This weekend’s Russian Grand Prix is the sixteenth round of the 2019 Formula 1 season and in past decades the sixteenth race would signal the final race of a season.
However in 2019 it means that there are another five races after Russia that Formula 1 will contest.
At the time of writing, by the time the 2020 Russian Grand Prix comes around, it will mark the seventeenth race in a twenty two race season.Embed from Getty Images
Cue plenty of debate about the Formula 1 calendar and what is either too much or too little when it comes to races during a season.
This is a conundrum that Formula 1 has been having with their race schedule as more and more venues try and get onto the calendar. Especially as Liberty Media have targeted the calendar as ripe for change, along with other aspects of the sport.Embed from Getty Images
Liberty Media want to do a lot with the schedule, keeping the European races and other current races while also expanding in America, Africa, China and even in Europe. This very quickly gets the race schedule to twenty five if not more races during a season.
This is a challenge for everybody as teams have pointed out with potentially having to effectively hire two race teams to cover an expanded calendar. There have also been concerns that the current number of races and the potential of increasing the number of events for a season ‘dilutes’ Formula 1 and that scarcity rather than abundance is the best course of action.Embed from Getty Images
They are all points worth considering and during this year’s British Grand Prix Zak Brown was reported as offering a potential solution to the sport’s scheduling dilemma. He has suggested that Formula 1 look to its recent past when venues would alternate with each other, as a way of keeping the number of events to a manageable level for teams and keep venues fresh and unique by the sport visiting a venue once every two years rather than annually, for example.
This is something that Formula 1 has done in its recent past when the likes of the German Grand Prix was alternated between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring. A similar situation was due to happen with the Spanish Grand Prix alternating between Barcelona and the Valencia street track, which originally hosted a few European Grand Prix in the 2010s.Embed from Getty Images
Zak Brown’s idea would effectively tweak this concept so that, for example, Russia would alternate with Azerbaijan. This would mean, if applied for 2020 and beyond, that the sport would visit Russia in 2020 with no Azerbaijan Grand Prix before then having a race in Azerbaijan in 2021 while having no race in Russia.
Aside from helping the sport to manage a larger roster of events, the concept would in theory have the additional benefit of making Grand Prix more unique and more valuable due to the sport visiting a venue every two years rather than annually.
This could be expanded to having F1 Live events in the countries that don’t host a Grand Prix in a particular season but will in the following one. All of which helps keep the number of races in a season to a manageable level as well as allowing Formula 1 to keep and create a presence in a larger number of countries.Embed from Getty Images
There would, like anything, be obstacles to attempting to implement such a system, perhaps the most obvious being that venues are unlikely to want to part with large sums of money for an appearance on the calendar every two years. Which would in turn potentially end up effecting how much revenue the sport is able to generate from venues and ultimately have a knock on affect of how much money the teams receive.
As others have pointed out, Formula 1 is reaching saturation, similar to other sports such as football or NASCAR, that will affect both those competing in the sport as well as those following it.
Like other areas of the sport, Formula 1 is analysing and deciding what can be changed about its calendar. Like everything else, stakeholders will need to negotiate and concede certain privileges in order to reach a solution, whether that’s Formula 1 teams needing to create two race teams or whether venues will have to start ‘buddying up’.