Bernie Ecclestone says he is prepared to swell the Formula 1 calendar to include as many as 22 races as part of a plan to introduce a second American race, potentially in Las Vegas, to the schedule.
The F1 calendar has steadily grown over the last few years from 17 races back in 2000, to 19 as recently as last year to this season's record 21 events, which accommodates the returning German Grand Prix and the new Grand Prix of Europe to be held on the streets of the Azerbaijan capital Baku.
With a race being held now on alternate or back-to-back weekends – save for the mid-summer break – between March and November, F1 has come into some criticism for the growing schedule, with teams feeling it is too much travel for trackside staff, especially those with families.
Undeterred, Ecclestone says he is prepared to increase the schedule to 22 races as he negotiates a deal that could see F1 head to Las Vegas as early as 2018.
Part of the F1 supremo's ongoing desire to have two American events on the schedule, Las Vegas has previously hosted F1, with two poorly-received races taking place in the car park of the renowned Caesars' Palace Hotel in 1981 and 1982, but new plans are in place to return with a street race.
“I don't know at the moment [what will happen]. I was talking to them last night. They've always had a contract.”
Asked whether Las Vegas would result in another event losing its spot, Ecclestone replied:
“I think not. I think another couple of races.
Quizzed further on whether he believes the teams would agree to a 22 race calendar, Ecclestone said 'he doesn't need to ask'.
Either way, several races remain under threat on the current schedule, with the Italian Grand Prix and the German Grand Prix both undecided beyond this season.