Ex-F1 boss gives controversial calendar view: ‘25 to 30 races is the right number’

Thomas Maher
Otmar Szafnauer, 2024 Saudi Arabian GP.

How many F1 races are too many? Otmar Szafnauer believes 25 to 30 is the 'right number'

Otmar Szafnauer believes even more races could be crammed onto the F1 calendar, provided some careful considerations are put into the schedule.

Szafnauer is sitting out the 2024 season as the former Alpine team boss goes through a period of gardening leave following his split from the Enstone-based squad last July, but he has weighed in on the topic of the expanding calendar.

Otmar Szafnauer: 30 races would mean two teams within a team

A key topic in recent years has been the scrutiny on the F1 calendar, which has expanded to a record-breaking 24 races in 2024. The current Concorde Agreement allows for a maximum of 25 in a season, but this is expected to be increased with the new Concorde when it’s negotiated to come into effect from 2026.

The question of how many races are too many is one that has swirled over recent years, but Szafnauer believes the calendar has not yet reached breaking point.

“For me, if you plan it right, I think between 25 and 30 is the right number,” Szafnauer told Reuters.

“If you go to 30, you really have two teams (within a team) and each team does 15. That’s an easy life compared to what you’ve got today.”

Szafnauer revealed the approach he had taken while at Alpine when negotiating with new hires, saying he had offered the chance to work 10 races at the track, and 10 from back at base, with four ‘wild cards’ to take fully off.

“The wild card means you choose four races that you don’t either do remotely or from the racetrack,” he explained.

“People look at it and say it’s just taking up too much of my life and therefore I’m missing birthdays and weddings and all the stuff I don’t want to miss. There’s a way around it.

“My way around it was ‘OK, out of the 24, you do 20 and get four wild cards. Just tell us the wild cards in advance and we’ll work around it.”

As it stands, teams try to rotate staff as much as possible over the year, which isn’t an ideal solution given the budget cap that includes staff salaries.

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Without hiring more people to allow for more rotation, Szafnauer said careful planning of the logistics of travel would help considerably – a key area of focus for the former team boss as his Soft Pauer company has launched an EventR app to help coordinate group travel.

“I get what Liberty (Media) are doing, it’s the right thing for the sport,” Szafnauer said of the commercial rights holders’ calendar expansion – including races in Saudi Arabia and increasing US involvement to three Grands Prix a year.

“We’re a global sport, truly global, and should we be going to 25, 26, 27 races?”

Szafnauer pointed to the example of NASCAR, which had over 40 races on its calendar, albeit all located within the United States.

“If you say ‘OK, how about 26 races or 28 races in all the countries in the world?’ Yeah, that’s sustainable. But the calendar has to allow it,” he said.

“If you can overcome the logistics, which I think you can with a bit of planning, and then overcome the human element of it, which I think we’re good at doing, you just have to look at it in a creative way.”

While there’s little doubt that there’s enough interest from other countries and venues to expand the calendar to as many as 30, the FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has suggested a different mindset by saying F1 needs “more teams and fewer races” – a very different mentality to that of Liberty Media.

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