Written by Meghana Sree, Edited by Debargha Banerjee
The 2024 Formula 1 calendar was recently announced and it boasts a historic number of races at 24, the most for a season so far. This means that the Formula 1 circus will be racing for ten out of twelve months. While that seems like more fun for racing fans worldwide, some critics of the sport are opposing the stacked F1 calendar, claiming that there are simply too many races. Moreover, with the addition of the Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2023, nearly a third of the 2024 races are to be on street circuits– tracks that are infamously hard to overtake at, compromising on sheer wheel to wheel action.
All these reforms seem to be aimed at giving fans the F1 entertainment and excitement they deserve, but the question remains do they want showbiz or a good race? Do they want an exciting number of races or an exciting race with the potential for good overtaking and thrilling wheel-to-wheel action?
It’s safe to say that most fans would want the latter in most cases.
Having more races sounds promising on paper, but logistically and practically, it can become strenuous not only for the various personnel within teams but also for drivers. In fact, many drivers have been vocal about their apprehension of having too many races in recent years, including Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, and Max Verstappen, the latter of whom has also been candid regarding his views on sprint races in particular, which he believes to be “artificial entertainment”.
While the FIA(Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) is yet to announce the number of sprint races to be held in 2024, based on the current calendar which includes six sprint weekends, it could be said that 2024 will include the same number, if not more.
The number of races and sprints seems to only be increasing with each season, now that Liberty Media is at the helm. This increase is concerning, especially due to traditional circuits across the world like Hockenheimring or Kyalami being dropped in favour of newer tracks that attract newer fans to engage and generate higher revenues, namely, street circuits.
The issue here lies not only with the limited space for overtaking but also with the new shortened DRS zones that were aimed to aid overtaking but instead resulted in the opposite effect, as witnessed in the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Moreover, while conventional circuits are designed for high speed racing, street circuits are adapted from daily public use roads, meaning the track is bound to be uneven with drains, bumps, and minor undulations that can prove to be fatal to the car and driver if not avoided. Introducing more and more street tracks each year can become challenging for teams to keep up with if they have to repeatedly deal with damaged mechanical components and the subsequent penalties for their replacement.
In addition to this, the mental strain on drivers plays a negative effect as a result of racing on too many tracks throughout the year as we have recently seen some drivers falling out of form. The cost of constructing and dismantling the venue in each city in case of street tracks, and the consumption of too many resources in transport all point towards the inarguable fact that too many races can hamper the engagement of people with the sport.
As has been proven many times, traditional race tracks allow F1 cars to truly reach their technical limits and drivers to fully unlock the potential of their cars. This allows for a race with more racing action and exciting overtakes on tracks that are built with these aspects in mind. Although street tracks put various skills to the test and are integral to the sport, too many can saturate the calendar and can wear out the feeling of having a special street race on the odd occasion.
So, if we are to have more racing in its true essence and maintain the enthusiasm it generates, the decision to increase the number of races and introduction of more street races to the calendar could be given a thought.