US racing legend Mario Andretti says F1’s record 21-race programme in 2016 will result in greater exposure for the sport, while also admitting that it can represent “a burden” for the teams.
The upcoming campaign is set to be the longest season in F1 history, with opinions divided on the matter. FIA president Jean Todt has labelled the extended calendar “a privilege”, but Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has already warned that it will put a strain on his staff.
While sympathetic to the latter’s concerns, Andretti thinks the benefits of having a 21-race year outweighs the inconveniences.
“It does represent an extra burden for the teams, but they must also appreciate that it provides greater exposure to the brands,” the 75-year-old icon told Spanish publication 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.”
The eventual number of races could actually shrink to 20, as doubts linger over the United States Grand Prix. Circuit of the Americas has been hosting the race since 2012 but reduced funding from the State of Texas and close competition from the returning Mexican Grand Prix could end up jeopardising the Austin event.
“After all the investments that were made on this fantastic venue, all people involved need to make sure we have a Grand Prix,” commented Andretti, who won the 1978 F1 world championship with Lotus.
“Interest in the US has been growing, especially now that we have an American team on the grid [Haas F1 Team].
“I think F1 needs the US and vice versa. When you look at the sponsors in every team, you see that all of them are global and most do business in America.
“It is believed that the Mexico race has taken some of the spectators away, but as time goes by, both events will help each other because people are keen to see F1.”