This week's announcement that the 2014 F1 calendar will include a stop in Austria, without any obvious candidate for relegation from the current schedule, has raised concerns that the year looks set to creep above the existing 20-race ceiling.
Despite doubts surfacing about India and New Jersey, both Russia and Austria are due to join the calendar in 2014 and, although the number of races is not set in stone, with Bernie Ecclestone's views on the subject wavering between boasting about potential new venues and keeping a limit the teams are happy with, there was a degree of concern in Hungary on Friday when the matter of next year's schedule was raised.
“Any more than 20 would be very difficult for a small team to service,” Marussia team principal John Booth admitted, “We would start drifting into the area of having to have back-up crews, to rotate staff – and that obviously becomes very expensive.”
While it is to be expected that the sport's minnows – such as Marussia – would be opposed to expansion of the calendar, those supposedly at the other end of the financial scale also believe that there should be a limit.
“I think there is a consensus about doing 20 races and, like John said, anything more and you need to ramp-up the organisation,” Mercedes' Toto Wolff confirmed, “So, let's stick to 20 – I think it's a good number.”
Claire Williams shared similar views, with her own concerns over the return to increased personnel and possibly separate race and test teams that extra rounds would bring, but not everyone appeared concerned – and it wasn't necessarily the 'big' teams that shrugged off the possibility of expansion.
“I'm happy with as many races as Bernie can organise - because we are a race
team,” Toro Rosso's Franz Tost insisted, “If it's 22, it's 22; if it's 24, it's 24. I'm happy to go everywhere: Monaco, Silverstone, Monza, Austria of course…. [But] we need to have more races in Europe, not just to go overseas.”
Perhaps more surprisingly, Caterham's Cyril Abiteboul also appeared in favour of increasing the number of races, provided the F1 product wasn't diluted in the process.
“I tend to agree with Franz,” he confirmed, “If you look at other models, other series, in particular in North America, you see that the number of races is almost irrelevant.
“I think we need to know the right model between exclusivity – making our show a bit exclusive so that we do not saturate an audience about F1 – and making sure we are here for a sufficient period of time. And then I guess the economics can be done in such a manner that every outfit can cope with that. I guess it would mean proper preparation and, in that respect, it would be good to get some confirmation about the calendar for next year before talking about expanding. In that respect, I think more notice, more lead-time in the preparation, would be welcome to know where they are.”