Clearly, the phrase “less is more” is not one that has made it into the vocabulary of Formula 1’s directors. Despite a record-breaking 22 races currently on the calendar for this year, the addition of new events in 2022 looks set to bring that figure up to 23.
With the sport’s constant drive to reach new circuits and cities, the series is targeting extra triple-header events and is scheduling new races in places like Miami. Teams have called out the challenges they face from the ever-growing calendar, and concerns remain about the rising demand an over-inflated season could have on the sport.
But, while management might claim the boosted schedule is good for the sporting spectacle, could the increased strain risk hampering the racing action with an influx of grid penalties for drivers?
At this year’s Austrian Grand Prix, stewards were seemingly trigger happy with penalties, dishing out 13 reprimands to competitors over the grand prix weekend. And many fans weren’t impressed with the practice.
Now, ahead of a race weekend that could see Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and championship contender Lewis Hamilton handed grid penalties for replacing engine parts, is there a danger such sanctions will soon be all too common?
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Under the current rules, cars are permitted to run three engines during the season. If they need any more, drivers are handed grid-place penalties.
But so far this year, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, and Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas have already used up their quota. Each driver was subsequently punished and started further down the order than they would have liked.
With penalties also now on the cards for Sainz and Hamilton, and no doubt further drivers as the races continue, can it be expected that the current crop of turbo-hybrid engines keeps up with the ever-increasing calendar?
Sure, we’re aware of the amazing thermal efficiency displayed by the current F1 engines, but they aren’t miracle workers. For teams to use three engines during the season, that’s more than 7 races per motor – or almost 1,500 miles of race running. That’s before you factor in practice, qualifying and any crashes they might be involved in.
Compare this to 2009, when F1 teams could run eight engines across 17 grand prix.
It’s great that the power units can now cover much more ground, and is something that F1 should probably shout about a little more. But when the current engine regulations were introduced in 2014, the season contained just 19 races.
With four more events scheduled for 2022, F1 must be aware of the additional strain it’s placing on teams and their power units. Engine development will also be frozen at the start of 2022, so the sport can’t be expecting teams to innovate their way out of the squeeze. Instead, it is seemingly forcing them to accept more penalties down the line.
Would an additional power unit allowance fit in with the impending budget cap, or should organizers stop chasing shiny new circuits to take the circus to?