The top bods at Formula 1 are seeking a way to make it possible to squeeze more Grand Prix on to the calendar as Liberty kick on with their expansion plans.
Next year will see the first 22 race-long season up an average of one additional race every two years over the last decade, and a 25 race championship in the not-too-distant future a real possibility.
But the current crop of Formula 1 drivers don’t seem to like the thought of the ever-expanding schedule.
“I’m someone that really likes racing, but the season is long. It’s a long, long season, it’s a long, long commitment for all of us, it’s a long time away from families.” said world champion Lewis Hamilton.
“The seasons get longer, and the off-time is getting shorter. As a competitor, all I can speak is for myself, just the turnaround is so short” adding “I’m not going to be here when it gets to 25, that’s for sure.”
As arduous as it is for F1 drivers, it’s no easier for the hundreds of team & media personnel, currently required to spend upwards of 200 days a year away from home.
Early starts, late nights and constant long haul flights compound the high profile and equally high pressure jobs they’re required to do every other weekend.
Surprisingly even the fans I’ve spoken to about it seem lukewarm to the idea of 23, 24 or even 25 races a season, the general consensus being that the more GPs you have, the more it dilutes each event.
So naturally, Formula 1 – being the egalitarian organisation it is – is, of course, ploughing ahead with the idea anyway.
Its pursuit of the expansion the sport’s reach to as of yet unexploited markets and the increase in profits and shareholder satisfaction that comes with it will not cease just because everybody involved is against it.
One proposed way of accommodating these extra races is to compress the schedule at each Grand Prix to allow teams to arrive a day later than they do at present, freeing up an extra 20 or so days that can then be used to allow for additional events.
But to allow for that, something has to give.
What seems most likely at this early stage is that the traditional media day on the Thursday of a Grand Prix weekend will be moved to Friday which will require Friday practice to be truncated – possibly with sessions shortened by half an hour (from 90 minutes to 60), or the disposing of one or both Friday sessions altogether.
But this will incur the wrath of circuit management, already scrapping to make a profit on a GP weekend, who will be forced to take a hit in ticket sales as Friday becomes less attractive to punters.
Perhaps this explains why F1 is so keen to introduce qualifying races on Saturday in an attempt to balance out the diminished appeal of a reduced schedule on Friday with a Saturday programme that could prove to be more of a draw for fans.
If you ask me, whatever F1’s problem is, the answer is never ‘less track time’, even if it is – in theory – likely to make the race more unpredictable.
People want to see cars on track, and F1 needs to put its people (drivers, personnel & fans) at the forefront of their decision making.
And if that means limiting the number of Grand Prix per year, then so be it.