Column: Would Lewis Hamilton really retire if F1 schedule hits 25 races?

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In an odd way, Formula One’s bid to potentially increase the racing season eventually to 25 races, as well as Lewis Hamilton’s threat to retire early if that happens, may indirectly be pages ripped from the same playbook.

F1 on Wednesday’s announced it will add a grand prix event in Vietnam to the 2020 F1 season, increasing the number of races to 22.

No, wait a second. What about Miami Beach, which is also on F1’s radar for 2020? That would increase the 2020 season to 23 races.

Liberty Media, which purchased F1 last season, is definitely looking at increasing its overall schedule significantly in the next several years to increase profits and global exposure.

That’s where Hamilton comes in.

Or exits, if you will.

Hamilton said Thursday in Brazil that he might retire if F1 does increase the size of the schedule to 25 races per season.

“I am not going to be here if it gets to 25 Grand Prix races, that’s for sure,” he said. “It already feels like we are on race 25 this year, so I don’t think that’s a good thing. I think 18 (races in a season) was probably the best back in the day.

“I’m someone who really loves racing but the season is long. It’s a lot of commitment for all of us and a lot of time away from families, and the seasons are getting longer and the off time is getting shorter.”

But Hamilton’s threat to hang up his firesuit could be mitigated by his bid to eventually tie or pass Michael Schumacher’s F1 record of seven championships.

Given it likely will take F1 at least another three to five years to grow to that 25 mark, it also gives Hamilton the same amount of time he needs to match or exceed Schumacher’s mark.

Many have felt Schumacher’s seven championships was an unreachable record. But since Hamilton won his fifth championship two weeks ago at Mexico, becoming only the third driver in F1 history to win at least five titles (Schumacher and Juan Manual Fangio are the other two), suddenly Schumacher’s seven crowns seems within Hamilton’s reach now – especially given he’s won four of his five F1 titles in four of the last five seasons.

Face it, Hamilton is hot. And at 33 years old, he’s still in the prime of his racing career. There’s no reason to believe he can’t top Schumacher.

The 2018 season is already at a grueling 21 races globally. That means going from Australia to Russia to Montreal to Singapore to Dubai to Brazil to Austin – and 14 other global venues. Next season will be another 21-race slate.

Eventually adding four more races means the series will increase the schedule by just under another 20 percent. Oh, and should we mention that next season’s schedule will extend into December for the first time in over 50 years?

If F1 was a North American-based series like IndyCar, 25 races would still be grueling but not nearly as much as 25 worldwide races are from time spent traveling, as well as money spent shuttling not only team members but also all cars and associated equipment from one race to another, not to mention all the return visits between races to team headquarters primarily in Europe.

Would Hamilton truly retire if the schedule goes up to 25 races? Especially if he falls short of tying or breaking Schumacher’s record?

That is debatable. If you were Hamilton, would you give up your bid to shatter Schumacher’s mark – particularly if you win titles No. 6 and 7 before F1 would increase to 25 races?

Hamilton has long been a driver where accomplishments mean everything to him, particularly championships. And now that he’s moved into exclusive real estate with his fifth championship, it’s hard to imagine him giving up on a bid to overtake Schumacher.

Hamilton has never been the kind of driver that wants to share attention – or achievements – with anyone else.

Put yourself in his shoes. Would you rather leave a legacy as the driver who won the most F1 championships ever, or would you be happy simply known as being one of TWO drivers to win the most F1 championships?

Even if F1’s schedule does increase to 25 (or potentially even more) races, the answer is pretty clear: Hamilton isn’t going anywhere any time soon if he has a chance to set his mark as the greatest F1 driver ever.

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Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”