Andretti insists 21-race calendar to provide greater exposure

Mario Andretti has insisted that a 21-race calendar will provide greater exposure for Formula 1, amidst skepticism over the length of the forthcoming 2016 season within the paddock.

With the return of the German Grand Prix and the inaugural race around the streets of Azerbaijan, the 2016 season will be the longest on record.

The season will kick off mid-March at the traditional curtain-raiser down under in Melbourne, before concluding towards the end of November under the floodlights in Abu Dhabi.

Whilst the idea of a longer campaign may well prove ideal for the die hard F1 fans, many within the paddock are viewing a 21-race calendar with increased uncertainty from a logistical perspective, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff openly stating that it will put strain on the staff at the German marque.

However, 1978 world champion Andretti believes a longer season will provide greater exposure for the sport, particularly from a brand perspective. With so many nations eager to host an F1 race, a longer season will naturally enable the sport to visit a wider variety of countries.

“It does represent an extra burden for the teams, but they must also appreciate that it provides greater exposure to the brands,” explained Andretti in an interview with El Pais. 

“It is a wonderful opportunity for F1 because you have an incredible demand and 21 occasions to showcase the sport. Plus the drivers are willing to run more races, so that calendar’s not a bad thing in my opinion.”

During Andretti’s career in F1 the sport only visited a maximum of 17 races, during an era when the calendar would rarely extend beyond 16 or 17 races a year.

Since the late 1990’s the sport has experienced a huge boom in nations eager to host races, particularly in the Middle East and Asia with the introduction of races in Malaysia, China and Bahrain.

With Azerbaijan now added to that list of new venues for 2016, as it prepares to host the first European Grand Prix since 2012, the calendar can only continue to grow, especially with races in New Jersey and even Argentina still on the horizon for the future.