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Bernie Ecclestone says 21 F1 races is enough, but Monza on the brink
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Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Mar 2016   |  8:15 am GMT  |  203 comments

Bernie Ecclestone has said that he feels 21 Grands Prix in a season is probably the limit, as F1 teams are ‘shattered’ but has also hinted that it could fall to 20 next year if the Italian Grand Prix drops from the calendar.

This year’s schedule of 21 races is the longest in the sport’s history, but several promoters are struggling to balance the books as the revenue from tickets sales does not cover the high annual sanctioning fees and other costs. Sources in Germany suggest that the race at Hockenheim this year is likely to lose around €4-5m, while the alternate venue Nurburgring had to pull out last year leaving no German GP.

In contrast the new Mexican Grand Prix last year was a massive success financially and other venues like Singapore make money.

One source who sits on the F1 Commission said that he was aware of five race promoters that are concerned with long term viability.

The F1 calendar featured 16 or 17 races for many years, but since CVC took over the ownership of the sport a major part of their growth strategy has been to increase the revenue from sanctioning fees, pushing Ecclestone to sell to more new venues for high fees. Hosting fees in excess of $700m a year, account for over a third of F1’s revenues, with media rights sales the other major earner as well as global partner sponsorships.

Many fans have said on these pages that an extended calendar of 21 races makes the F1 season hard to follow and that for non-diehards, once they miss a few races, they lose the thread of the season and then watch fewer races. This is a common story. Combined with the increasing movement of the sport’s TV coverage behind a paywall, this has contributed to the decline in audience numbers, that in turn feeds the problem for race promoters of selling tickets.

The wrangling over Monza has gone on for months and despite the two main players the ACI (Automobile Club of Italy) and the Milan Automobile club finding much of the funding, it is a third body the SIAS, which manages the Monza circuit,
that appears to be the stumbling block.

XPB.cc Bernie Ecclestone

“We have got 21 races now. It could go more, but I don’t think it will. It’s enough. Some of the guys at the teams are shattered,” Ecclestone to the Mail on Sunday.

“Monza has got a contract for this year so it is going to go ahead. Next year is the question mark. I don’t think we have to have an Italian Grand Prix. Somebody once told me a funny thing that you couldn’t have Formula 1 without a race in France. But we do.”

Ecclstone made some more positive noises last week in Gazzetta dello Sport, so it is interesting that these pronouncements in the UK media run in the opposite direction.

Ferrari has so far kept relatively quiet about the situation at Monza, but the idea of an F1 calendar not featuring an Italian Grand Prix, the home event of F1’s most celebrated team and its passionate fans the tifosi is as close to unimaginable as anything in this sport. It would be a major own goal for the sport’s owners, CVC, whom Ecclestone describes in the same article as having an $8.5 billion offer to sell under consideration.

They pulled back from a similar mistake when the British Grand Prix was under threat a few years ago, signing a long term deal with the Silverstone circuit, albeit one that continues to challenge the circuits owners the BRDC. The members are to vote shortly on a new partnership within automotive OEM that aimed at securing the circuit’s financial future.

What do you think? Do you struggle to follow a season with over 20 races? What is the ideal number? Leave your comment below

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203comments

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1

Things must be tough!
Bernie looks like he has had to cut back on his wig!

2

As an F1 fan since Phil Hill won in the shark nosed Ferrari, I will add that the decline in the sport is not the result of overindulgence to the number of races; it is the submission to the stakeholders demands for profit. Driven to provide higher returns, the sport has migrated from the, IMO, essential fan base. Temporary street based circuits will never replace the challenges associated with an open race track that provides great viewing in person, but allows for memorable races. Can you imagine a finish like the one for second place in France in 1979 between between Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve and Renault driver René Arnoux, on a street course? You will never see that on a street circuit. As my grandfather used to say, ‘Follow the money’. And as long as you can have countries that line up to pay what Bernie and company ask, you will have drop off in support among the core constituency. Alas, the days when F1 produced cutting edge technology have been mitigated to the point where one might expect to find the France family of NASCAR in alignment with the F1 stakeholders. Boring race tracks, tightly controlled engineering standards, and budgets that are larger than a third world economy do not have relevance in my world. I miss the good old days of F1. And I might add that I find I migrate more to world makes sports cars these days, and am less inclined to watch an F1 street race from Singapore. Those street races are more and more a mirror to Formula E, which actually has some relevance. So enjoy the champagne Bernie. But the bubbles may just be the residue of your departing fan base. Oh, and don’t count on the new audience in Azerbaijan to replace the one you lost in California. Once the glow wears from the new circuits, you will be scrambling to replace your true audience; just ask NASCAR, and CART/Indy. Imagine if we were to have the 24 Hours of Mymensingh. It’s just not the same.

3

When will the press find the courage to state that the emperor is wearing no clothes? Eccelestone is a huge drag on F1 and his policies are dragging it down. Yet no F1 journalist will write a clear and full review of how the man needs to go. Very disappointing.

Cue the Bernie supporters?

4

In a way I would love to see all the great classics drop off the F1 calendar. That wouls pave the way for a somewhat-breakaway series with proper/noisy/manly open cockpit cars running exclusively on these classic race tracks. Monza, Imola, Spa, Canada, Suzuka, Laguna Seca. Stream it over the internet for cheap/free. I’ll be a fan…

5

I don’t think it’s an issue of the number of the races on the calendar or even the fact that F1 is migrating to pay TV. It’s just that F1 isn’t that exciting to watch anymore. I still get chills when I think back to the first time I heard an F1 car going around the track. It was just the V8 post exhaust blown diffuser but I still get goosebumps as I remember the thundering sound as they were braking for turn 1 here in Austin and the fuel backfiring in the exhaust pipe, and the stench of I burned race gas in the air when they laid down hot laps in Q3 and the shear sensory overload of 20cars roaring through turn 15 all at once during the start to the point that it feels like your brain is vibrating inside your skull.

I don’t care if tickets were twice as expensive, I would pay it in a heartbeat to hear and experience that again, and I am sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. I am a tech nerd so I’ll keep showing up but there hust isn’t that fire and excitement anymore.

6

The tracks shouldn’t have to pay hosting fees (never mind the enormous ones they currently do) the promoters & track owners should share the money from the ticket sales. But then the promoter might actually have to promote F1!!!

7

The more races the better in my opinion. Thanks to my DVR and SlingBox, I haven’t missed a race since 2003 but even if I did, it’s not hard to follow what happened and pickup the action at the next one. As far as the teams go, I’m not sure how it works right now but they should get compensated for additional races. As for the workload, it’s a business. What I don’t like is the addition of all these soulless new venues in places with no F1 support or fan base and the loss of our classic tracks. CVC is bleeding all the money out of the sport by sacrificing its long term future.

8

What i have come to realise is that once the race has started it could be anywhere in the world if the action is riveting. yes, there are some unique facets to some of the tracks but overall when the racing comes down to wheel to wheel the locality fades proportionally. therefore i grade my experiences according to that scenario.

9

Work 12hrs a day.. 6days a week.. Have a bit of rest at easter then back to the grind.. See whos “shattered” then

10

Could F1 exist without France, Italy, Germany, and England? In a formal sense, yes. But remember this: CART lost the battle with the IRL because the latter had the crown jewel, the Indy 500. It’s one of those races that you don’t have explain the significance of, and staying away from it surrenders market share to any rival willing and able to fill the void.

Right now, no series is directly poised to do so. I would gladly welcome Indycar into that role, if only for a couple of rounds each year. After all, the NFL has managed to build enough of a following in England that it holds three games at Wembly now. Indycar is certainly easier for the average racing fan than American football is for soccer fans.

Note that the Indy season is short anyway. Adding Monza, Magny-Cours and Hockenheim could work.

11

The historical tracks must be kept, we have lost far too many great circuits off the calendar, Imola, Estroil, Kyalami etc., simply because old ‘Bernie’ wants a bit extra in his pay packet. There must be some sort of system where F1 sticks too its roots. I don’t really watch many of the ‘Herman Tilke Track’ races, which largely provide limited track action. The races where Classic racing was provided yearly are long gone and I think it won’t be much longer until the fans vote with their feet and find someone else to do on their Sunday’s. Sad times indeed.

12

historical tracks are where they belong, in history..

13

i find it so difficult to understand how people complain about a product they’re given free of charge. they pay nothing towards f1 yet complain about the slightest miss hap. so many fans pay to watch practice sessions, who never complain about practice sessions being boring yet those watching it on their TVs for free complain about qualifying sessions and races. i’m baffled by it all. which is more exciting, qualifying or practice?
if you don’t pay for the product, you don’t have to use it but please don’t complain..

14

What happens when someone buys a product from a sponsor in F1??

15

the sun rises..

16

it doesn’t rain that decade if that someone is you..
those who don’t contribute money to the sport should be quiet, shhhhhh!

17

Again, you avoid the question because it rubbishes your hollow argument.

18

You know, a couple of weeks ago, I’d have argued passionately for the retention of historic races. Without Monza, Monaco, Spa, Silverstone, and, yes, France, F1 is diminished. The season is, perhaps, becoming too crowded, but any shortening shouldn’t come at the expense of these.

Now, though… I’m not going to see any Grands Prix after 2018. Why should I care? Not my problem any more. If there’s no Monza next season and the one after, it’ll just make the withdrawal easier. Knock yourself out, Bernie.

19

i don’t understand why so many fans are dreading the end of monza. so many tracks have been and left f1 just like drivers and teams. none of them are bigger than the sport. if they say they can’t afford it then so be it. bring on new circuits. i am yet to witness a circuit in which the cars refuse to run.

20

Is it time for Bernie to move on? Perhaps we could have a competition to see how this might be achieved. If we could somehow make sure he doesn’t attend any more meetings………I wonder, could they fit revolving doors to all team motorhomes, CVC headquarters and FIA buildings? If you recall he doesn’t seemed to have mastered the art of when to leave a revolving door and so will either continue to go round ad infinitum or stay on board until he emerges back on the pavement. Not really sure this would work though. Any ideas?

21

Once again Mr Bernard Charles Ecclestone flings a cat onto the table. The number of races is hardly the biggest problem F1 faces.
The difficulties that many venues experience, and the loss of some classic tracks in the past, are Bernie’s doing — but one cannot blame him: it is his duty as CEO to maximize the income of FOM. The squeeze will become even harder in future, I expect.
The truly ghastly part is that tax payers end up having to feed the insatiable FOM.

22

Once again Mr Bernard Charles Ecclestone flings a cat onto the table. The number of races is hardly the biggest problem F1 faces.
The difficulties that many venues experience, and the loss of some traditional venues in the past, are Bernie’s doing — but one cannot blame him: it is his duty as CEO to maximize the income of FOM. The squeeze will become even harder in future, I expect.
The truly ghastly part is that tax payers end up having to feed the insatiable FOM.
Unless… the venue owners get together and play Bernie’s cards back to him. He’ll have to relent if they ALL refuse to pay more than an agreed maximum (20 million, say). Or even if the majority of them can pull together. They could threaten to switch to Formula E, as some have suggested above.
Such a deal would still yield 400 million a year, given 20 races; and with that juicy Sky contract signed, FOM would hardly feel the loss.
There is precedent for such action: in 2004 (IIRC), some major teams threatened to leave the sport and were, shall we say, calmed with over £200 million.
As for Monza, I expect Ferrari will get very tough with Bernie if it’s dropped from the calendar.

23

James its not the number of races that is hard to follow its the cost of being able to watch them. We the fans have to pay sky tv a lot of money to watch dare I say it an 85 year old tinkering with a sport that 10 years ago was perfect.

24

I went to Monza last year incase it got axed tgis year.
I sat at the first chicane, surprised how many empty seats there were. Dont blame people not going though for £220 ticket

25

My issue with F1 is Not the number of races be it 15 or 21 as I loved it dearly in 2005. It is clearly the quality of the racing and the events themselves. With that said once you start saturating any sport it does start to lose its Exclusivity doesn’t it.

From a practical viewpoint it is absolutely killing the teams with many already considering appointing more fly away race teams as current ones struggle to see family throughout the year and that in itself leads to less “quality” and more mistakes, as well as greater costs.

Its true that no one imagined France would be lost to GP’s but then how many more historic and respected races must be lost to ones that very few people care to see. Also why charge Monza, Silverstone etc such ridiculous hosting fees yet Monaco pays a pitance. I couldnt care less if it disappeared tomorrow.

26

If I were running Ferrari I would use my political power to force the race to stay in Italy. Ferrari is F1… so without them it just isn’t the same whether you are a fan or not you can not argue that point. So that being said, no race in Italy… No Ferrari! No Ferrari and the price of CVC’s share will TANK! Time to use their political clout as a means of protecting the heritage of the sport.

If 21 races is too much get rid of Abu Dhabi, China, India, South Korea etc… these events don’t have any fans attending the races anyway.

27

Formula One doesn’t deserve Monza.

28

Being an Australian F1 follower, I have no problem with twenty races. Been getting up at all hours for 35 years and I still love it.

29

I can think of at least a dozen other races I’d rather see replaced than Italy/Monza. I won’t name the losers, but just for fun I have come up with a list of 7 places that would likely host good Grand Prixs that would improve the calendar from the fans’ perspective (given a decent circuit of course), with 4 previous hosts:
1. France
2. South Africa
3. Argentina
4. Netherlands
And three new places that might provide the kind of enthusiasm we saw in Mexico:
5. Mugello Circuit, Italy
6. Colombia
7. Chile

30

As an F1 fan the more races the better ! Give me 30 races per season 🙂

But If they are struggling with venues how about 2 races a weekend? take the Australian V8 supercar championship, it’s really fun to watch I recommend it.
They do 2 sprint races on the Saturday and a longer race on the Sunday.

31

Well thank god I’m going to Monza this year! Yet more raping of the sports history and traditions in the name of more money for cvc and Bernie. I agree though 21 is a bit ridiculous, 16 is fine, makes each race more important and would shorten the season a bit.

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