F1 calendar could stretch to 21 GPs for 2016 season
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 benet 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