F1 cal­en­dar could stretch to 21 GPs for 2016 sea­son

F1 Racing - - IN­SIDER -

New events in Mex­ico and Azer­bai­jan will make the cal­en­dar longer than ever – un­less other race venues are dropped

Sep­a­rate an­nounce­ments that For­mula 1 will be re­turn­ing to Mex­ico City in 2015 and break­ing new ground in Azer­bai­jan in 2016, bring­ing the num­ber of grands prix to 21, have met with a mixed re­sponse. F1’s teams have long viewed 20 races as the max­i­mum sus­tain­able, given the pun­ish­ing ef­fects of a lengthy travel sched­ule.

Mex­ico, which last hosted a GP at the Autó­dromo Her­manos Ro­dríguez in 1992, had ap­peared on the pro­vi­sional cal­en­dar for 2014 be­fore it was de­cided that mod­ernising the cir­cuit would take too long. The track lay­out is still to be nalised, but if the race goes back to back with the US GP at Austin, as is lo­gis­ti­cally pru­dent, that leaves a year to com­plete the work.

“I feel it is the right time for F1 and Mex­ico and I'm sure it will be to the benet of both for many years,” said Bernie Ec­cle­stone at the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment of that race.

As F1 Rac­ing re­vealed last month, the for­mer So­viet state of Azer­bai­jan will join the 2016 cal­en­dar with a street race to be held in its cap­i­tal city of Baku. The race will be called the Grand Prix of Europe, since Azer­bai­jan is transcon­ti­nen­tal. Many in­sid­ers have ex­pressed reser­va­tions at the sport’s ex­pan­sion away from its heart­lands, but lead­ing gures have re­mained pub­licly up­beat – par­tic­u­larly after GPs in Ger­many and Hun­gary at­tracted few spec­ta­tors.

“It’s all about bal­ance,” said Red Bull team prin­ci­pal Chris­tian Horner in Hun­gary. “It’s about keep­ing the his­tor­i­cal events and bring­ing in new events. If there isn’t any in­ter­est in F1, as we saw last week­end, then why not go to a new mar­ket that is cry­ing out for F1?”

But there is still the is­sue of whether the ex­pan­sion of the cal­en­dar is sus­tain­able for those mem­bers of the F1 cir­cus who do not travel by pri­vate jet – un­less one or more of the ex­ist­ing races were to be dropped. Ques­tions have been raised about the Rus­sian GP, given es­ca­lat­ing global po­lit­i­cal ten­sions fol­low­ing the shoot­ing­down of a Malaysian air­liner over the Ukraine.

And the Ital­ian Grand Prix is out of con­tract as of 2015, with Ec­cle­stone in­di­cat­ing it may not con­tinue be­yond then.

Mex­ico’s Autó­dromo Her­manos Ro­dríguez just missed out on host­ing a race this year, but looks set to hold a Mex­i­can GP in 2015

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