Jenson Button believes the Formula One calendar should not go beyond the record-breaking 21 races scheduled for 2016.
The addition of the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan and the return of the German Grand Prix – absent this year due to financial reasons – means Button and his fellow drivers are set to compete in 21 races for the first time in the sport’s history. Australia will play host to the first race in Melbourne on 20 March before the season ends in Abu Dhabi on 27 November. There will be six pairs of back-to-back races.
“For me it is fine because I love racing and I wish there was another race next weekend,” said Button, who will take his grand prix career into a 17th season in 2016. “I fly in on a Thursday to the European races and leave on a Sunday night, whereas the mechanics work such long hours and they spend so much time away from home that 21 races is going to be tough.
“I think it is difficult for any mechanic or engineer to have a relationship right now, for those guys it is not going to be easy. I just hope that it doesn’t grow in terms of races for 2017 because I think it will be too much.”
During his debut Formula One campaign in 2000, Button competed in 17 races – only six of which were staged outside Europe. But 11 of next year’s 21 grands prix – not including the races in Azerbaijan and Russia – will take place away from the sport’s traditional homeland.
“The first race next year starts later so it means there are a lot of back-to-backs and that is two weeks away from home for a lot of guys,” Button said. “I think you will probably have people hanging around less in terms of their role on the race team. You are going to get new people coming in after one year, which is a shame because it is nice having that atmosphere with people that you know and that you have worked with for years.”
One of next year’s scheduled races – the United States Grand Prix – is in serious doubt after the state of Texas announced it is to reduce its funding of the event by 20%. The Austin meeting, popular on the calendar since its debut in 2012, played host to Lewis Hamilton’s title triumph in October.
“It was the best race in 2015 and that is the one that might not be around next year,” Button added. “It will be a real shame if it is not around. It is a fun circuit, a fun city and it is nice to be racing in the States.”