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Räikkönen On 22 F1 Races vs 35 NASCAR Races: ‘The U.S. is a f***ing big country’

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Kimi Raikkonen Headshot

When asked about Formula One’s new 22-race calendar, which hasn’t been well received by many people in the sport, Kimi Räikkönen didn’t seem bothered. In an interview, he pointed out that NASCAR, where he competed for two years during an F1 hiatus, has over 35 races per year — and when reminded that all of these take place in a single country, his response was, in his characteristic style, to the point: “Yeah, but [the USA] is a f***ing big country.”

Formula One officials announced yesterday that the 2020 season would feature 22 Grands Prix, a record for the sport. The current 2019 season consists of 21 races, which was also the case in 2018 and 2016. And while this might at first seem like the logical continuation of an increasingly busy F1 calendar, constant expansion wasn’t always the status quo.

From 1976 — the first season to boast 16 races — to 2009 — the last to boast 17 races — F1 averaged about 16.4 races per season. Of the 34 seasons that too place in that period, 26 featured either 16 or 17 races. It’s only in about the last decade that there has been a notable uptick in the amount of Grands Prix per season.

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More races mean a lot more work for the teams. Every week or every two weeks, they have to ship a massive amount of equipment all around the globe, which is not only a herculean task from a logistical point of view, but also increasingly demanding for team members who are getting less and less available time with their families.

The discontent doesn’t just come from the current long seasons but also from the tense expectation that they will just keep getting longer. F1 owners Liberty Media have been open about their desire to expand the F1 calendar and to host races at iconic locations, especially in the U.S., such as Miami, Las Vegas and New York.

And while there is some sense to Räikkönen’s comment — the United States is massive, to a degree that Europeans often underestimate — about three-quarters of NASCAR nonetheless take place within a 250-mile radius of Charlotte. Furthermore, F1 teams are larger than NASCAR teams, and it must be noted that as big as the U.S. is, it’s still not quite the size of the planet — even if some Americans act as though it’s the only country on it.

So if Räikkönen’s statement makes for a catchy headline, it must be said the analogy doesn’t really hold up.

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