Better racing could mean fewer F1 races
By Mat Coch
Thursday 21st January, 2021 - 1:03pm
Improved on track action could lead to the Formula 1 schedule shrinking rather than growing according to its new boss, Stefano Domenicali.
The Italian, who was Team Principal at Ferrari before heading the Lamborghini road car business, took over from Chase Carey as F1’s Chief Executive Officer at the start of the year.
The 2021 season is, on paper, the busiest in the sport’s history with 23 events running from March to December.
It follows the trend of gradual expansion F1 has seen since the late 1990s.
Up to that point, the calendar had floated between 15 and 17 events per year for the better part of three decades.
Increasing the number of events is a simple way for Liberty Media, F1’s commercial rights holder, to drive up profits from the sport.
Income from Formula 1 comes through three main sources; hosting rights, television contracts, and ‘corporate’ deals which include hospitality and trackside signage.
However, an expanded calendar dilutes the value of each position, with Domenicali intimating that a strong on-track product could raise interest and competition in hosting an event such that it could scale back its calendar.
At a point, the sport could run fewer events and receive the same income through higher hosting fees, and television deals while reducing costs for all involved.
Speaking with Sky Sports F1, Domenicali said: “23 races is a very important number of races, no doubt, in terms of quantity, in terms of attention, in terms of dedication of the people.
“There could be two positions on that respect, someone can say there are too many, some others that that is not a problem.
“I would say that this equation will solve itself by the fact that if we’re able to deliver an incredible product, we may go to a situation where maybe we can go back to a fewer number of races and then maybe the chance of a rotation is possible for certain Grands Prix, keeping a focus on different areas.
“This is something that is in our plan to think about carefully this year, getting ready for when the world is normal again.”
Already F1 has been forced to amend its calendar, pushing the Australian Grand Prix back from March to November.
Though on the surface it appears a straightforward delay, it’s a significant task as not only did it require the agreement of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and Victoria State Government, but other promoters as well.
With the new schedule calling for a triple-header in the United States, Mexico, and Brazil in the weeks prior, in the midst of a gruelling second half of the season, it also required agreement from the teams.
Even with that change few expect the calendar to flow as scheduled, with further changes likely as the pandemic continues.
“What I can share is that I’m personally speaking on a daily basis with all the organisers,” Domenicali explained.
“We know the pandemic is still there – that’s why we changed the place in the calendar of Australia.
“But so far the information we have is that everyone really would like to go ahead with the plan.
“Of course we need to be flexible enough to understand that maybe in the first part of the season we may have some events with no public or with restricted members of the public.
“But what I can assure our supporters, our fans, is that really we want to make sure that the season is there, we have a commitment and we want to take that on board, and we have possible alternatives in case – but so far no one has given us different information to what we have shared.
“This is what we know today, but we know how the pandemic has evolved so we need to be ready for a flexible approach on the season.”