm during the height of the Schumacher years. Hockenheim and the Nurburgring now share the race (and have an arrangement to do so until 2018) which means Germany has at least two F1-standard circuits.

There are potentially six German drivers on the grid next year. And Mercedes is returning as a full Grand Prix team for the first time since 1955. Notwithstanding the unfortunate loss of BMW, could Germany soon be ready for two F1 races again?

Races in doubt

All this assumes the current races will stay on the calendar, and most of them are contracted until at least 2011. But there are some notable exceptions.

Shanghai’s contract to hold the Chinese Grand Prix runs out after next year’s race. There have been rumours the event could remain on the calendar but move to a different location – such as Beijing – but nothing concrete has emerged yet.

In six years the race hasn’t attracted much of a crowd beyond those brought in to occupy a fraction of the circuit’s enormous capacity. The organisers have given up trying to sell seats around turn 13, which has been given over to a massive Expo 2010 advert for the past two seasons (which even appears in the official F1 video game).

Having a Chinese round was popular with car manufacturers because of the huge opportunity to sell cars in China. But with Honda, BMW and Toyota (and possibly Renault) all quitting the sport that demand may have lessened.

Another race suffering poor attendance is the Turkish Grand Prix, which has a contract for races in 2010 and 2011. There’s still time for both these events to get extensions on their contracts, but the fact they haven’t already speaks volumes.

To 20 races?

Circuits come and go from the calendar. Taking a long view the calendar has grown over the past decade, but quite slowly.

This incremental growth is beginning to come up against opposition from teams who feel their personnel can’t be stretched to covering many more races than they are already doing.

Perhaps one day teams could rotate multiple races crews in much the same way they used to have separate test and race teams, allowing them to cover more races. However that would require them to hire more staff, putting costs up again.

It’s one of F1’s trickier problems to solve. How would you tackle it? Or do you think the calendar doesn’t need to get any bigger?

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94 comments on F1 edging towards 20-race seasons

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  1. damonsmedley said on 8th December 2009, 7:32

    I like the calendar to have around 18 or 19 (at a maximum)rounds. I think the circuits that should go are Valencia and possibly Bahrain. That would free up two spots for potential future Grands Prix or even to bring back an older circuit, such as Imola.

    I really don’t like the direction F1 is heading in and how there are so many new circuits being built. Personally, I believe it is a great shame because the rate at which circuits come and go means the countries lose a lot of money when their race is removed. Just think how much the Shanghai circuit would have cost to build, and then think that it’s place on the calendar isn’t secure…

    The season beginning in Bahrain is terrible I think as it is the most boring track currently on the calendar. Does anyone agree?

    • Definitely agree about Bahrain. The season should start and end in countries with F1 heritage.

      • DanThorn said on 8th December 2009, 8:03

        I actually think Bahrain is one of the better modern tracks – It’s got a couple of decent corners and actually produces a great race more often than not. Shanghai, Valencia and Singapore are far worse.

        • I’d prefer the season to start as the Australian GP again. Yes I am a little biased as I am an Aussie, but people in Australian have a ‘passion’ for motor racing. Can you say the same about the Middle east or China etc.? Yes, they are important markets for the car companies but you mustn’t ignore the markets where f1 is followed almost religiously.

          • Wasn’t another reason why Australia won’t be the season opener in 2010, because they wanted to move the start back so the race didn’t finish when the sun was setting like this year and this would work better if the race was held after the clocks go forward.

          • Browny said on 9th December 2009, 0:50

            I heard they changed the calender to give Bahrain the first race because of Daylight Saving time in Melbourne ends late March and the stupid need for a twighlight race for Australia means the race has to be in late March, however they want to start the season earlier hence why Bahrain is now the first race of the season.
            I too am an Aussie and will be going to my first f1 race in 2010 (omg soo excited) however it does sadden me that Australia no longer hosts the season oppener.
            I’d run the race during daylight saving time so the race is at the start of the season, is late enough for timezone difference i.e European audiences who can’t wake up early for a race, whilst we have to stay up nearly every sunday night :(. And finally so it is still day time has the sun doesn’t set till well after 7pm

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 8th December 2009, 9:56

        Bahrain is at the start for a reason: there’s a major test two weeks before the race itself. Teams can leave all non-essential gear there and come back to it, cutting costs. Once the economy starts to pick up steam again, it can be changed.

        • Steph90 said on 8th December 2009, 11:54

          I prefer seeing fans there who want to go not just ones who are showing off how mucyh money they have.
          Heritage is nice but when the race is on I don’t care what has happened before I’m just interested in the now.
          Races should be at the best tracks in the world whether there is heritage or not. I like Istanbul, it is now my avourite Tilke track but there are empty seats everywhere. I think it has potential they just need to lower prices, but the race on at a better date or do some good deals.
          Regulations for track design should be relaxed too.
          There are so many venbues fighting for a spot but a lot of them seem to have flaws. Rome has dropped back, there is a need to crack the US market but so far all attempts have failed, the economy is still in a mess and France doesn’t seem to have any tracks to offer right now. That said the sheer amount of interest in holding GPs should be enough to get us to twenty races easily.

          • I prefer seeing fans there who want to go not just ones who are showing off how mucyh money they have.
            Heritage is nice but when the race is on I don’t care what has happened before I’m just interested in the now.

            So get rid of Monaco then?

          • Steph90 said on 8th December 2009, 13:11

            Monaco can produce some alright races and I do quite like the track. Not only that but the hills are covered in fans usually aren’t they? lol Monaco is unlikely to ever go anyway as most say it is the crown jewel of the calendar

          • Ned Flanders said on 8th December 2009, 15:30

            If F1 ditches the Monaco GP, I’ll not only eat my hat but I’ll eat a tree- that’s how sure I am that the Monaco GP is going nowhere

        • Macca said on 9th December 2009, 3:25

          I too am an Aussie and will be going to my first f1 race in 2010 (omg soo excited)

          Me to, I can’t wait to get there.

  2. The more the merrier, as long as classics aren’t dropped.

    I do wish the FIA would relax their stupid regulations and allow Tilke/someone else to build a good circuit. Racing in dangerous, if they drivers don’t accept the risk of death they should quit and become a florist.

    I also wish they’d stop concentrating on the paddock complex and the surrounds. F1 fans don’t care about a colour-changing hotel as the background, or a marina, they want good RACING.

    The alternative is cutting aero grip MASSIVELY.

  3. F1 needs a good balance between its classic Grandes Épreuves — i.e. Monaco, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, and Germany — commercially attractive ‘old’ markets — e.g. the US, Brazil, Japan — and new markets — e.g. China, Korea, Russia, and the Middle-East. There is a risk of having too many races, though, and a maximum of 19 or 20 sounds reasonable. Anything less than 16 would be a step backwards.

  4. Jonesracing82 said on 8th December 2009, 9:24

    i’d rather they did away with aero!, it kills the racing.
    i’d rather see some of the old/great tracks return.
    all the new ones are dull with acres of asphelt run off area and slow, unchallenging corners!
    P.S to “danthorn” name 1 good race that happened at Bahrain?

    • Ned Flanders said on 8th December 2009, 11:40

      To be fair, although Bahrain hasn’t produced any classic GP’s, pretty much every race there has been OK, there’s usually a decent amount of overtaking through the field.

      Not that I like the Bahrain GP- I’d love it to be replaced by a race where at least a few fans attend to watch the cars rather than do business…

  5. I don’t think any country should have two races now that more and more countries are trying to get on the calendar.

    Spain has two of the worst tracks on the calendar, and they should either rotate, or just have one removed.

    Turkey should also go, and be replaced by a place with a long-standing passion for F1, such as Argentina, Mexico or Portugal.

    • I agree. If the calendar is going to be this crowded, then one race per country per year is fairer.

      Then the grading should be by fan support/ticket sales….ie the most fanatical support ( like UK Italy Germany, Belgium, France, Canada, Australia ) guaranteed a race every year and all the rest given some typical Ecclestone ‘encouragement'( ie threats ! ) to sharpen their acts, or else.

      And it’s so true that Angentine and Mexican fans were pretty damn enthusiastic AND numerous. Why doesn’t BCE pursue these countries for a return to F1 ?

      Answering my own question…he won’t chase them because they are not rich money-to-burn countries like the Gulf States and Asia where they are quite happy to pay CVC’s staggering costs !

    • Achilles said on 8th December 2009, 12:20

      I agree with Ed,no country should have more than one GP, You usually find that the drivers are all a bit fiesty after the winter layoff, and are prepared to take a few risks, giving the fans more of a race to watch, and we are all excited ‘cos it is the first chance to see some action, so even Bahrain can appear, initially, very exciting, but Oz has the crowds and even on a TV screen the atmosphere comes across. We have found that many of the new tracks are lacking in fans but have lots of ‘fanfare’, which is’nt quite the same, instead it comes across as a chance to showboat a countries wealth, and the technological prowess it can buy, the ‘racing’ is just a warm up….

  6. I’d like to see the season spread out more, with up to 20 races/year. And to aid that would like to see more southern hemisphere tracks. Like South Africa, Argentina which have held races in the past and would like to see New Zealand build a track. Possibly try to get one of the North African states to join in as well.

    • F1 people are dead against going to South Africa because of the crime, particularly targeted against wealthy people. Joe Saward wrote a blog entry about it earlier this year. They already have to travel to Interlagos under armed guard….

  7. HounslowBusGarage said on 8th December 2009, 9:56

    Who actually decides how many races and where they will be? Is it Bernie and the FIA or just Bernie working to an FIA imposed maximum?
    There’s a general feeling amongst the teams that 18- ish races is about the maximum they can handle comfortably in a season – even without in-season testing. And there’s real competition from aspiring host countries around the world. So I find it difficult to support the idea of two races in one nation; even if they pretend to be different places (Monaco/France, San Marino/Italy). I still don’t understand why there are two races in Spain.
    But if money is the only criteria for obtaining a race, then we are stuck with whatever Bernie cares to throw at us.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 8th December 2009, 10:06

      Technically, Monaco is its own nation. The race is held entirely within the streets of the principality, unlike the Rallye Monte Carlo, which is only based in Monaco and has all of its stages in France (with the odd exception of a special run around the Formula One circuit).

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 8th December 2009, 10:08

      As for there being two races in Spain, it has to do with the popularity of Fernando Alonso. When Michael Schumacher was at his peak, there were two races in Germany; the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, and th European/Luxembourg Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Now that Schumacher has gone and Alonso is the double World Champion, there are two races in Spain: the Spanish Grand Prix in Catalunya, and the European Grand Prix at Valencia.

      And don’t suggest that the success of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton should see the European Grand Prix moved to Great Britain alongside the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The British can barely get one race going, much less two.

    • YeaMon said on 8th December 2009, 15:56

      An F1 fan not knowing Monaco is it’s own nation….I’ve seen it all now.

  8. Prisoner Monkeys said on 8th December 2009, 10:04

    I think we need races in every major geographical region in the world. That means we need a race somewhere in Africa, in either Egypt or South Africa. Africa might be gig, but it’s the world’s most under-developed continent (it has to be said). There’s only a handful of nations that could reasonably hold a race; South Africa and Egypt are the best bets.

    We also need a race in the former Soviet Union. I know we have Hungary, but Hungary has always seemed closer to the west thn to Moscow. And the Bulgarian Grand Prix fell through a while ago. No, we need a race somewhere in Russia, or possibly in the Czech Republic (though like Hungary, Prague has always been more westernised than its neighbours). Poland might be another option, given the success of Robert Kubica, but I’d say it’s an outside chance.

    • Ned Flanders said on 8th December 2009, 11:43

      Poland would be a good race, there’d be huge interest because of Kubica, and it’d be accessible and relatively cheap for us Europeans.

      Not sure how much money there is in Poland right now, though, and we all know that no money= no Grand Prix

    • I think Morocco would be a good candidate for an African Grand Prix, they have recent experience of global motorsport events (WTCC has a round in Marrakech) and a decent tourist infrastructure.

      As for a race in the old Soviet bloc, Tilke has designed a circuit under construction in Kazakhstan. Never say never….

    • F1 needs a race in the USA. Period.

      • Oh…and a 20 race calendar is just fine. The teams can handle it.

        • Harvs said on 8th December 2009, 21:27

          South Africa wants to host a GP again after the soccer world cup, they are planning of locating it in Cape Town near the airport, the track that has been planned tooks like a cross between sepang, bahrain, and silverstone.

          another Tilke track ofcourse, but id love to see F1 back in South Africa

          • David Gant the CEO of the SA GP Bid Company has been trying to get this off the ground for several years, but was struggling with land rights next to Cape Town Intl Airport and with financing (and that BEFORE the financial crisis). His plans included getting the Western Province Motor Club to relocate from Killarney Motor Racing Track, all well and good, but they weren’t interested in moving.

            Haven’t heard any more about this since summer 2007.

  9. Accidental Mick said on 8th December 2009, 10:13

    I think we can all understand why the teams do not want to go up to 20 races a year.

    In the olden days (I know, boring boring) teams didn’t HAVE to enter every Grand Prix. If each team was contracted to compete in 18 races and each grid was limited to 22 starters one could have as many races as Ecclestone could swing and as many teams as one wanted.

    A method of circuit selection by the teams would have to be devised. Perhaps as soon as the fixture list was anounced the WCC would choose their 18 races then the 2nd WCC and so on.

    As a side effect, it would give the manufacturers added incentive to do well. It would also mix up the grid as the current WDC leader would not always be racing.

  10. Haggis Hunter said on 8th December 2009, 10:13

    i would like to see the f1 goto laguna seca in california. what a track!

    • Yeah ! Yeah ! Yeah !

      Laguna Seca…..what an amazing place.

      Apparently the dead ( interesting choice of word ) hand of HELF an’SAFETEE says ‘ooooooooh No !!! ‘Too dangerous !’

      ‘Now if you’d just take out that horrible corkscrew and put in a nice slow chicane….? ….. ?

      And they all end up looking like Bahrain…

      • Haggis Hunter said on 8th December 2009, 13:04

        Dear Santa,
        i ahve been a really good boy this year and all i ask is that you arrange the F1 to visit Laguna Seca.

        Thanks Big Guy

        Haggis Hunter!

  11. I believe under the old Concorde Agreement that Ecclestone had to pay the teams extra if they had more than a certain number of races in a season, does anyone know if this is still the case and what the number is?

    I think 20 races a season would be about right, as the article points out anymore and the teams would have to have an extra race team to cover the races, which in a time of cutting staff numbers and costs probably wouldn’t happen.

    As so many countries want to host a Grand Prix, I am against any one country having two races. They should either alternate as Germany currently do, or perhaps have one Grand Prix, such as the European Grand Prix, change location every year visiting classic circuits which aren’t usually on the calendar, so sometimes a country may end up with two Grand Prix a year if it has two great circuits. It wouldn’t be so bad Spain having two Grand Prix if both circuits produced great races but they don’t.

    How about an article on which Grand Prix you would safe guard if you had the choice. As I started watching F1 in 1991 my list is influenced by countries that have hosted a race since then, so roughly in the order they have recently been on the calendar, my choices would be

    Australia
    Monaco
    Canada
    USA
    France
    Britain
    Germany
    Belgium
    Japan
    Brazil

    I would also have rounds in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East as I would like F1 to have rounds all over the world, but the above are the ones I would give priority to.

    It may just be because I have become used to them but I think Australia makes a great season opener, and Brazil a great season finale.

    • I don’t know if the clause still applies, but under the old Concorde Agreement Bernie had to pay the teams extra if they did more than 17 races.

    • I can’t believe I forgot to include Italy on my list. I knew somewhere was missing but I just couldn’t think where.

  12. I think this is a good amount of races, 20 sounds spot on, no more than that though if it causes problems for the teams.

    However, although it’s good there’s a lot of races, quite a few of these newer tracks don’t create a good race, so I’d happily sacrifice them and have less races but at the older tracks that had great races.

  13. Icthyes said on 8th December 2009, 10:36

    F1 edging towards 20-race seasons

    And good job too, the more the merrier.

    I like the Chinese track but if it’s the less successful one out of it and Malaysia, I’m happy to see it go – they’re far too similar.

    We should definitely see an end to the era of two races in one country if we’re to fit them all in. That means no tedious Barcelona and Valencia in the same calendar. F1 must also go back to the United States, and cut back on all these Middle/Far East street circuit/harbour bores.

    See, the problem with overtaking in F1 has only been exacerbated by the tracks. Once the core problem of the cars is sorted, the old great tracks will once again become the best ones for racing, and Bernie’s policy of Tilkebores will become even more of a sham. That’s why Eccles should think twice before dropping current tracks (unless it’s Hungary, which needs improving or dropping if we’re going to have a Czech and/or Bulgarian race anyway – but Bernie owns it, so no chance there).

  14. solidg said on 8th December 2009, 10:50

    As a real f1 addict I can’t get enough races :)
    Around 20 sounds good to me!

    They do need to look at wich tracks are important for good races and attendances.
    The marketplaces for car makers isn’t a thing anymore and they must think about a good show now!

    The obvious tracks you can’t miss are for example:
    Spa, brazil, silverstone…

  15. This reminds me of the question I asked on skribit – “How do FIA/FOM/F1 and teams finance work so they only have 17 races a season whereas Nascar has 35″. It would be great if some light could be shed on this. Personally I could only offer real suggestions once I had this information.

    • NASCAR have 36 races a year but they’re all on the same landmass. F1 has 17 or 18 races spread all over the world. The travel costs (particularly for flyaway races) are astronomical in F1 compared to NASCAR.

      • Exactly…and even those 36 take a toll on the NASCAR guys in the same fashion that travel also wears out the F1 crowd.

        What’s more is that NASCAR has their own versions of “Tilkedromes” tracks that are viewed as boring and uninteresting by the fans, while a few classic venues have been taken away from the sport in recent years. It’s just like F1 really.

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