Team bosses split over plans for record 22 races next year

Budapest (AFP) –


Team chiefs are divided over plans to extend the Formula One season to a possible record 22 Grands Prix next year following the Catalan Government?s announcement that it supports an extension for the Spanish event.

Rising costs and the strain on staff and resources are expressed as the major concerns with Williams team principal citing them as her reasons for opposing any extension of the existing 21-race calendar.

The Spanish Grand Prix at Montmelo, north of Barcelona, is one of several with contracts that are due to expire and it was believed that it would drop off an increasingly-crowded calendar under consideration by the sport?s owners Liberty Media.

A statement by the Catalan government on Thursday, however, confirmed its backing for the event.

"The executive council has today authorised the Circuits de Catalunya, SL society, to sign a one-year extension of the contract for the organisation of the F1 Spanish Grand Prix for the year 2020 with the Formula One World Championship Limited company," said the statement.

"The subsequent signing guarantees the 30th consecutive event at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, in Montmelo."

Despite staging a tumultuous and dramatic race at Hockenheim last Sunday, the German Grand Prix is likely to be dropped while a Dutch Grand Prix, back after a 35-year absence, and a new event in Vietnam are scheduled.

Following last month?s renewal of the British Grand Prix?s contract, Mexico may be retained despite a loss of financial support and also being out of contract this year, thus increasing the overall total of races from this year?s 21. Italy also is set for a fresh deal.

- Work-life balance -

The mooted changes require the support of the teams whose greatest concern is costs and, notably, engine supply.

The regulations permit driver to have three engines each for the season.

"We need to keep it to three," said Haas team boss Guenther Steiner. "If we go to a fourth engine, it cannot make any sense for us, financially. Actually, it would be negative ..."

He said the manufacturers would need to be confident that they could complete a 22-race season with three engines.

"If they are confident that we can do it, then I am fine for that," he added.

Williams deputy team chief Claire Williams was less enthusiastic.

"I would like to see fewer races," she said. "If you put too many races on the calendar, it is too much for people to consume, when there is so much competition in the market.

"The other consideration is personnel. If you increase it, the pressure it puts on your team from a performance perspective and their work-life balance is difficult.

"For smaller teams, it is very difficult to think about how we manage a calendar with north of 21 races ..."

Williams cited the costs of extra staff numbers, to permit rotation of engineers, and the cost of global freight transportation.

"You have to think about how much are those races being sold for? Do they put a huge amount in the pot?"