Button wants F1 calendar capped at 21 races

2016 F1 season

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Jenson Button says that he is anticipating a tough year for teams ahead of Formula One’s record-breaking 21-race calendar for 2016.

Speaking to F1 Fanatic, Button says that he is looking forward to 21 races this year, but admitted he has concerns over the demands that such a long season will place on the sport’s mechanics.

“For me, 21 races is great,” says Button.

“If you look at even ten years ago, we have five more races, but we had testing every week. Whereas now we spend a lot of time out of the car at the factory or with sponsors – which is all part of the job – but the bit we really love is driving a Formula One car and racing. So 21 races is great.”

But with the sport constantly expanding into new markets and locations, Button hopes the current calendar is not extended further in future seasons.

“It is a very different situation for the mechanics, who are working very long hours,” explains Button.

“When they finish racing, they pack up the trucks or fill the plane and fly home and immediately begin working on the next race. So it is non-stop for them. It’s very difficult for the mechanics to even hold a proper relationship, I think. Especially if they have kids.

“Nineteen races was tough, 21 was is going to be tougher. So hopefully this is the limit of races for them.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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40 comments on “Button wants F1 calendar capped at 21 races”

  1. If F1 teams could agree on sensible ways to save costs elsewhere, then they would be able to hire more personnel so that every mechanic would not have to travel to all venues. In that case the calendar could be expanded even to 25 races, which would be amazing. But right now I think the limit has indeed been reached.

    1. Doubling up on personell and work in shifts? Thats not a viable way to run any sport. How do you decide what races you bring your a and b team to? What happens if you are fighting for a wcc at the end of the season, will you still risk to bring your b team to rest the a team as agreed. ?

      1. Toto Wolff recently said that Mercedes were considering a second-shift system. However, he also added that “there are many people you can’t really exchange because they are the best ones”, which is kind of what you are saying. I am not really sure if second-shift system automatically means an ‘A team’ and a ‘B team’ if we talk about mechanics and engineers; I would love to read some more analysis on this topic.

        1. Sounds like a football squad where players get tired and you have to use other players In your squad not the 1st 11 every game, I do not see the issue.

          1. I believe you could update the regulations accordingly, too. Curfew rules are already in place so you could also prescribe terms that would state the maximum number of races that a team member is allowed to visit per year. Then every team would be forced to divide its employees and no one would be put at a disadvantage. So I think it is mostly about money.

          2. The smaller teams would be put at even more disadvantage.

    2. Labor is the #1 cost to almost any organization. Simplifying regulations (like complexity of engines / ERS) would help save development/time-investment and allow those resources to be allocated elsewhere, like support staff for races, etc.

    3. I really am not sure that I would even want that many races. It does tend to get hard to fit that many race weekends into any reasonable social / family life.

      1. @BasCB ‘It’s very difficult for the fans to even hold a proper relationship, I think’ :)

        I think you have a point but, personally, I would not mind watching F1 more often. If NASCAR fans can handle 36 rounds, then I would probably be OK with 25.

        1. If NASCAR fans can handle 36 rounds, then I would probably be OK with 25.

          But are they handling it? NASCAR’s television viewing figures are falling just as F1’s are.

          1. @KeithCollantine Hmm, that is a really good point. However, the number of races has been the same since 2001 and it was not much lower before then. So it would be interesting to understand if NASCAR fans are simply tired of racing as such or if there are other reasons (gimmicks?) for the falling interest.

          2. petebaldwin (@)
            15th March 2016, 14:30

            That’s the problem – the more races there are, the less each matters individually and the more “missable” they become. There are 38 matches for each team in the Premiership – how many watch every single one? As I found out this year, once you miss one race and find out afterwards it was another boring DRS-fest, you quickly get back into the habit of having a life at weekends outside of F1….. More races also means less unpredictability because individual results mean less.

            Of course, you have to judge this on “what’s better for the sport” vs “what’s better for Bernie’s bank balance” and there is only one winner there. I would be amazed if it wasn’t at least 22 races next year.

          3. I guess it’s all about the quality.
            If we had been treated to hard, close racing and exciting championship battles the past few years, I guess nobody here would mind watching a few extra races in a year.
            But we weren’t. And so the number of races is linked to the (poor) quality we are getting in the comments.

            Also, the quality of the racing doesn’t change anything to the situation of the mechanics, which is the main topic of the article.
            My view: F1 teams spend their budget the way they want.
            Nobody obliges them to hire only the bare minimum of mechanics and drag them all over the planet to every venue. Hiring 5 more mechanics wouldn’t hurt the large teams and they can rotate them between races, allowing a few race weekends off to every mechanic during a season.
            I don’t think the large teams will have an issue with this (and that includes McLaren, so I’m not sure if I agree with him making this comment).
            The problem will be, once more, with the smaller teams on smaller budgets.
            They must either drag every mechanic to every GP, or they will have to cut costs elsewhere to hire more mechanics. Both will have an undesirable impact on those teams’ performances.

          4. hmm, let’s rewrite this :And so the number of races is linked to the (poor) quality we are getting in the comments.

            And so in the comments, the number of races is linked to the (poor) quality we getting.

            didn’t want to make a point about the quality of the comments here! :-)

          5. I agree with @petebaldwin, when we had the Champions League every two weeks, when almost every game had to be played with 100% dedication, it was a real feast to watch. When they started having games twice a week, I couldn’t stand it anymore. Too much time wasted, and much less excitement having the group system. Even if the quality of the games are fine, the ever-increasing amount just killed the pleasure for me. But maybe it’s just age ;)

            For me it looks like we are close to having entertainment consumption at its peak, I wonder how far it can really go without different TV events eating each other. The days still don’t want to become longer than 24 hours.

          6. You are absolutely right. Especially since NASCAR brought in the chase format, the first 26 races of the year are all essentially missable races. (With the obvious exception of the classic races like Daytona and Darlington) The entire season is a build up to the final 10 races.
            I do wish F1 would embrace social media like NASCAR though

          7. But venues continue fully packed, while certain F1 ones have lack of spectators.

            Its a complex balance between the on-location show and the TV Show, both require rethinking in my humble view. If a show is exciting and worth watching, audiences will want to see more of it. More rounds = more venues, more on location viewers and more airtime and media time, provided the supplied show is of great interest to audiences both on the locations and on the broadcast and other media channels!

        2. Nascar is just in America while F1 travels around the whole world which is much more taxing

    4. Apex Assassin
      15th March 2016, 21:28

      If a mechanic or any personnel have a problem with the schedule there are a 1000 other people ready and willing to do it.

      As for JB I don’t see why he cares. It’s not like he’s going to be in F1 next year anyway.

      Sidenote: I despise seeing millionaire playboys complain about working 9 months a year. Spoiled, whinging brats can go do something else if F1 is too hard, too dangerous, etc.

      1. @Apex Assasin
        I think that you missed the point. He makes a point about the mechanics of each team rather than the drivers. He is not whining at all about himself, to the contrary he clearly says that as far as drivers are concerned, the more the better. For mechanics though it is a whole different story, which is what the article is about.

  2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    15th March 2016, 13:10

    Perhaps Jenson would prefer the nine races held by the WEC, so the increasingly tragic tale of the team’s much maligned Belgian superstar can finally have a line drawn underneath it.

    1. Perhaps Button means in a year or 2 he cannot be bothered to go to 21 races round the world as a Sky commentator and have to speak with Simon Lazenby so often? Driving a 90 minute F1 race 21 times a year seems fair next to the 60 odd matches professional footballers have to play.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        15th March 2016, 17:07

        Don’t forget the unenviable task of not succumbing to Rachel Brooke’s mind-numbing blandness…

  3. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
    15th March 2016, 13:26

    So @willwood you managed to speak to Jenson! Was it part of a larger press conference with other journalists, or an independent conversation, maybe a phone call?
    I’m asking because every year a Latin TV channel organizes a contest where people twit questions for an F1 driver, then they select 10 of these questions for a real interview, and finally the driver chooses his favorite question. They award the winner a signed cap. So far they have featured Alonso, Massa, Rosberg (who speaks Spanish well) and I’m not sure if Bottas has appeared too.
    It would be awesome if we could ask some questions to F1 drivers too, and I’m not talking about those “live tweeter conferences” organized by teams, where fans ask but most of the questions got filtered.

  4. During the last couple of years, 1 of every 10 races proved to be enjoyable for the viewers. An extended calendar might provide an additional exciting race, in cost of many additional boring ones. If neither the drivers nor the viewers don’t enjoy this, why would anyone want to have more? Oh, wait, money I guess… 15-16 races would be more than enough if we consider only sport-professional aspects, and to be honest it wouldn’t be hard to find 5-6 tracks to be thrown out of this calendar… Sorry for my pessimistic comment, but that’s the way I think

    1. F1 fans are such a tough audience. In Premier League football there are 380 games a year each one the same length as a Grandprix but only 1 or 2 are classics and probably 20 interesting, the rest are boring but if they had the same entertainment percentage of 1 in 10 they would have 38 great games. In F1 it is either an all time classic or rubbish, fans have nothing to say in between the extremes.

    2. A pessimist by definition is an experienced optimist ;-)

      1. digitalrurouni
        15th March 2016, 16:51


      2. ‘A pessimist by definition is an experienced optimist ;-)’

        OMG I like that, thanks!

    3. @andrewt Well, if the quality of racing is bad, then we should either improve it or have 0 races. But maybe markp has a point and F1 fans are indeed too demanding.

  5. There’s a ‘feature’ article with wording by JB on the BBC site under the title “Would Formula 1 be more thrilling without cutting-edge tech?” – http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z3gyqty und
    To be honest, it doesn’t really say anything new, but there are some lovely views of McLaren cars over the decades and an interesting graphic showing the changes in F1 engines. I didn’t realise that the 2005 Ferrari V10 engine was only 94 kilos, compared with the current Mercedes unit at 145 kg (including all the bits ‘n’ pieces, I suppose).
    In a way it seems a bit odd for BBC to be running a feature on F1 just a few days before the start of the season because they don’t show it any more.

    1. @nickwyatt they are doing all races live over radio and they have a remit to cover all sporting news.

      1. So it’still on the radio? Didn’t realise. Do they send live reporters to the races, or are they describing what they see on video feed? @optimaximal

  6. Some drivers have a family as well, and not all the mechanics/engineers have a relationship/family.

    1. So a 21-race schedule will be challenging for everyone involved in the travelling teams, not just for the mechanics and the engineers.

    2. @Jerejj I think Jenson was just using an obvious example. Everyone is getting killed by the current schedules apart from the besuited idiots who plan the calendars – the drivers, the mechanics, the team bosses, the PRs, the fitness guys, the journalists & photographers…

      Jenson is also best placed to talk about it affecting relationships because his marriage broke down because of the travelling.

  7. So that the calendar doesnt hinder him from training for his triathlons

  8. 21 races throughout Europe would probably be fine but there are many occasions when the teams have to travel long distances around the globe. This adds to the time and hardship (adjusting to time zones etc.) I think. The schedule this season looks crazy and i can’t see how it will not take a toll, not so much on the drivers but the people behind the scenes who do all the organising, set the garages and motorhomes up,

    1. (Continued) and the mechanics and engineers who work ridiculously long hours each race weekend.

      Only a few days left now guys! I am excited!

    2. I know people who travel all the time including trolley dollies on planes, if they do it for a lot less than most F1 staff never mind the drivers I am sure they can do it. What is this driver attitude to the races? ‘few million pounds a year to drive a race car? No thanks too much like hard work.’ If I had the talent I would swap jobs with Button and wages and I will be happy to do 50 races a year.

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