The future of Formula 1’s swelling race calendar might soon see a dramatic shift if Bernie Ecclestone’s words are anything to go by. In an era where an eye-watering 24 races loom on the horizon, the former F1 supremo offers his forthright view and prediction in conversation with NOS, a Dutch broadcaster. “24 races on the calendar is too many. A few will be removed,” the 92-year-old Ecclestone predicted. It would signal an about-turn from the current expansionist policy that’s been stretching the season to its limits in the post-Ecclestone era run by Liberty Media.
In truth, Ecclestone’s tenure already saw the sport’s global footprint widen significantly, a legacy he reflects on with a sense of pride: “I’m happy that the sport continues to develop around the world,” he said, clarifying his ambition for the sport’s reach. “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,” Ecclestone added, asserting his role in shaping the international series fans enjoy today.
Among the races potentially facing the partial chop is the Dutch Grand Prix, yet Ecclestone confidently assures its security, as long as its local hero continues to grace the track: “As long as Max (Verstappen) drives in Formula 1, Zandvoort will remain on the calendar.”
At the same time, Ecclestone reminisced about the Zandvoort event’s less than illustrious past, recalling, “It was a mess,” in reference to why the Dutch GP initially fell out of favour during his leadership. “It was a bad circuit, although there were many of them in those days.”
Referring to the circuit’s bloody F1 history, he remarked, “So many bad things have happened there,” a nod to the darker days of F1. But in today’s context, Ecclestone sees a brighter future, one where Zandvoort has risen phoenix-like from its ashes: “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.”
Yet Ecclestone admits to only missing the “business part” of visiting circuits like Zandvoort every other weekend. “Not necessarily the races themselves,” he answered when asked if he misses the atmosphere at grands prix. “I usually only stayed until halfway,” he smiled.