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Dennis gets in behind F1's expansion

  • Story Highlights
  • McLaren boss gets behind Ecclestone's race expansion plans
  • Dennis gives cautious approval to FIA's budget cutting moves
  • Any rule changes must ensure F1 remains sport's pinnacle
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By Glen Scanlon
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- McLaren team boss Ron Dennis has endorsed plans to extend Formula One's season to 20 races, but believes the sport should stop there.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis gets some directions on where the sport his headed from F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Dennis, who has been involved with the sport since 1966, laid out his vision for Formula One's future while in Bahrain for the latest grand prix.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been pushing for the number of grands prix to be increased from 18 to 20 and for there to be less winter testing.

Ecclestone wants the sport to chase new markets in Asia, with Singapore hosting its first grand prix this season and India set to be added to the roster in 2010.

Dennis, while reminiscing about the past in a speech to a business forum, said he welcomed expansion but did not want the season to go beyond 20 races.

"There were only nine races in the 1966 grand prix season. Sponsorship was virtually non-existent.

"Only two of the races were outside western Europe -- the United States Grand Prix and Mexican."

Dennis said the calendar had since doubled, with only eight races remaining in western Europe.

He said Russia, India, South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Qatar loomed as future race hosts.

"I have two provisos: Firstly that the season never expands to more than 20 grands prix, which I regard as a natural logistical limit and, secondly, that we preserve a closed season over the winter."

Dennis said the closed season was essential not only for logistical reasons but to stir up the fans' anticipation.

"The best-selling editions of Formula One magazines are always the season preview editions... and that's because a sense of anticipation has been stirred up in the hearts and minds of fans over the preceding winter."

He was supportive of moves proposed by the FIA to trim team budgets but again with some provisos.

The governing body has proposed a cap on spending which could see the budgets of the top spenders nearly halved (McLaren spends $500m annually). The cap would apply to everything except engines, drivers and promotion and marketing.

Dennis said the sport needed rules that fostered "freedom of entrepreneurship" and encouraged competitive racing.

"If we can frame those rules in such a way as to keep costs in check, or even reduce costs, so much the better... every time the rules are changed the result is almost always a cost increase.

"Formula One must remain the pinnacle of motor sport -- from an engineering point of view as well as from every other. The day when Formula One stakeholders -- and I include fans in that -- begin to doubt its status as the pinnacle, we are lost."

He suggested maintaining a certain level of spending would help F1 tackle environmental issues.

"Formula One budgets are sufficient to enable bright engineering minds to explore exciting new technologies, including green technologies."

Dennis said the sport must never go back to basics.

"The rules must encourage entertaining racing, but I think they do... we who work in Formula One are very good at beating ourselves up about how our sport needs to be improved from a spectacle point of view." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Ron DennisBernie EcclestoneFormula One Racing

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