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Why Not a Flexible Calendar?

It looks as though Singapore have got their GP for next year. Valencia, too, is making a strong bid for a race and may be allowed as the “Mediterranean GP”. That would give the lie to Bernie’s stated aim not to let one country have more than one GP (which was always going to be overlooked in the case of a second US GP anyway) and should give Imola extra encouragement to get their alterations done quickly, if the organizers still want the circuit to return to the calendar.

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Then there is India waiting in the wings and rumors of a return to Mexico, not forgetting South Africa who want a race too. A quart of races and a pint pot of a calendar to squeeze them into. Add to that the reluctance of the teams to take on even more GPs and it seems an impossible situation. But there might be a way.

Suppose, for instance, the calendar were extended to include twenty-five GPs but teams could only take part in twenty of them. One could make fifteen of the races mandatory (preferably the old ones that no-one wants to lose) and then have a rota system for the remaining ten to ensure that the teams don’t all go for the same races. Numbers of competitors would be down in the “optional” races but this could be compensated for by allowing (or enforcing) new wannabe teams to participate in the extra races for their first year or two. They would be allowed to score points but barred from the mandatory races until they had proved their ability to compete at the level of F1. The sport would be spared the embarrassment of another farce like the Andrea Moda saga therefore.

The advantages of such a system are many. Great and time-honored circuits that are now under threat would gain some security while new races get the chance to prove themselves. Teams would not have the expense of participating in more races than logistics and economics allow but would still be on view everywhere at least once every two years. Every race venue could have a GP each year and we would no longer have to hear of possible “sharing” of GPs between Britain and France (okay, France has taken itself out of the equation for 2008 but I’m sure it will want to return thereafter). And the fans would get an increase in the number of races, something they all seem to want.

It would be similar to the occasionally-tried system of only permitting points scored in a number of races less than the total, except that the teams would not have to travel to the races where they were not going to score. The inclusion of new teams would increase the number of concerns willing to give F1 racing a try and sort out the wheat from the chaff at the same time. If they were to score a few points now and then, that could even spice up the battles between existing teams and make the championship a little less predictable. Plus it would be an excellent way for new drivers to gain a foothold in the sport and show their worth.

No doubt this idea would involve a lot of calculating to see which races should go where and how the teams are allocated optional races to ensure fairness. It might be necessary to make it slightly more complicated by shaking up the allocation every now and then to ensure that certain races do not become the domain of a team whose prime competitor does not race in those GPs in the same year – although the other team would presumably have a similar advantage in the GPs it was attending.

It seems to me that this might be a way of solving several problems at the same time so a little complication in designing it should not put us off. It might even work.

Of course, I’m sure Bernie and Max don’t read Formula 1 Latest so there’s no danger of them considering the matter. It’s okay, you can relax – just another of my wild ideas…

18 Responses to “Why Not a Flexible Calendar?”

  1. Interesting idea. But given thatmost teams now have their cars ready in January, why not simply expand the calendar and begin racing in February?

    Surely it makes more sense than endless expensive pounding around Barcelona, Valencia, Bahrain etc when nobody is watching?

    Not convinced there would be many teams waiting in the margins to take part in non-mandatory races (even customer teams require enormous infrastructure to run – Toro Rosso has 140+ employees,and I can’t see the money being put up for that if a new team is only going to get a part-season). Perhaps something could be done to allow teams to run their test drivers in a couple of races

  2. The problem with simply expanding the calendar and the season is that the smaller teams are already saying they can’t afford the extra travelling that would be required. Yes, there would be fewer tests possible in the off season and that would save some money but it would also mean that cars were not really ready for the early races. Consider how many teams experienced problems in testing this year (all of them, I think) – those stoppages would have happened in the early races if the teams had been unable to test. Do we want races to be ruined by the majority of the field retiring? Even as it is, some of the teams had not done enough testing prior to the Australian GP and suffered as a result.

    Ignoring the availability of money to get new teams going, there was a long list of hopefuls that applied to participate at the same time as Prodrive did – Prodrive merely won the “auction”. Presumably those concerns would still be interested if it were easier to get in. I could be wrong, but I think there would be sufficient takers to get it to work.

    As for money, at present the FIA requires very high financial guarantees before even considering an application – lower the requirements and there could be an explosion of interest. The whole idea of the financial requirement was that hopelessly underfunded teams would not apply; yet it is not impossible for a team on a small budget to be surprisingly competitive – Simtek is an example. If they serve an apprenticeship for a year and survive financially, surely that is proof enough of their viability? And it might make the unlikely ones have second thoughts. ;)

    Yes, some of the races might become a bit silly, with mobile chicanes staggering around, completely off the pace. But that has happened in the past and we coped with it. And I kinda like the idea of minnows getting in there and having a go at the big fellers…

  3. Sorry to be off subject, but I saw a blurb somewhere that said Webber replaced Coulthard, but I can’t find any info about it. Any idea if it means anything?

  4. Webber replaced Coulthard? I think that must be referring to the testing just finished in Sepang, Barry. The teams are only allowed to test one car there and so they have been swapping drivers in and out of the cars on a daily basis. Presumably it means that Coulthard had done his stint so Webber took over.

  5. why not less testing and more racing?

  6. [...] Why not a flexible calendar? – Perhaps F1 should be more than just the same events year-in, year-out… [...]

  7. You need to ask the teams that one, Rob. Basically I think they would answer that they do not get as much as testing as they’d like even now – everyone wants their car to be well-sorted before they risk it in a public arena where constant breakdowns can be embarrassing. If more races can only be supplied by cutting down on testing, the pace of innovation would suffer, as well as reliability, and we could end up with a series in which the cars are fairly basic (as in NASCAR with its 40 races a season). It’s a matter of balancing development of the cars with the number of races and my suggestion is an attempt at keeping everyone happy whilst preserving F1 as a sport that we would want to watch. That is a tall order and my solution is not necessarily the only possibility – just my contribution to the the debate.

  8. [...] about races being dropped and new ones being added, there is a good suggestion about making the calendar ‘flexible’. Definitely suggestion worth considering. Suppose, for instance, the calendar were extended to [...]

  9. i have a better idea! y not simply have more races and do away with in-season testing! they do the same amount of travel etc as it is now but with testing they get no exposure or results!

  10. No testing at all, you mean, Nathan? But wouldn’t that mean that there would be a lot more retirements through breakages during the races? Development would slow to a crawl as well and those cars that were good in the first race would remain so all season while the rest would stand no chance of catching up. Might as well have a championship decided by the first race in that case, since all the others would produce pretty much the same results. Then there would be the temptation for those teams with private testing tracks to do a bit of cheating…

  11. you are making valid comments
    but if every body is testing the same amount it will make no difference

  12. True, Rob, except that the reliability of all the cars would decline – and that’s not necessarily so bad since retirement through car failure was pretty common until fairly recently. But to merely increase the number of races is still not a viable option from the financial point of view, particularly for the smaller teams. There are those teams (Williams, Spyker, Toro Rosso, Super Aguri) that are stretched to the limit of their budget already – increase the number of races they have to attend and you could push them over the edge. And it’s not really sufficient to say that they would save on the costs of testing – at present, they can opt to save money by not attending a test (as Spyker has done with the Sepang test). All F1 teams have to attend GPs, however.

  13. Before we get too excited about 25 races and a flexi-schedule, let’s consider WHAT and WHERE these new races are. Bernie is black-mailing the BRDC to ‘improve’ Silverstone but he’s willing to run a street race in India with nothing more than “adequete” seating. That’s an Ecclestone quote. Mexico wants a race, South Africa wants a race, Greece wants a race, and then Mongolia and Iceland……when’s it going to end? These sites or Bernie are interested in additional races for one reason……..MONEY to THEM!
    Then there’s this crazy talk of night races, i.e. Champ Cars USA. Many of these new sites are NOT going to enhance our ‘sport’ in any way. Yes, I too would like more races but not just garbage races for the sake of filling the calender. Mandatory 15 and an additional 5 by lottery might work, with allowance of new teams to fill the field……something could be worked out. There is TOO much testing, much of that time should be allotted to PAID spectator time. My friend Clive thinks we’d have too many DNFs but a closer look at test failures shows many of those failures occur on lap 77 or lap 85, etc. …… well beyond the distance of a current F1 race. We could live with less testing without great detrement to the races. I’m not jumping on the wagon for more races just yet, not at the expense of the British and French races, and Italian and German also!!! So there’s my two pence worth. Number 38

  14. I agree with you in essence, Roy – in a previous post I argued against having more races from the quality point of view. But it does seem that most F1 fans want more (understandably after an off season that feels as though it lasted forever). As I said earlier, this suggestion is potentially a way to give everyone what they want without upsetting anyone too much.

    Note, too, that it would not just be new teams and drivers who would be “on test” in the extra races – it would be new circuits too. If any of them proved just too awful, they could easily be dropped in favor of others. Most importantly, it would give some of the older and much-loved circuits some security of tenure in that they could be guaranteed as too good to lose, even if their facilities were not quite up to the absurdly high standards of the FIA.

    As regards DNFs, we should remember that the F1 world has become used to near-perfect reliability, particularly amongst the front runners. If testing is cut back, it is inevitable that reliability will suffer to some extent, even if it is not quite as bad as I’ve painted it (well, I have to back my system with some reasons, don’t I? ;) ). So I say let ‘em test and here’s a way to increase the number of races at the same time.

    Whatever happens, we need to ensure that the last great circuit, Spa, is never allowed to disappear from the calendar!

  15. Perhaps a belated plea from what increasingly appears to be the minority camp, who believe that a maximum of 18 “quality” races per season is about all the sport can produce if the “pinnacle of motor racing” label is to be maintained. Some of the suggested new venues, at the loss of our more treasured established tracks, suggests that the label is for sale to the highest bidder, meanwhile ignoring the factors that bought F1 to where it is today.

    Mansions over three bedroom bungalows – Ferrari over Ford – Brooks Brothers over Sears – Champagne over beer. A steadily increasing number of us can no longer afford the exclusive over the practical. While admittedly F1 does have a few problems, it still gives us the opportunity to join the elite on occasion … if only via the fantasy of T.V. Please, don’t take that away from us too.

  16. I echo your sentiments exactly, David – give us quality, not quantity. Unfortunately, you have hit the nail on the head when you say that GPs are for sale to the highest bidder and that will remain so as long as Mr Ecclestone is in charge of who gets one. He sees his job as making sure that F1 wrings the maximum of income from its popularity and he is very good at that – witness his own fortune.

    My suggestion is made in the light of that reality. There is a lot of pressure for F1 to increase the number of races and Bernie has already said that he wants to take the total to twenty per season. And Bernie usually gets what he wants, so my hope is that they will consider a system such as my suggestion, rather than just increase the number of races and let happen what may. The whole point of suggesting the “optional” races is to make sure that we don’t lose the good races when making way for the new and untried ones.

  17. i said do away with in-season testing as in private testing, just have the friday as an official test day for the entire day!

  18. Ah, I see what you mean, Nathan. That would be some compensation for the teams losing all other tests but wouldn’t leave them much time to fix anything that was wrong. But I suppose everyone would be in the same boat on that score. Some sort of combination would probably be best – a reduced number of in-season tests combined with all-day Friday testing would work well enough, I think.

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