Nov.7 (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has predicted one of the next moves in Formula 1 – a culling of several grands prix.
Next year, the calendar will swell to an unprecedented 24 grands prix. In contrast, when Ecclestone was ousted as F1 CEO by new owners Liberty Media, he left behind a 20-race schedule.
And the 92-year-old told Dutch public broadcaster NOS that he thinks Stefano Domenicali, the current Formula 1 chief executive, will conclude that 24 is too many.
“What will happen next? Who knows,” Ecclestone said. “Maybe we’ll lose a few races.
“24 races on the calendar is too many. A few will be removed,” he predicted.
However, he cautioned that he is supportive of Liberty’s efforts to expand the calendar beyond its traditional European roots.
“I’m happy that the sport continues to develop around the world,” said Ecclestone. “I’m the one who took Formula 1 out of Europe and brought it to the rest of the world. Because it’s a world championship, not a European championship.”
But it’s clear that Domenicali does indeed have plans to make the calendar more manageable whilst still meeting rising demand for more race hosts.
One solution would be to pair races like Zandvoort in the Netherlands with the neighbouring Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps and annually alternate between the two hosts.
Ecclestone, however, thinks Zandvoort is safe for now.
“As long as Max (Verstappen) drives in Formula 1, Zandvoort will remain on the calendar,” he said.
The Dutch GP returned to the calendar in 2021 – after a 36-year-old break. “It was a mess,” Ecclestone smiled when asked why the event amid the sand dunes originally collapsed under his watch.
“It was a bad circuit, although there were many of them in those days,” he said. “It’s actually never really been a favourite of mine. So many bad things have happened there,” Ecclestone added, referring to driver fatalities in the 70s.
“Hopefully we’ve got rid of that sort of thing. It looks much better now, the organisation is doing well. It’s mainly thanks to Verstappen of course, but there are also plenty of people who have worked hard on it.”
When asked how Verstappen is so powerful that he’s helping to prop up the Dutch GP, Ecclestone answered that it’s simple: “Max is the best driver to have driven in Formula 1 since the founding of the sport.”
As for Ecclestone, however, he admits that he doesn’t really miss seeing Verstappen race in person.
“Only the business part,” he said when asked if he misses travelling to the grands prix, “not necessarily the races themselves. I usually only stayed until halfway.
“I was never there until the end of the race,” Ecclestone smiled.