By Abhishek Takle
ABUDHABI (Reuters) – When Formula One returns in 2020, there will be a record 22 races on the schedule – and renewed concerns about the demands being placed on those who keep the travelling circus on the road.
The schedule has lost Germany but is expanding with the addition of Vietnam and the return after a long absence of Dutch circuit Zandvoort.
Ultimately, commercial rights holders Liberty Media want to structure the calendar so they can accommodate a maximum of 25 races.
“I know they want to make money, but they also have to think about the mechanics who rock up to the track,” Red Bull’s Max Verstappen said earlier this year when asked about the expansion.
“They can file for a divorce straight away if there’s going to be more,” the 22-year-old said of the mechanics.
Over the last decade Formula One has spread its wings far beyond its European heartland and added lucrative races in Asia and the Middle East.
Of the 17 races in the 2000 season, only six were outside Europe. Next year, 13 of the 22 races will be long-haul “flyaways”.
“We care deeply about it,” Formula One Chief Executive Chase Carey, appointed after U.S.-based Liberty took over the sport in 2017, told reporters in Abu Dhabi when asked about the toll taken by such a long season.
“Ultimately the jobs of the people come from having a healthy sport.
“We need to make the sport healthy but try to do it in a way that is very cognisant of the pressure and the wear and tear,” the American said.
Race weekends are set to be shortened by a day from 2021, running from Friday to Sunday instead of the current Thursday start.
The mandatory curfew, during which team personnel who work on the car are not allowed to enter the circuit, is set to get longer.
McLaren driver Carlos Sainz said he was against further expansion, when asked about the move to a three-day weekend.
“That last extra day that we take off doesn’t fully compensate those 22/25 races that we want to have in the future,” said the Spaniard.
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; Editing by Alan Baldwin and Hugh Lawson)