Formula 1 can be a very odd world at times. The FIA Sporting Regulations (Article 5.4) state that “the maximum number of events in the championship is 20”, and yet the FIA World Motor Sport Council last week voted through a 2014 calendar with 22 dates on the schedule.
How does that work?
The reality is to be found – so I am told – in the new arrangements that have just been agreed between the FIA and the Formula One group. My spies tell me that this new deal allows Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone to schedule a total of 25 races a year, on the understanding (of course) that the federation receives a healthy whack of cash for each additional event.
I hear that the federation will be making a cool $25 million a year in regulatory fees for 20 races and will then get an additional $1 million for each extra race.
The number of teams will remain restricted to 12 teams (and 24 cars) unless there is a change of rules and teams are allowed to compete with only one car each. Whether the teams want to agree to all this remains to be seen, but as they are quite incapable of agreeing to work together, they will no doubt be bullied into accepting whatever they are told to do. They are all currently saying that 20 races is enough and that if they have to do any more than that they will need to hire new staff in order to rotate crews. That will cost them a lot more money.
There is no doubt that Ecclestone will be able to find venues willing to pay for the events. Formula 1 brings a city a decent hit in cash and what amounts to free global publicity, not to mention a bit of F1’s glitter – not that some of the venues deserve the glitter.
Where the concept breaks down is over the question of the media, because a 25-race schedule will cost TV companies more in terms of expenditure and, knowing Ecclestone, he will be charging more for the contracts as well. However, if the TV companies can sell their advertising space or can attract more people willing to pay to watch the F1 show then perhaps they can make it work. It is, however, unlikely to work with the written press, which is already struggling to send its representatives to the current 19 races.
This weekend in Korea there is not expected to be much of a press corps, as the race is hated by most of those involved and because Sebastian Vettel is running away with the world title.
Ecclestone does not much care about the media. He would rather get rid of them all because they get in the way and ask difficult questions. He tried very hard to get hold of media accreditation during the recent negotiations with the FIA, but to give the federation credit, it fought to hang on to that, on the basis that Ecclestone would start charging for credentials and that would be the end for all but a handful of reporters.
There is still the question of burnout, because attending 25 races a year is going to be very tough for anyone with any kind of life outside the business – and that means there will be more and more coverage coming from internet people who know nothing of the subject and from teams who will spoon-feed what they want the world to know. It is not a very healthy situation in this respect.