Renault F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul is convinced that increasing rounds on the world championship calendar will dilute interest in the sport and argues a case for reducing the series to 15 races per season.
Formula 1 this year is amid a record-equalling season of 21 races, including an exhaustive three grands prix over 17 days, back-to-back races in France, Austria and the UK. Meanwhile, Liberty Media are looking to add more venues to the championship which could stretch to 24 or 25 races in years to come.
Abiteboul told Motorsport Network, “We need to be able to engage with fans but it has to remain something special. We are already way above what should be the figure for something special.”
“We need to convey a message of pride, of motivation, of energy. With the calendar that we have now, the enthusiasm is not the same as when we were only travelling 15 times per year. If we don’t have that energy, it is going to be very difficult to convey that externally.”
“It is almost becoming routine. It should not be a day-to-day job. We’ve tipped that balance, so we need to be extremely careful. I appreciate the reason why, commercially we need to grow the calendar, but as far as I’m concerned, I would be for a massive contraction of the sport.”
“If you were to go very aggressive and say 15 races, you have to tell the 21 races you have right now, ‘Look guys there are going to be six of you that will be dropped: compete’. You completely reverse the pattern of the market. It would be very interesting to see the reaction.
“I understand it would be a gamble, that it is not something within the current set-up of Formula 1, that acquires more money every year, more people, more tracks, more prize-fund, more of everything, but at some point there will be a crunch time and maybe we will see if we can switch the balance,” argued Abiteboul.
An expanded calendar will extend resources and will hit the smaller teams far harder than the bigger outfits, further widening the increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots in the sport.
The first Formula 1 World Championship season in 1950 consisted of seven rounds, notably there were 16 non-championship races that year where the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi duelled for prestige and prize money which, along with appearance money, was the business model that existed at the time which allowed the sport to thrive in the early days.
Big Question: Are 21 races per season too much for Formula 1?