F1 must avoid Le Mans clashes in future - FIA deputy president Reid

New FIA deputy president Robert Reid believes a Formula 1 grand prix should not clash with the Le Mans 24 Hours in its traditional mid-June calendar slot.

F1 must avoid Le Mans clashes in future - FIA deputy president Reid
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The former rally co-driver, who was elected along with new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem last December, made the comment ahead of next month’s date conflict between the centrepiece round of World Endurance Championship and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku.

He pointed out that avoiding a clash next year will be particularly pertinent because Le Mans is celebrating its centenary.

“It is a good opportunity for us to say we should not have a clash next year and that should become the norm,” said Reid on a visit to last weekend’s Spa WEC round.

“I would be supportive of there not being a clash, generally and specifically next year.”

Reid concedes that the FIA does “not have autonomy” over the F1 calendar.

“WEC works in the way all the championships bar F1 work whereby the promoter proposes a calendar and it is up to the FIA to accept that calendar or not,” he explained.

“F1 is slightly different because they pretty much decide what the calendar is."

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He suggested that avoiding a date conflict would likely be “down to a bit of negotiation” with the Formula One Group and its owners Liberty Media, which hold the commercial rights to F1.

Reid, who won the 2001 World Rally Championship alongside Richard Burns, added that he was expressing a personal view and that he would have to check with Ben Sulayem if it was also his opinion.

He revealed that Pierre Fillon, president of Le Mans organiser and WEC promoter the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, had raised the subject with him at Spa.

Race winners #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid Hypercar, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

Race winners #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 - Hybrid Hypercar, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“I was sat at dinner last night opposite Pierre, so I know the ACO’s opinion especially with the centenary coming up next year,” he said.

The Le Mans/Baku conflict on the weekend of 11/12 June this year is the first between the French enduro and an F1 race in six years.

The double-points WEC event took place on the same weekend as the 2016 Baku F1 fixture, which was called the European Grand Prix in its inaugural year.

The original schedules for the 2020 and ’21 season listed the Canadian GP on the same weekend as Le Mans, but the realignment of the international motorsport calendar in the face of the COVID pandemic resulted in the WEC race going ahead on a weekend free of an F1 race in both years.

Reid conceded the difficulties of avoiding a clash as the number of F1 grands prix continues to grow.

“We are kind of running out of weekends now the championship has got more and more rounds,” he said.

This year’s F1 world championship will extend to a record 23 races should the cancelled Russian Grand Prix scheduled for Sochi be replaced as planned.

It is likely to grow again next year when a third grand prix in the USA in Las Vegas joins the calendar and the Qatar fixture returns after replacing the Australian GP on a one-off basis in 2021.

Jean Todt, Ben Sulayem’s predecessor as FIA president, also expressed a desire to keep Le Mans weekend free of F1 over his term in office.

The Frenchman apologised when a rejig of the 2016 calendar resulted in the clash with Le Mans, while stressing the difficulties putting together the international calendars.

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