In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, F1 was forced to take a chainsaw to its 2020 calendar, with Portimao and Mugello debuting, Imola and Istanbul Park returning, and double-header Bahrain utilising different layouts.
These appearances were well-received and provided some interesting action to boot.
F1’s 23-race calendar – the lengthiest in history – features the expected crop of 2020 (meaning a return for the venues after a year’s absence), and the addition of Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, of course all subject to the ongoing pandemic.
Should F1 potentially look at rotating some races on the roster in order to maintain a prestigious, yet manageable schedule?
Over the last 20 years F1 has steadily increased its calendar, with Liberty Media having emphasised the notion of ‘destination cities’ when it acquired the championship.
Under Bernie Ecclestone’s stewardship and CVC Capital Partners’ ownership, new territories were explored, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, trying to balance history, interest and the required commercial factors. This calendar expansion has had its toll on the schedule itself.
The days of a race a fortnight are disappearing into the rear-view mirror.
In 2018, F1 completed its first triple-weekend from France-Austria-UK in order to try and avoid clashes with the World Cup, and teams vowed it would never happen again.
In 2020 a trio of triple-headers began the campaign – with a fourth bringing it to a close – and while it was hugely stressful and draining for those involved it was deemed essential in order to get the show on the road.
But then the 2021 calendar appeared: two triple-headers shortly after the summer break, including the first non-European stretch of Russia, Singapore and Japan.
F1 has backloaded the calendar in order to counteract potential early 2021 disruption, given the ongoing pandemic, but it was still a schedule met with frustration from those who live it.
There is also the argument of quality versus quantity to consider. There are of course commercial factors to consider, with events paying a handsome sum that benefits the sport – and eventually the teams – and money does make the world go around.
But in a recent survey on Formula 1’s own fan forums, only 10 per cent of those questioned supported continued expansion of the calendar. Does a race still have such a valuable commodity if it is part of such a long year?
This is where the idea of a rotating calendar can come into play.
There are existing contracts which have to be taken into account, with Australia and Abu Dhabi slated as the opener and closer respectively, while other events – such as Canada – have to consider weather conditions.
Specific ‘heritage’ races at venues such as Monaco, Silverstone, Spa-Franchorchamps and Monza should always have their rightful home on the schedule given their historical value to championship.
What if the remaining races could spark deals which could see them appear every other year or even every three years in order to help other willing venues become join the schedule – as well as alleviating the hosting fee which can be a heavy financial burden on some circuits which don’t receive as much backing as others?
Much like a previous deal between Hockenheim and Nurburgring which saw the German Grand Prix alternate its venue, a partial rotating calendar could see venues interchange themselves within schedule on a year-by-year basis.
33 circuits currently exist on the latest FIA Grade 1 approved list which means there is plenty of opportunity for F1 World Championship to realise the potential of what an expanded calendar could hold.
This is how a potential, alternative 20-race calendar could look which could feature other circuits under the Grade 1 criteria.
|Championship A||Championship B|
|Melbourne, Australia||Melbourne, Australia|
|Sakhir, Bahrain||Sakhir, Bahrain|
|Shanghai, China||Sepang, Malaysia|
|Baku, Azerbaijan||Shanghai, China|
|Zandvoort, Netherlands||Istanbul Park, Turkey|
|Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Spain||Baku, Azerbaijan|
|Monte Carlo, Monaco||Monte Carlo, Monaco|
|Montreal, Canada||Montreal, Canada|
|Paul Ricard, France||Algarve Circuit, Portugal|
|Red Bull Ring, Austria||Nurburgring, Germany|
|Silverstone, Great Britain||Silverstone, Great Britain|
|Hungaroring, Hungary||European GP – E.G Mugello, Aragon|
|Spa-Francorchamp, Belgium||Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium|
|Monza, Italy||Monza, Italy|
|Marina Bay, Singapore||Sochi, Russia|
|Suzuka, Japan||Fuji or Suzuka, Japan|
|USA – COTA||USA – Indianapolis|
|Mexico City, Mexico||Mexico City, Mexico|
|Interlagos, Brazil||Interlagos, Brazil|
|Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi||Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi|
By having a rotating calendar, F1 can have its cake and eat it by bolstering the number of venues on offer whilst maximising the revenue available.
This would also help keep the workload manageable for the teams and support staff without being overworked. With the ever-growing list of countries and circuits looking to host an F1 event, this is certainly an idea which would be able to carry the load with little downsides.