Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

The rise and rise of the F1 calendar // What do you make of the ever-expanding race schedule?

Published by Christine

When the World Motor Sport Council met in June to discuss the future of Bahrain, they confirmed a twenty-one race calendar for 2012. It's an increase of two on this year, which should have been 20 itself before Bahrain dropped out. It's also an increase of five since I started watching F1. A 21 race calendar means that half of the available weekends next year could be tied up with watching Formula One.

That seems like a lot, doesn't it?

The news was somewhat buried with the furore surrounding Bahrain and their potential return to this year's calendar. Today, the FIA confirmed the 2011 calendar was back to its original 19 race state, after Bahrain organisers took things into their own hands. Now, our focus can turn to next year.

It's difficult to comprehend visiting more than twenty destinations in the space of nine months. How can that possibly work? Even FIA President Jean Todt has said there absolutely won't be that many events next year.

There are 21 dates, but the championship will be 20 grands prix. We don't know which one will go, but the championship will be 20 races.

- Jean Todt

Of course, given the actions of the FIA over the past few weeks, it's hard to trust this statement implicitly, but even if that is the case, twenty races still feels like too many. There are many, many concerns tied up with an ever-expanding calendar. The most important, of course, is that team personnel are already getting burnt out keeping up with the workload they already have. Adding more burden to them seems unreasonable, and in these days of cost-cutting, forcing teams to expand their organisation to cover exhausted employees also seems crazy.

Logistics can also be a problem, and the increase of back-to-back racing has shown itself up to be a problem already this year. Getting from Spain to Monaco in the space of four days was a ridiculous idea, not helped by exploding trucks and traffic jams, but fundamentally flawed from the outset. More transport, more logistics, more racing across countries to get to the countries you need to race in.

Away from the teams and their cars, there are all the peripheral staff making their living off F1, but paying their way as they go. Anyone who has listened to an Aside with Joe will know that visiting all those countries isn't a cheap business, and the more races there are, the more expensive it's going to get, and the fewer people will be able to afford to keep up.

Then, finally, from an entirely selfish point of view, twenty-one is just too many required weekends.

I've been watching Formula One since 2003 and there have never been more than 19 races a year in that time. Since we started Sidepodcast there have only been two 19 calendar seasons. The first was last year, but our hiatus put pay to our attendance of every single session. This year there are (not necessarily as planned) also 19, and we have already had to miss the better half of the never-ending Canadian GP due to "real life".

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We can just about justify 19 race weekends dedicated to Formula One a year, and thankfully Mr C and I are both on the same page. Stretching the calendar more and more can only mean that fans are forced to miss race weekends. Can we really justify spending 50% of our weekends in front of the TV? Can you convince your family and friends that 21 weekends are better spent watching sport than spending time with them?

The end result will be us missing some of the live action, and perhaps catching up in the midweek. It doesn't sound like the end of the world written like that, but it's certainly going to be an adjustment, and it's definitely not quite what we signed up for. The exclusivity of F1, the less is more concept, is what attracted me to it in the first place. Some of the best things are worth waiting for. The Olympics, the World Cup, these things happen every four years. Wimbledon is just two weeks out of a single year.

I'm comfortable with two weeks dedicated to a sport. Twenty one is an entirely different matter.