Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2019

F1 should go back to a 16-race calendar – Vettel

2020 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel says the record 22 races on the 2020 F1 calendar is too many, and wants to see it reduced by six.

The four-times world champion, who is in his 13th season of F1, said the strain of a longer calendar is felt more by the team members than the drivers.

“As drivers we are at the lucky end,” said Vettel. “Obviously for us it’s more races, yes, but I think for the teams it’s quite big stress for the mechanics. It’s a big circus, a lot of stuff needs to be put up in advance and for a lot of the guys it will be even tougher than it is already.

“But I’m not running the sport. I guess they make more money when they do more races. That’s what’s behind it.

“Personally I think I’d like to go back to 16 races. That’s how I grew up. I think that was a good number. It would give the drivers also the flexibility to do something else.”

The first F1 calendar featured just seven rounds. It grew to 16 by 1976, and between 1984 and 1994 every championship featured 16 races. Then the schedule began to grow again. The last 16-race calendar was in 2003, and seasons of at least 20 races have been the norm since 2016.

However Lewis Hamilton was more open to the idea of a 22-race schedule next year.

“It’s one more weekend,” he said. “If you ask the mechanics here they love being on the race weekends. So maybe some of them will say they wish they had more time with their family but ultimately they do love what they do, they do love being at the races.”

This weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix is the 15th race of 21 this year.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
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59 comments on “F1 should go back to a 16-race calendar – Vettel”

  1. Well, Vettel can easily reduce his race calendar by one race if he continues making the sort of mistakes we saw in Monza.

    1. Ah I see, fewer opportunities to rack up penalty points and more time for gardening, it all makes sense?

      1. Or alternatively we could always arrange for his engine to blow on the parade lap again. Technically that would reduce his season by one race as he wouldn’t take the start!

    2. Lol vettel always makes mistakes, its more noticeable now a days because he has a competitive teammate and his car isn’t dominant

    3. In his mind vettel is racing 16 weekends already. Honestly, a Gp every fortnight is fine.

  2. Another hint that he’s not far off retirement perhaps.

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more, he’s complaining more and more, I doubt 2010-13 Sebastian would’ve said something like that.

  3. For once I agree with Vettel.
    Not only must such a long calendar be extremely taxing on team staff and their families, it also robs F1 grands prix of their exclusivity.
    I believe this was pointed out on RaceFans previously, comparing the raising number of races to what happened in NASCAR and the risks an excessive number of races poses for long-term viewership.
    I say – keep classic races as staples of the calendar, and cycle around other races with periods greater than once per year (for example once every two years, or twice every three years). That way you can have races in more countries without having to keep on expanding the calendar.
    There’s also a hidden added bonus: Stats will be easier to compare between seasons with equal number of races.

    1. Well I don’t know about the cycle idea. For a brief moment every other german gp was at Hockenheim and the other was at Nurburgring. That for my point of view was ok because it was within one country. But let’s say if country X gets a deal to host F1 races. Does it want to sign a contract that only covers every other year? Of course they could arrange Moto GP race for every other year but is it a same problem all over again? But all in all it would be good to have different venues and cities to race with.

  4. Agree maybe 18 race calender might just perfect as even current one is too long.

    1. i found 18 to be the best number for me as a viewer

    2. 18 is my preference as well.

  5. Well egoistically, I think 22 races means more F1 for me to watch, so I like it as it is. But for the staff it must surely be very taxing on their personal lives.

    1. As a fan, F1 is taxing on my social life!

      F1 hasn’t shaken off its geeky label and its never going to be as socially acceptable as watching football. Then comes the problem that watching a race requires so much time commitment, I need to watch minimum the highlights of qualifying and then the race, as well as the breaking news for the weekend, so it’s a bigger time commitment than say football. While I may enjoy spending my time watching F1 my girlfriend does not.

      One of the problems is that it’s so hard to find a place to legally re-watch the full race after it has been run, so you’re kind of limited to watching it live. So now I need to convince my girlfriend that I need to be free for basically half the Sundays every year, and pretty much 75% of them during the summer. Back when it we only had 16 races, each one was an event, and they were so rare, that loved ones were happy to allow their peculiar pet F1 fan the time to indulge their passion. The problem now is that the races are so often that my girlfriend resents the time I spend following the sport.

      What’s more, with so many tracks now on the calendar, each one no longer has a unique selling point. We used to only have 1 or 2 street tracks, one night race, one super fast track like Monza, one go kart track like Hungry. Now we have so many they cannibalize each other a little bit. Why should I be excited about Monaco when Baku does the same thing but with more exciting races? If this season has taught us anything it’s that track layout matters. Spain has a poor track and the races are generally boring, so if I’m forced to pick and choose which weekends to watch, I’ll be skipping that one. The problem then is, how many races can I skip whilst still caring about the championship? By saturating the calendar F1 is kind of pushing you to pick races not to watch. I just hope the championships are interesting enough so we don’t just start missing races for convenience, and before long only watch a 6 minute youtube summery instead of committing two plus hours on a Sunday afternoon.

  6. Personally when season was shorter I use to watch all races without fail, maybe it’s different now as i have children and can’t watch live free to air races but I’m less bothered to use my time watching dodgy streams that crash every 5 mins or automatically try and make me download adobe by clicking the wrong ‘x’.

    I’d probably still do it if the season was shorter. Overall I’m happy to see a longer season but generally it’s highlights for me now.

  7. There’s six more race weekends in 2020 granted, but how many extra miles do you think these teams done with insane testing budgets in the 2000’s. Even going back to the Times of 8 races in the early days most drivers done other series. The effort of all the teams to get there stuff to and from a gp is amazing, but I’m not about to feel sorry for Seb anytime soon!

  8. im not sure why we have all the fuss about the teams and mechanics, they get paid dont you know! After all it is their JOB!!! they most likely went into further education to end up where they are, make them do 30 gps a year still leaves 22 weekends where they dont work!

    1. This is a poor comment. A lot of the team staff work most of the week as well and if not there is travelling time. You make it sound like they just turn up for the race weekends!

    2. Let’s have racing every week and everywhere, just like NASCAR! Can Seb and the boys in red take it to Tater Wolf and his flyin’ silver machines? Or will the young guns at Haas take the checkered flag?

  9. The more F1 the better imho, the effect on team staff can be easily rectified with a maximum number of hours race presence per annum set and enforced meaning teams would have to rotate staff with the added benefit of a little bit of extra variable thrown in. The teams have generally got so good at what they do there are very few operational errors, well apart from Ferrari.

    We’ve had 6 mind numbingly boring GP’s this year, imagine if that was just over a third of the calendar?

    I recognise this might be an unpopular set of opinions but I genuinely don’t know what to do with myself on weekends when it isn’t race week lol.

    1. I agree with Vettel precisely because of those 6 mind-numbing races; with a compact calendar, you can create a standard for tracks being included; if they don’t provide exciting racing, they won’t be visited. It also gives more cachet to the outrageous hosting fees, if you’re one of nearly half the weekends in a year it’s a lot less exclusive.

    2. Conversely, imagine only having to worry about a Paul Ricard snoozefest every other year. The classic tracks are classic for a reason and should be on the calendar, new money or carpark tracks are what makes up the majority of boring races and ought to be managed where possible.

      Also, enforcing “rotation” means hiring another team of personnel, which is what they got rid of on cost reasons when they outlawed the old style inseason testing when they had separate race and test teams.

      1. Also, enforcing “rotation” means hiring another team of personnel, which is what they got rid of on cost reasons when they outlawed the old style inseason testing when they had separate race and test teams.

        @alec-glen nope, the teams dont NEED that amount of personnel to operate the car, they do it because the permitted staff limitations (if any) are too high so they have 2 guys double checking the first guys work to make sure there’s absolutely no chance of it going wrong. Just half the personnel quota and rotate!

    3. @RB13 It’s not that unpopular but you may think about learning an instrument or building legos or something :D

      1. @eljueta F1 keeps me from going out and staying out til Sunday evening. So really it’s good for my health and liver. haha

  10. As I am a really devoted F1 racing fan, I would not mind watching F1 races every weekend from early March until late November. But I understand that there must summer break and time off between two distant Grand Prix. I was never too much interested in F1 testing sessions (they were not shown on TV either) but as far as I can remember there was a huge amount of testing at least for Ferrari and Michael Schumacher in 90s-00s. Obviously those tests could not happen without team staff, so I am not sure how big is the difference in terms of tiredness for team staff then and now when testing is so limited. In 50s and 60s there were a lot of F1 non-world championship races. I think Vettel is just too tired and unhappy.

    1. @bulgarian, you are correct about the very high number of non-championship races back in the 1950s and 1960s – in 1950 there were eighteen non-championship races that year – although it was the case that drivers wouldn’t take part in all of the non-championship races.

      That said, some drivers did indeed have an extremely full schedule in that era, as quite a few were contracted to run in non-championship races and would take part in a significant number of those non-championship Grand Prix.

      In 1961, Jim Clark took part in eight Grand Prix that counted towards the World Drivers Championship, but he also took part in a further fifteen non-championship Grand Prix that year – that year saw 23 non-championship Grand Prix being held – and still have time to do the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well.

      If you include those non-championship races, then Jim Clark’s workload for the 1961 season was actually higher, at 23 Grand Prix (8 official and 15 unofficial), than Vettel’s workload in 2020 is scheduled to be.

      1. Thank you, anon! You’re knowledge of F1 history is sublime. I just can add what Sir Jackie Stewart said (March 30, 2016) in an interview to Auto Motor und Sport. He said that he is laughing when current F1 drivers complain about too many GPs, because in 1971 he had crossed Atlantic Ocean 86 times (wikipedia says 186 times) as he competed also in CanAm series for full season. Of course, besides winning F1 title, he took part also in 1971 F1 non-world championship races.

      2. Oh, here is the interview of Sir Jackie Stewart:
        “Wenn die Fahrer mir heute erzählen, dass sie nach 21 Rennen ausgelaugt sind, kann ich nur lachen. 1971, als ich Weltmeister wurde, habe ich den Atlantik 86 Mal überflogen.”

        1. @bulgarian, thank you for your compliments there.

          I suppose, though, that there is the caveat to note that there was a commercial necessity for drivers to compete in as many races as possible, both for themselves and for the teams they raced for. With commercial sponsorship being in its infancy in those days (and not always being seen as a positive development either), often prize money was the primary source of revenue for drivers and teams – and not necessarily just from Formula 1 either.

          Can-Am, which you bring up, was a major revenue source for teams – McLaren grew rich from Can-Am, and indeed their Can-Am operations were subsidising their early years in F1, and many others sought similar riches from Can-Am and the Indianapolis 500. Similarly, some of those non-championship Grand Prix were still very prestigious in their own right – quite a few were probably more prestigious than the official championship races – and, in a number of cases, offered quite significant cash prizes as well.

          The changes in commercial arrangements since then have rather changed the equation, and in more ways than one – whilst, on the one hand, it has given a more consistent flow of cash into the teams and to the drivers, their commitments to those sponsors are also fairly constant throughout the year, so what is given on the one hand is taken away with the other.

          It does also have to be noted that the calendar of the time did at least have some advantages, as you tended to have most of the European races concentrated in the same timeframe. In general, it also has to be noted that the racing world was generally more narrowly focussed on Europe at the time – though racing in the US did later become more notable as Can-Am started becoming more prominent.

          In the case of Clark, most of his races that year tended to be clustered in France, the UK, the Low Countries and Germany – he did then have a series of races in South Africa, but they were clustered towards the end of the year and with about a month long gap between those races and the previous one.

          The geographical reach of the sport now means that, instead of going from, say, Pau to Silverstone, as Clark had to do, drivers are going from Singapore to Russia to Japan to Mexico – now, it is true that the advent of Can-Am did increase the frequency of transatlantic trips for drivers in the past, but the distances that drivers travel now on the calendar is not trivial today.

          As an aside, whilst Stewart was indeed making that many transatlantic trips, he has also noted that, in retrospect, he regretted doing it. He contracted glandular fever during the course of his travels in 1971, and he has stated that he underperformed in the 1972 Formula 1 season because the high workload for him in other racing series and non-championship races was causing him health problems (compounded by those ongoing problems with glandular fever). As Stewart shows, whilst drivers did indeed race in quite a large number of non-championship Grand Prix or other motorsport series, it was pushing some of those drivers to their limits back then too.

          1. Your comment created a very clear picture how it was for F1 driver in early 70s. I agree it was too crazy to have 86 trans-Atlantic flights, competing in two full-season championships during a year. Nowadays, Liberty Media is regularly talking to F1 teams about possible changes, so I am sure if too many drivers start complaining about too many GPs, they would have to think twice, but so far it looks like only Vettel is unhappy.

    2. @bulgarian

      there was a huge amount of testing at least for Ferrari and Michael Schumacher in 90s-00s. Obviously those tests could not happen without team staff, so I am not sure how big is the difference in terms of tiredness for team staff then and now when testing is so limited.

      They had dedicated test teams back then which were separate from the race team.

      In say 2004 with 18 races the team personnel that turned up for race weekends would have only been doing those 18 race weekends as well as some of the prep work back at the factory. The top teams would have had a totally separate team of mechanics & engineer’s who would run the testing program as well as do some of the work back at the factory.

      Now it’s just the one group of mechanics/engineers that do everything (To reduce operating costs) so while they have introduced curfews & other limits to restrict the overall workload they are still now working significantly more hours with many more days away from home than used to be the case.

      1. I hope Liberty Media will discuss with all teams a possibility to form 2 groups of mechanics. It will be additional costs for teams, but with more GPs (imagine also Miami, Germany, Malaysia and some more, perhaps) and more income for Liberty, it could give teams also more money.

  11. It’s quite rare I agree with Vettel about something like this but absolutely think he is right here. The calendar is too long; you can’t be ‘the pinnacle’ with NASCAR’s schedule (I like NASCAR but that’s a national series run on a totally different scale)

    People who make comparisons between F1 and eg: football leagues for frequency of play are putting aside the fact every team in F1 must compete in every round, as well as shipping an entire garage and spare parts and motorhome etc to each location, which essentially has to have F1 built into it every time it arrives (even at permanent circuits) – a major setup because F1 is designed to be a major event. The cachet of a win, hosting fees and the ability to curate a genuinely spectacular calendar are massively increased by it being manageably small. Although as I understand it I think current broadcast contracts stipulate a minimum number of races per year anyway.

    At the moment, though, this seems to be Liberty’s approach to somewhat democratising F1 and increasing revenues and sponsor visibility (which is a real problem, as core audiences fracture behind pay-per-view curtains) – I get what they’re doing but I’m not sure it’s something you can spread so far without risking losing cohesion. My own paddock is tiny, agile and designed to be flung around – still doesn’t want to go over 18 races, so I feel like this is a very brutal way to attempt to increase F1’s visibility, especially as cost caps come in.

    1. Really well reasoned @hazelsouthwell

      My problem with the move to increase the number of races is that it’s diluting the product, which might result in some quick wins financially but will ultimately create the same sorts of problems that NASCAR and other series have had with overload.

  12. Maybe not as low as 16, though. Anything from the range of 19-21 in which the number of races has varied throughout this decade is fine enough. I doubt 22 in comparison to the current 21 is going to make a difference for me, but for the travelling teams even the difference of one between these two figures might make a more noticeable difference, but we shall wait and find out.

  13. Agree with Vettel, 22 is too much. It dilutes the ‘Grand’ in ‘Grand Prix’

    Plus, i like to watch the build up and post race chat, which can be as much as 5 hours on a Sunday, i can’t be doing that nearly every weekend from March to December. 16 races is a good number.

    1. I have already stopped watching the pre/post race stuff. As they went to 20/21 races it just started to feel like it was too much.

      With 22 next season I may not watch every race (I’ve watched every race live since the start of 1995) & may even start skipping practice/qualifying sessions as well.

      I’m just starting to feel burnt out with it, I don’t want to feel like all i’m doing every weekend is watching F1 because then it just starts to feel routine rather than something special that I look forward to every other week as used to be the case.

  14. 19 to 21 is perfect for me.
    Sixteen is acceptable but not satisfying anymore. The team rivalry in the last quarter is always exciting and with 16 races you pretty much wont have that as the season would end right after europe unless you drop half the european races.

  15. I agree with Vettel. I think 20 races is the upper limit (and makes for some easy math!) while still permitting us viewers to skip viewing an occasional GP, since life goes on.

    Fewer than 20 races would continue to keep each GP as a grand event – making each of them noteworthy to viewers, important to the competitors, while still being forgiving to a driver’s or team’s occasional slip-up (alrighty, Vettel, the operative word there is “occasional”).

    I am sympathetic to Liberty’s position, since adding on a new race is likely to increase ticket revenues and possibly other revenue streams for both themselves and the teams. However, I am also a bit resistant to making room for those added races by fiddling around with the weekend format. I’d be OK with careful trimming down of Fridays (maybe cancel FP1 and make FP2 2 hours?), but am concerned with some of the proposals being made targeting Saturdays.

  16. It’s not that big of a deal. Some people just need something to complain about. The more races the better.

  17. Absolutely agree, I would love to work less for the same pay too Sebastian. I know it means they would probably do more simulator work, but it is much fewer times there is the need to actually have the pressure to perform

  18. Thats ok. 22 GPs are too many perhaps but 16 is seb willness ? I was minding a racer LOVE to race and like to be always in the helm .. and still you earn 35/40 miln per year.. making rich your genoma for centuries.. It’s time to go Seb..

  19. I say excise the boring tracks out of the calendar and bring back Sepang.

  20. 16 races was ideal. Every race meant more to the overall championship, and seemed more special for that reason.
    There are about 10 races that should become core to the series, while other venues could rotate year to year.

  21. Couldn’t disagree with Vettel more. ‘The more the merrier’ is how I see it. I’ve never once thought to myself “eh I’d rather there not be a race this weekend” nor “I’m so glad formula 1 isn’t racing this week”.

    1. Well said! Every F1 GP is a feast for me. Besides, the shorter the season the more chances that a title contender may lose a title because of being involved in some odd crash created by some other driver.

    2. @darth-ecclestone I used to feel that way but more recently I have found myself wishing there was less & pretty much been over the season by round 19.

      I’ve not missed a race since about 1990 but next year with 22 races I can see myself skipping some because I really feel it’s just too many & honestly once I start feeling comfortable skipping races I can see myself getting less & less engaged to the point where I just stop watching altogether.

      Thats what happened with me & Sportscar racing a decade ago. I used to watch everything from all the various series (LMS, ALMS, ELMS, Grand-Am) but it eventually started to feel like too much so I started skipping some so became less engaged & eventually realised that I was no longer watching any of it.

      And even coming back to F1 as the amount of races has increased I have found more clashing with other categories which has already meant i’m not watching less categories than I was a decade ago. If they add more races this is only going to get worse. But I guess they only want you to watch F1 so maybe its good for Liberty, Bad for fans & other categories though I suspect.

      1. @roger-ayles completely reasonable. I guess one giant caveat is that I live in the US so only 3 races per year [so far] even remotely clash with any other series/sports. If it did, I could certainly see myself leaning more in your direction.

        1. @darth-ecclestone I don’t watch other sports but I heard more than a few grumbles when they changed the race start time to an hour later last year (Races now start at 2:10pm in the UK) which has I gather put the last hour or so of races up against Sunday afternoon football games. And football (I guess over there you would call it Soccer) is a really big deal over here, Way bigger than F1.

  22. I kinda agree with Vettel. when we had 16 races I looked forward to the next race, no so much now. watching the races have become a chore with ESPN moving the race broadcast from ESPN, to ESPN2 to ESPN U and ESPNNEWS because of college football. as for Lewis’ comment, after the race he’s on a plane and he’s outta there while the crew is still packing up everything before they can head home or to the next race. Lewis is single, no wife and kids sitting at home waiting for “Dad” to come home. so I can’t agree with him that the crews love being away from their wife and kids.

  23. Been there done that, left F1 almost a decade ago, only just into my forties now, no way would I go back to a team and work that calendar. Yes I loved being there, Lewis is right, we all love it, but it burns a lot of people out and I can see from colleagues who work there now that the end is nigh for a lot of people.
    Hell, I’ve hopped onto the national scene in the UK and have spent every weekend since March at a track and will spend every weekend till the end of November at one (plus many test days) as media, you’ll never ever get me onto an aeroplane again!

  24. I don’t know if I’m the only one feeling this way, but every year my interest drops when the calendar reaches USA/Mexico. I love the tracks, Interlagos is a classic, but the WDC is often already decided and it feels the teams and drivers are already more focused on next year.

  25. I also agree with Vettel. I enjoy the races but it’s difficult to make time to watch every one. Even if I am mostly seeing the highlights these days rather than the full build-up, race and post race analysis.

    I think the ideal number was around 18. I can live with 20 but I think allowing the number to increase to 23, 24 or 25 is madness. Surely everyone involved would save money and other resources by having fewer races. I also think the quality is being diluted and in some instances it’s become all about a government wanting to show that it is part of the ‘western’, civilised world by hosting an F1 GP. This rather than any genuine level of interest in the sport.

    Liberty were also talking about making more of race weekends for the fans (remember them), by having mini festivals alongside some races. Surely this would be easier for everyone if there were fewer races to cope with?

  26. “It’s one more weekend,” he said. “If you ask the mechanics here they love being on the race weekends. So maybe some of them will say they wish they had more time with their family but ultimately they do love what they do, they do love being at the races.”

    Sure. They can just hop on their private jets and be home late Sunday evening. Petulant jerk. He needs to (as my father was fond of saying) “Quit opening his mouth and letting his belly roar.”.

    1. Wow.I mean…Just… WOW.
      And you call Lewis “Petulant”?

    2. Was Lewis not saying last year that he’d quit F1 if they added more races.

  27. Something that I am pretty confident your going to start to see is that as the number of races a season goes up the percentage of the fanbase that watches every race will go down.

    On the face of it maybe not a big deal but there is some data around to suggest that when even the most dedicated fans start to feel comfortable skipping things they can begin to become less engaged & may then also be harder to draw back. This then becomes a problem if you don’t see a high attach rate in terms of the more casual viewer which has been one of the biggest problems NASCAR has faced the past 15 years.

    An additional potential problem is that more races means a higher likelihood of race weekends clashing with other events. Not just other MotorSport categories but other big events sporting or otherwise & this creates potential distractions to draw viewers away from you.

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