Formula 1

Bernie Ecclestone clashes with F1 teams over expanded calendar

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Formula 1's smaller teams are questioning the viability of an ever expanding Grand Prix calendar.

Last weekend, in the build-up to the Hungarian Grand Prix, Mexico confirmed it will return to the schedule for the first time in 23 years next year while Azerbaijan also revealed a deal to host the European Grand Prix from 2016.

Related articles:

- Mexico announces 2015 F1 return
- Why Azerbaijan could change how F1 promotes itself
- F1 2014: Mid-season report  

And now teams and F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone are set to clash over just how big the calendar can get. 

20-race limit

Should none of the current 19 races on the calendar be dropped, then the 2016 schedule would exceed the 20-race limit in the Concorde Agreement that all the teams, promoters and the FIA are bound to.

However, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone claims in the new agreement made last year, there is a clause that would permit up to 22 races each year, a number some teams on the grid believe would be beyond their capabilities in various different ways.

“I think we should be careful of not saturating the year with too many races,” Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn was quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

“We know what it means on our personnel. We might have to restructure things again, so I think we should be careful before we take these kinds of steps”.

Teams at financial breaking point

In other words, teams would have to hire more staff and rotate those employees across the elongated season and that is before the issue of logistics and extra running costs are considered.

Therefore some teams, like Sauber, who have been enduring financial troubles in recent times, with a calendar below the current limit, could find themselves unable to participate in all races and as a result potentially be forced out of the sport.

As Ferrari's team boss Marco Mattiacci explains, the impact of taking the sport to new places may be positive for attracting new fans, but may also be detrimental to those within.

“It is clear that stretching the championship to many races means more investment on our side so it opens another discussion," the Italian said.

Lack of collaboration

One of the biggest issues the sport currently faces is a lack of collaboration between the 11 teams over the issues that matter most to themselves and fans alike.

2014 has seen the dispersion of FOTA (Formula 1 Teams Association) as the big teams, such as Ferrari and Red Bull, left leaving the group with very little power or influence.

This has led to further disagreements over budget caps and ways of bringing the spiralling costs to a much more respectable level.

Then there is the wishes of Bernie Ecclestone and leading teams to see the introduction of customer cars and third cars with the F1 boss himself saying should a team not be able to survive financially they should simply leave.

Therefore the inability to come to decisions that are the best for everyone could see an attempt at a compromise over a growing calendar fail before it has started.

Where will it end?

Should the calendar stretch beyond its current limit of 20, the question has to be asked just how high could the number really go?

With races in India, New Jersey as well as likely attempts to expand further into South America and Africa, if Ecclestone gets his way with 22 races what could stop him going for upwards of 25 Grands Prix each year?

Of course, it is likely some races currently on the schedule will drop off over time. Questions remain over the future of the Australian, Malaysian and Italian races, while Germany's low crowd at Hockenheim will likely have Ecclestone playing hard ball in negotiations there.

But losing traditional F1 strongholds such as Italy and Germany would then anger fans who do not want to see the historical aspect of Formula 1 forgotten in favour of faraway places that can simply offer more cash.

It is a dilemma that the sport has had to deal with for quite some time but now, as there is a great uncertainty over what direction F1 is going to take, the likelihood of bosses making a call that would lose more fans is as high as one that could secure its future.

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