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GP Week : Issue 191
22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: When I first got it into my head that I wanted to be an F1 journalist, my plan was simple – I’d save money and see the world at the same time by packing a suitcase in March and hostelling my way around the world till Interlagos. The then-boyfriend wasn’t too keen on the idea of me disappearing for a solid nine months, but the real kibosh came from STA Travel, who took one look at the 2010 provisional calendar and informed me that there was far too much back and forth for a round the world ticket. Apparently they involve actually travelling around the world in one continuous direction. And yes, the clue was in the name. It’s always struck me as slightly mad that the F1 calendar isn’t geographically logical, but the more time I spend in the sport the more the crazy starts to make sense. While I might be unencumbered by partner and children, I am not the only person in the paddock. Most people have families they’d like to spend time with, and creating a calendar that requires regular trips back to home base works for them. Factor in the need to send the cars back to the factory for checks, tweaks, and upgrades, and it all begins to make a lot more sense. And then you’ve got the ultimate god of Formula One – money. While the circuits need a live audience to be able to pay their bills, the real money comes care of television, whether subscription or free-to-air. TV audiences mean eyeballs for sponsors, which means money for the teams, while FOM makes sizeable chunks of cash from selling broadcasting rights around the world. In order to secure those audiences, races need to air at convenient times in the sport’s key markets, which would mean nothing but night races across Asia and the Pacific. And some venues just aren’t suitable for floodlit racing. Albert Park neighbours already get their knickers in a twist over Formula One as it is, so to have the roar of 22 engines under bright lights at bedtime on a Sunday? Ain’t never gonna happen. But while it might not be logical to start the season in Melbourne and then work our way across to Sao Paulo via an Asian spring, a European summer, and an American autumn, there are far better ways to build a calendar than the travesty that was published last week. Thankfully, the provisional calendar approved by the World Motor Sport Council in their September meeting is unlikely to bear much resemblance to the final draft we will see in December. Although even the final calendar is unlikely to be official, thanks to the need for the FIA to homologate the new tracks in Sochi and New Jersey, and to the revised/improved Mexico City circuit. Last year’s TBA will be this year’s asterisk, and all three races could see the chop, unlikely though it might be for all three to fail to pass muster. Should the “worst” happen, and 22 races become 19, the 2014 calendar remains logistically impossible. Dropping New Jersey would save the teams from the triple-header headache of Monaco-Manhattan(ish)-Montreal, and losing Sochi would prevent another complicated back-to-back in October, as the Russian race is currently twinned with Japan. But moving Mexico to a 2015 would create a whole new set of problems, with two races in the Americas separated by a two-week break, too long for the teams to spend away from hearth and home at a point in the season when their loved ones have already started filing missing persons reports. Sticking to the races that will definitely happen next year, the early round of fly-aways presents its own set of problems. With Melbourne and Malaysia no longer back-to-back (Sepang is currently twinned with Sakhir instead), teams will be forced to choose between keeping their people overseas for an expensive and impractical month early on, or to rack up yet more costs by shipping their personnel back to base after Albert Park and then out east again a week later. Then there’s the China-Korea back- to-back, which at least makes sense from a geographical point of view. The problem there is that the ever so popular Korean Grand Prix is currently down as provisional thanks to tricky negotiations over money and contracts. If Mokpo goes missing – as much of the paddock fer vently hopes – then Shanghai will stand alone, increasing travel costs yet further. But the one thing I do know is that the date of the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix is not going to move. The smart way to test the moveable dates on the F1 calendar is to keep a list of the hotels the FIA and FOM return to year after year. Having spent more time than is good for me on the booking.com website I can reveal that the FOM/FIA Shanghai hotel is fully booked for the week leading up to 20 April, making that date as good as set in stone. AROUNd THE WORLd, AROUNd THE HOUSES OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER Editor