Drivers wary of calendar extension, happy to return to Hungary
28 July 2013
Speculation over a potential expansion of the F1 calendar beyond 20 races, possibly as soon as next season, met with mixed reaction from team principals and, not surprisingly, leading drivers also appeared split over the issue.
While events such as Germany, India, Korea and the nascent New Jersey street race continue with an asterisk against their slots, the addition of Russia and, most likely, Austria in 2014 could theoretically push the number of dates beyond the 20-race ceiling most participants see as acceptable.
Although Toro Rosso's Franz Tost admitted that he would not be concerned by the addition of extra dates, other team principals pointed to the potential for overload on current staffing levels, with the need for two race teams, or separate race and test teams with the return of in-season testing in 2014.
The drivers, however, could be expected to be different beasts, with the thirst for competition allowing them to accept more and more races. Some, like Lewis Hamilton, admit that they would be unconcerned by calendar expansion, but not everyone feels the same way.
“I love racing, so I could race every weekend if I had to, but it's difficult for the guys in the garage and people back at the factory,” Hungaroring polesitter Hamilton reasoned, “They're constantly on the edge, and particular the guys who are travelling, seeing their families and stuff. I'm sure, if I went into the garage and asked my guys if they wanted to race more, I'm sure they would say they would, but they would also miss their families.”
Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, sided with the majority of team principals, suggesting the current limits were about right.
“I think it's enough, 20 is enough races,” he noted, “Maybe for us [drivers], it's possible to have another one here or there but, especially for the teams, in terms of logistics and for team staff, I think it's already a big effort, very little time, very few weekends to spend at home with their families, with their kids.
“I think you mustn't forget about that and, therefore, I think 20 races is already a lot. Five years ago or ten years, it was only 16 races, so it's already a lot more and I don't think more than 20 races is good for the teams.”
Recent additions to the calendar have also seen more and more races taking place away from F1's European heartland and, although Russia and Austria would help to redress that balance, the extension of the Hungaroring's deal – through to 2021 – was welcomed by the leading qualifiers for the 2013 race.
“I love it here,” Hamilton exclaimed, “I love the track, and I've had good experiences every time I've come since 2006.
“Budapest is a beautiful place. We have a good turn-out every time we come, and great weather. We can't really complain, so I'm happy that it's on the calendar. It's a historic circuit so I'm proud to have put my name to it [and] I'm grateful to be around when it's here.”
Vettel also remarked on the venue's longevity, as well as the obvious benefit he receives from the race being so close to his homeland.
“I think the race has been here since '86 so it is already a tradition to come here,” the Red Bull driver commented, “Obviously, it's very special to have a lot of fans always coming - despite the fact that it's very hot and they usually leave the track with big sunburn! They love coming here, a lot of people from Germany, from Austria, which is obviously very special for us.
“Looking forward to the next couple of years, I think it's a good message. The only downside probably is the fact that usually overtaking around here is not that easy, but I think it's a great place, nevertheless.”