Analysis: Busy Time Ahead for F1

You wait in vain for a race, or at least one involving more than six cars, and then four come along at once

Analysis: Busy Time Ahead for F1

After the emptiness of Indianapolis, with the seven Michelin teams pulling out of that dismal US Grand Prix, Formula One is about to get busier than it has ever been in its 50 year history.

Four races in the space of five weeks - France this weekend, followed by Britain the next Sunday and then Germany and Hungary - add up to a tough month of unprecedented activity.

It is a key phase of the Championship, providing a fourth of the remaining points available.

Some fear it is all asking too much and they will have taken little encouragement from Wednesday's meeting of the FIA's world motor sport council in Paris.

While the headline-grabbing story was the crisis-averting decision to put off until September any action against the Michelin teams for the US tyre fiasco, the governing body also took the opportunity to publish a list of preliminary dates for 2006.

There were 20, between March 12 and October 22.

The first two, likely to be Bahrain and Malaysia because of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne pushing back the Australian round, would be back-to-back while June and early July has three races on successive Sundays.

There would also be back-to-back races at the end of May, the end of July, in September and October.

No countries were listed in what remains a work in progress but it would not take a great leap of the imagination for Mexico to make its debut as the 20th race after the Canadian and US rounds in June.

Broadcasting Headache

A date does not mean a definite race but there were 19 on the preliminary 2005 calendar and that turned out to be the number of Grands Prix - the most Formula One has held in a single year so far.

Leaving aside the probability of the dates giving broadcasters a headache in a World Cup soccer year, even those in Formula One have serious doubts.

"I hope to have less," team boss Peter Sauber said in Indianapolis when asked about even 19 races. "Seventeen is enough. Especially all these back-to-back races, it's too much for the team."

BAR's Nick Fry agreed: "I do wonder whether the four races in five weeks that's coming up is simply too much for the customers," he said.

"(I wonder) when they're that close, just how willing people are to give up their Sunday afternoons, or will they be allowed to give up their Sunday afternoons to watch motorsport four out of five times?

"I think we should be entertainers, but I think the public needs to tell us whether they want that many races," added Fry. "I think spreading them out a little bit is probably a better move and if that means reducing it a little bit, then so be it."

The calendar is drawn up by commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who has several countries waiting in the wings, but has to be approved by the governing body and the teams - who are not contractually obliged to more than 17.

There was a row about extending this year's calendar, until the teams agreed to it in order to save the British and French Grands Prix.

The debate since then has been about either reducing the number of races or incorporating testing into race weekends, with the money saved allowing teams to rotate staff.

"I've always had the view that we need a balanced championship," McLaren's Ron Dennis said in Indianapolis.

For him, the number of back-to-back races was already way too high.

"It's too much," he said. "The impact also is dramatic on the families. Because you would think of course that they (the staff) go back and have a rest. But there is no rest.

"It's just too intense at the moment."

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Series Formula 1
Author Alan Baldwin
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