Formula 1 is on the rise. That can also become a problem. There are more people interested in a Grand Prix than there are dates on the calendar. New teams are begging for admission. As the number of races increases, Formula 1 is sticking to ten teams for the time being.
Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali can be satisfied. Business is booming. Formula 1 followed him on vacation, whether in the mountains or by the sea. "Everyone is talking about Formula 1, no matter where. More and more young people and women are watching us. We've made it back to the front row of global sports." At the same time, the 57-year-old Italian warns: "When things are going well, you can't sit back. It's important to constantly think about what could be done better."
The high flight of Formula 1 is both a curse and a blessing. Suddenly everyone wants to win the lottery. "There are more people interested in a Grand Prix than we have on the calendar," admits Domenicali. With the teams, he faces the same situation. Andretti and some others want to go to the club. The ten current racing teams are moderately enthusiastic.
Another chance for Spa
The catchphrase for the Formula 1 boss is "Balance". Finding a balance between what is good for the sport, what fills the box office, and what would lead to saturation. Names and history alone are not enough. "For example, I said to the people in Monza: Don't rely on history alone. You have to keep up with the times if you want to stay on the calendar."
The number of races drives everyone in the circus. In the distant past, 16 was the upper limit. In 2012 we scratched the 20 mark for the first time. In 2021 and 2022 it was already 22 and next year it could be 24. China and South Africa are still on the brink. If South Africa falls out, Spa jumps in. Maybe for the last time for a long time. Domenicali still gives the Belgians another chance: "I guess the organizer will pay me a few visits to my office at the weekend."
For the former Ferrari sports director, the upper limit is 24 races. "If I have the feeling that with too many races people's interest levels off, I'm the first to reduce the number of races." Domenicali can't do anything with the romance that 16 premium events are better than an inflation of races: "In the end, the 16 would have to pay so much more that they compensate for the loss of the other races. That's impossible."
Europe, Asia and the rest one third each
Anything over 24 Grands Prix threatens to dilute the value of the individual event. Domenicali therefore warns all candidates to rest on their laurels."We are looking for the right compromise between new and old locations, between the revenue we can generate and the value that is created for the respective country or region and between the locations themselves. Ideally, the races should be one third each in Europe , taking place in Asia and the rest of the world."
The calendar for 2023 should be up in two weeks at the latest. That much is certain. Germany will not be there. Nevertheless, Domenicali does not rule out a return of the car nation to the GP program, especially if three German premium manufacturers are represented from 2026 with Mercedes, Audi and Porsche. "We hope that Germany will return to the negotiating table. The door is open and I believe that facts will soon be created that justify a discussion."
Eleven teams don't increase the value
While Formula 1 goes to the pain limit at the events, it prefers to keep the club small but nice with the teams. Andretti blows a sharp wind in his face when he asks to be included as the eleventh team. It is understandable that most established teams are not very interested in a new blackhead. They fear their share of the pie will shrink once the $200 million ticket price is gone.
But Domenicali is also keeping a low profile when it comes to Andretti: "At the moment we don't see that adding more teams would bring us more value." The Formula 1 boss makes it clear that he does not consider Andretti's open criticism of the reluctance of Formula 1 to be goal-promoting: "There are other interested parties who discreetly express their wishes. Andretti has chosen the loud way. There is that a very clear protocol. Anyone who applies for a place in the field must be solidly positioned and committed to the long term."
The right mix of innovation and entertainment
The renewed interest among the major automotive groups is a completely different story. Audi and Porsche have already pushed open the door. Honda wants to go back. Another manufacturer is raring to go and another is showing cautious interest. "If so many manufacturers are interested in Formula 1 at a time that is not easy for the automotive industry, this gives our platform the greatest credibility. And it shows that we are on the right track with our mix of innovative technology and Entertainment."
Domenicali can imagine that there will soon be as many engine manufacturers in Formula 1 as there were at the peak of the first turbo era or the best days after the return to naturally aspirated engines. At that time, up to nine different engine suppliers were involved. For Domenicali, this is an important step towards more equal opportunities in sport: "Should we perhaps have eight manufacturers on board in the future, then there is no longer the danger that one will control everything."
That's why the F1 management also wants to stick to its sustainability policy. The premier class should be climate-neutral by 2030 at the latest. Domenicali reveals: "We are now talking to politicians to present our plans. This has already opened many people's eyes to what we do. And that doesn't just mean the e-fuels we'll be driving with from 2026."