F1 edging towards 20-race seasons

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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?

Image (C) BMW ag