I would be the last person to ask. If you were seeking a comment as to whether 22 races in a Formula 1 season were too many, I couldn’t tell you, with any meaningful authority, if that were a true statement or not. I can say, as a fan, that more races are something I generally would like to see but that only represents one side of a multi-sided argument.
The FIA revised the 2014 Formula 1 calendar and as of now, it presents a possible 22-race schedule. While I will be surprised if that actually happens, it could in theory. The question now revolves around the logistics of executing a 22-race season when many team bosses have said in the past that they would not be please with more than 20 races in a season.
Sky Sports F1 ran a story quoting F2 team owner and former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer as saying:
“It won’t be too much – it will be a challenge and it will be hard work, but at Formula 1 level the teams are immensely professional and organised and the systems will be in place for it to be executed satisfactory,” Palmer said.
“I am sure there will be some weary people and there won’t be any room to slip up, but I am sure it will unfold very well indeed.”
Admittedly, Palmer would know better than I as he is currently peddling around the world with his F2 team and has been an F1 driver for Williams and Tyrrell but I find Sky’s choice of source a bit odd. I should think that any one of the team bosses, engineers or logistics managers would know far better than Palmer as to whether current F1 teams can handle a 22-race season or not.
I am unclear as to what insight Palmer carries, beyond mine or any other outsider, as to whether the teams have the resources, stamina or capacity to manage a 22-race season. If being a team owner is the criteria, perhaps a GP2 team owner might be an even better source as that series has a tendency to mirror F1’s calendar as a supporting event.
What I do know is that Reuters’s Alan Baldwin actually asked a few, arguably, more meaningful sources and McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh said:
“There are locations that may be in doubt and therefore I think having some backups isn’t a bad idea,” said McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh.
“I don’t know whether the calendar will grow to 22. Twenty two would certainly be incredibly tough on the teams…we used to think going beyond 16 was tough and it is.”
And Marussia team boss john Booth said:
“That’s a big concern to us – 22 races – because it changes staff levels dramatically, as well as (more) in-season testing,” said Marussia principal John Booth, whose team have the smallest budget. “It’s okay having new races, but maybe one or two will fall away.”
And Sauber’s team boss Monisha Kaltenborn said:
“I think these are issues we have to look at clearly,” she said. “Going above 20 would be too many.”
And Mercedes boss Ross Brawn said:
“I think you reach a point where, if you go beyond it, you have to look at rotating people, crews and that gets very difficult particularly with engineers who are very closely linked with their drivers,” he said.
“With some of the others, mechanics and technicians, we can do that. So 20 races I think is the sensible limit.”
What Mr. Palmer thinks, to me, is irrelevant but what is certain is the doubt that lingers over the actual 22-race calendar. Martin Whitmarsh said:
“There have been some question marks,” added the McLaren boss. “That’s why I don’t personally think there are going to be more than 20 next year.”
If New Jersey can get their pit lane and paddock area built, the race could go forward and if Mexico can get the upgrades, construction and paddock area built, it could happen but like Whitmarsh, there is a lot of work to be done and I have my reservations about a 22-race schedule.
As a fan, I would love to see more F1 but if the teams can’t logistically pull it off and the stamina as well as resources for the smaller teams just isn’t there, then I say let’s stick with 20 and keep some parity and financial stability in the series. Who knows, maybe Mr. Palmer would like to create a Formula 1 team and show us how its done. He’s a sharp businessman and maybe he knows something Ross Brawn, Martin Whitmarsh and Monisha Kaltenborn don’t…namely, how to handle 22 races in a season.