- 2012 calendar
F1 calendar at 'tipping point' - Whitmarsh
McLaren team principal Maryin Whitmarsh believes the Formula One calendar is at its "tipping point" with 20 races scheduled for next year.
There were meant to be 20 races this year but the Bahrain Grand Prix was called off due to civil unrest in the country. Assuming all races run as planned next season there will be 20 races, but in 2013 and 2014 new events in New Jersey and Russia are set to join the schedule. Whitmarsh warned that more than 20 races would force the teams to employ more staff as the current workload on mechanics and engineers is at the limit.
"I think 20 races and a lot of flyaways is pretty hard on the teams and I think we're at the tipping point," he said in India. "You're getting close to the point that you need to take the NASCAR approach and alternate crews [during the season]. I think the world championship is important but every grand prix, as a stand-alone event, is a very special event. Personally I think we shouldn't go more than 20, I know there's always the chase of money and the want to have more, but I think 20 is a lot and I think we're right on the limit of what we should be."
The teams agree to shutdown their factories for two weeks each year in August in order to give their staff some time off and Whitmarsh said breaks were essential for the hardworking mechanics and engineers.
"We must have a break during the winter and we must have one mid-season because it is very hard," he said. "By the time the guys get back and strip down [the cars] after Brazil [at the end of the season] it will be December and by January the same guys will be building the new car, by February they are going to be testing the car and then they're into a flog around the world. It's an incredibly difficult and challenging job for the mechanics, the technicians and the engineers. Fortunately we've got a great team here and they enjoy the challenge."
McLaren driver Jenson Button said the drivers would not necessarily be adverse to more than 20 races, but said it was too much to ask of their crews.
"We [the drivers] love racing and that's what we're here for," he added. "For us it doesn't matter how many races there are, but you've got to think about the guys that are working non-stop - the mechanics and engineers. It's so, so tough on them, it's much tougher on them than us. We arrive on a Wednesday or even a Thursday and these guys are there two or three days before and then they are still packing up on Monday. It's a massive difference in the hours those guys have to do and it's definitely them that's the limit not us."
Although 20 races are scheduled for next season there are still question marks hanging over the rounds in Bahrain and Korea, with ongoing political unrest in Bahrain and funding concerns in Korea. It has emerged that both are set to be discussed at Thursday's meeting of the F1 Commission in Geneva with the possibility of a replacement race, most likely in Turkey according to Autosport.com, being put on standby.