Teams agree that calendar expansion is a fine balance

01/05/2019
NEWS STORY

At a time, Formula One is seeking to expand the calendar, with talk of 25 races, opinion within the teams remains somewhat sceptical.

Last year, Toto Wolff and Cyril Abiteboul suggested that the amount of races should actually be reduced, while Christian Horner urged the sport to put quality before quantity.

With a new stadium venue for the proposed Miami Grand Prix, and talk of a second (again stadium based) event in Britain, not forgetting next year's Vietnam, Grand Prix, opinion within the teams remains somewhat divided and certainly sceptical.

"The balance you need to strike is between understanding that Formula One is a very aspirational and glamorous sport and obviously less can be more," says Wolff. "But equally, as a company, we want to grow our revenue and the obvious revenue trigger is doing more races.

"I think FOM is pretty clear that, if more races are being added to the calendar, they need to be creative and they need to make all the way down to the bottom line or be very attractive races, tapping new markets. I think the mix at the moment and the discussions we are having is right."

"I think it's that balance between quantity, quality, being aspirational, being something special but still being capable of existing enough in that world that is full of content and proposition in terms of sports properties," says Abiteboul.

"We need to make sure that we are different in the space that exists right now, and the media focus for Formula One. In the current business model the only way to grow the revenue is to add more races - or at least to keep the current number, so if we really think that it needs to be changed in future, we need to change our business model, so that we don't need to keep on growing the revenue - and that means reducing the costs, reducing the necessity to spend to be competitive.

"That's maybe one of the positives for the budget cap. Maybe not for the next cycle but maybe one cycle from now, have the ability to reduce that cost so that we can think a bit more strategically, rather than being a slave or revenues.

"I agree with what Toto and Cyril have said around striking a balance," said Claire Williams, "and maybe wanting to go to fewer because of the aspirational side of Formula One.

"I think you add more races and if you don't get that balance and don't get the necessary income in for going to four or five extra races, the pressure that it puts on our team... our guys are already going around the world 21 times a year, plus the tests. That's a long time to expect people to be away from home.

"Great if you're a team that can afford to have a support team, or a support structure that you take personnel in and out, or if you've got a second race team that you can send around the world - but clearly for smaller, independent teams, that's a much harder piece of work and just puts far too much pressure on the system. Not just from a personnel perspective but also from how many additional parts we're going to have to manufacture etc. So there's a whole series of considerations around it."

"I think what you have to appreciate is that a grand prix weekend, not for us but the people down in the garage, it's a week-long event and for many other functions that are involved in going to grands prix," said Christian Horner.

"21 is already a big ask. Going beyond that is, I feel we're at a tipping point," he continued. "You then have to look at the construction of the grand prix weekend. Do we need to do as much testing as we do? The duration of the season. All those factors and what impact it has on cost and budget caps and so on and, is ultimately it going to make a better show?

"A book can only have so many chapters and we want to make sure as many of those chapters are as entertaining as possible and it crescendos to something. What you don't want to have is saturation. And I think it's finding that balance of what is the right number and what is the right construction of a race weekend."

"We are growing and we're recruiting now," added Otmar Szafnauer, "but not at a pace where we'd take a half-step backwards.

"We've got to really be careful that the new factory that's being planned now as well as our recruitment drive and some other things that are changing don't affect the performance at the end of the season.

"So it's a fine balance to strike but it's one we're conscious of and working hard to make sure we get right."

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Published: 01/05/2019
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