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Unofficial Formula 1 2011 calendar

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Bernie Ecclestone has talked in recent weeks about expanding the F1 calendar to 24 races.

The early signs are next year’s F1 schedule could be the longest ever – with the new Indian Grand Prix taking the championship up to 20 races for the first time.

It seems increasingly likely the 19 venues visited this year will all be retained for 2011.

The Turkish and Chinese rounds had been in some doubts, the former seeing very poor crowds in recent years and the latter reaching the end of its original seven-year contract this year.

But Ecclestone dropped hints during the Turkish Grand Prix weekend that the race would be staying on the calendar.

Mercedes, who supply three F1 teams including their own factory outfit, are understood to be keen on keeping a race in China, an important market for them.

Other races whose long-term future had seemed uncertain now look more secure. The owners of the Hockenheimring have said they expect to sell more tickets this year (thank you, Michael Schumacher) and Silverstone has finally nailed down a long-term contract.

The teams have raised some objections to the amount of long-distance travelling this will involve. There concerns make a lot of sense when you look at how the calendar is organised.

Why are Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, two races that are reasonably close together, at opposite ends of the calendar? Would it not make sense to run these races on consecutive weekends to save flying all the way there and back.

The same goes for the Malaysian and Singapore rounds. And would it not also make sense to move the Chinese round closer to the Korean and Japanese races?

Despite the team’s concerns the signs all point to the calendar getting larger. The 2012 United States Grand Prix could move the calendar up to 21 races.

(As an aside, if that race is paired with the Canadian round as seems likely, a June race in Texas would be held in punishing heat. The only previous F1 race in Texas – the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix, held in July – was one of the hottest races ever.)

On top of that Ecclestone is looking into possible future races in Rome and Russia.

The prospect of a larger calendar is obviously good news for fans of the sport and, in the long term, is probably a benefit for F1 too.

But how far the teams can accommodate more races in distant venues, at a time when they’re trying to bring their costs down, remains to be seen.

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