Formula One is set to make history next year with its 22-race calendar, which will mark the longest season in the world championship’s illustrious history.
It all started back in 1950, when 25 races were held – some of them on the same day or within three days of each other – but only six counted towards the inaugural world championship.
Of the six, four – the Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco, the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps and the Italian Grand Prix in Monza – still remain part of the programme.
Of the other two races on the calendar in 1950, the Swiss Grand Prix is no longer held, while the French Grand Prix is now held at the Paul Ricard Circuit at Le Castellet instead of at Reims-Gueux.
Next year, F1’s 70th anniversary season gets under way with the Australian Grand Prix taking place in Melbourne on March 15. And, as usual, it will end with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on November 29.
This season, 21 races were held. But the 2020 German Grand Prix will not take place – instead, Vietnam will become the 34th country to stage a round of the world championship, while the Zandvoort circuit, which will be the venue for the Dutch Grand Prix, returns after a 35-year hiatus.
Organisers say the 70th season should be one of the most closely fought battles on and off the track.
Chloe Targett-Adams, F1’s global director of promotors and business relations, said: “To be able to have 22 races across 22 different territories shows that we have grown the sport’s fan base massively. It’s a great opportunity for the sport.”
The decision to increase the number of races has, however, not been met with approval from all quarters, with some of the drivers voicing concerns.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who is arguably one of the main reasons the Dutch Grand Prix has returned to Zandvoort, has questioned the extension of next year’s calendar and suggested that the changes may lead to “divorces” with engineers.
“I don’t agree with 22 races a year … I know they want to make money, but they also need to think about the mechanics who rock up to the track,” Verstappen (22) told AutoSport magazine.
He explained that the logistics staff arrived at the track at the start of the week, while high-ranking officials arrived only much later, and sometimes travelled back home during the actual competition.
“For them, it isn’t a problem; they can easily do 30 because they’re only away for three days. For most of the people, it’s at least five or six days,” he said.
Racing Point driver Sergio Pérez agreed with the young Dutchman: “It’s a lot of action. Not for drivers. We love racing, although it’s a lot of big commitments, because we don’t only have the racing, we have the simulator and sponsorship events, and we have to keep fit and so on, so it’s a lot – it’s over the limit. But also for the mechanics,” the Mexican said.
Pérez, who has eight podium finishes to his credit, added that he was concerned about how the changes would affect his engineers.
“They are the ones who are going to be quite worried about their social lives.”
When Pérez started to work with his team, there were three fewer races, which, in effect, gave the teams three more weeks off.
He is now considering the idea that teams might need to have two crews as the burden on one becomes too much.
It is a situation that even the F1 organisation has come to consider.
“It is a challenge, of course,” said Targett-Adams.
“It will lead to more work for everyone in F1 and we are all conscious of the extra load it places on team personnel, on our own staff, and on all of our stakeholders from an operational and logistical point of view.”
Criticism notwithstanding, organisers said they were looking forward to the new season.
Chase Carey, F1’s chairperson and chief executive officer, said: “The 2020 season, with a record 22 grands prix, has received unanimous support from [governing body] the FIA and all the teams.”
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