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Should the Jaypee F1 circuit in Greater Noida get FIA approval next year, the 2011 F1 season will feature 20 races for the first time in its history. The most in F1 history and double the number of races held in the 1964 season. Back then of course, F1 drivers would take part in a number of other non-championship races as well as in sports car, touring car and any other category of racing that took their fancy. If memory serves me correctly, drivers like Jim Clark would often take part in 30 or more races in a variety of racing disciplines in a calendar year.
For the last 25 years or so F1 drivers have forsaken multi-tasking. The burgeoning costs and ever increasing logistical challenges of racing in a championship that has truly gone global makes it ever harder to commit to anything other than F1. Teams make it worth the drivers’ time to be specialists as well. The steady addition of new venues has, however ensured that F1 drivers will now be a lot closer to their counterparts from the ’60s and ’70s in terms of number of races in a calendar year. And that would be fine if F1 were still a predominantly European based series which would allow teams to easily get from one venue to another.
The fact of the matter is that 10 of the 19 races on the 2010 F1 season are held well outside of Europe and every one of the 12 teams on the grid are based in Europe. The number of races held outside of Europe will go up to 11 with the addition of the United States Grand Prix in 2012. The addition of the Russian Grand Prix in 2014 may not add to that number but it will mean another long hike for the F1 teams. So clearly one of two things need to happen. Either FOM chief Bernie Ecclestone stops his hunt for new F1 markets (unlikely) or the Formula One Teams Association’s (FOTA) suggestion to permanently cap the number of races in a season to 20 is heeded.
I would go with the latter as F1 needs a serious quality control check in terms of the venues that it makes stops at. For one thing, no country should ever host more than one grand prix in a season. So that would put an end to the European Grand Prix and I’m not sure many F1 fans would be too heart-broken about that. The street circuit in Valencia is thoroughly uninteresting and does not produce good racing. It would not be missed. The Hungaroring is a tight, narrow and twisty circuit where it is all but impossible to overtake even in a fast car. Just think back to 2005 where Michael Schumacher (after scoring a surprise pole position) held off Kimi Raikkonen’s much faster McLaren in his Ferrari until he pitted for fuel and new tyres. Dumping Hungary in favour of the Czech Republic and the fast and challenging circuit of Brno would be a move that F1’s powers that be should seriously look into.
It can also be argued that F1 does not need to make more than two visits to the sandy, featureless tracks of Western Asia. Especially if there is a repeat of the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix where the organizers added twisty, squirt and shoot corners to the track configuration. Needless to say the season opening race was an extreme let down. So hopefully Ecclestone will not try to rope in Qatar to the F1 calendar. Because once that happens the truly special F1 venues will come under threat. Venues like Spa, Monza, Suzuka, Monaco and and Silverstone. And once that happens then F1 will lose whatever little ties it has left with its rich and unforgettable history.