Start, Singapore, 2019

Three more races to be cut as second phase of 2020 F1 calendar takes shape

2020 F1 calendar

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No sooner had the first eight races in Formula 1’s ‘Covid Calendar Part 1’ been confirmed than speculation switched to the balance of the schedule, particularly as F1 managing director Ross Brawn said he was confident this year’s truncated championship would be contested over “15 to 18 races”. That left media with seven to nine rounds to speculate about.

But speculation remains premature at best and could prove woefully off-mark given that the process is blighted by so many variables and unknowns at this stage. Various target countries are still under lockdown conditions, while others continue to ban mass events.

The first prize for F1 commercial rights holder Liberty Media is having up to nine big-bucks races in regions that permit freedom of movement. The problem, of course, is there are currently none of those, so Liberty needs to set its sights lower down the foot chain and find venues that are prepared to pay F1 to set up stall in their respective countries, whether behind locked gates or not.

Four immediately spring to mind: Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, China and Russia – ‘propaganda races’ all. Added to the eight already confirmed, they would bring the total to 12, leaving three to five needed to hit Brawn’s target. Any or all of these could conceivably stage back-to-backs – more of which below.

Hanoi Street Circuit, Vietnam, 2020
Vietnam’s first F1 race will have to wait
Singapore, Baku and Vietnam would love to join that group of four, but the disruptions and costs incurred in constructing their street circuits make holding ‘Closed Events’ unviable, plus an October-onwards date for Hanoi would bring it perilously close to next year’s race. “Building and dismantling a circuit twice in six months saps whatever local goodwill still remains in a city that is not yet staged a grand prix,” a source advised RaceFans.

The definitive cancellation of those three rounds is expected to be announced shortly.

Brazil is unlikely to remain on the calendar, and not only due to its surging infection rate, which Jair Bolsonaro’s government tried to hush up until the courts intervened. The fact is that after two years of paying no fees to F1 due to a contractual anomaly, very little generosity is owed to the Interlagos promoter.

Due to Liberty’s US roots the North American races are obvious targets, but who knows if their circuits will be open for business and their borders will be open to foreigners by the time a final decision needs to fall? The Circuit of the Americas has come under financial pressure recently, while its business model relies on attracting out-of-state and international visitors, for which ‘closed’ events do not qualify.

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Mexican officials recently confirmed plans to stage their race on its original date, but added, “In the event that due to force majeure the event in Mexico City must be held without an audience or is cancelled, it will be communicated through official channels.” Thus, the race tally is potentially 14 if all goes well at these two venues; 12 if not.

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Mugello, 2012
Mugello’s F1 hopes could be dashed by Sochi
Liberty is known to have contingency plans to cover against such eventualities. As reported earlier this week Ferrari-owned Mugello on stand-by to stage a race a week after Monza, effectively celebrating the Scuderia’s 1,000th world championship race appearance. However, Sochi is keen on a double-header set. Russia is a big payer and logistics between the two would clash. If Sochi prevails, the second Italian round would fall away. Either way Liberty has a ‘banker’ extra round.

There is talk that Jerez in Spain and Portimao in Portugal could make up shortfalls in numbers, with both allegedly prepared to host double-headers as late as the end of October. Jerez famously did so in 1997 when Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve clashed. Who knows, mass events may even be permitted by then…

Also said to be in the running are Imola and Hockenheim, although it is unlikely they would be called upon to host rounds after end-September given the expected autumnal chilliness. However, the fact that a number of venues are suddenly ‘available’ should be treated with caution: The more venues bandied about by the media, the stronger Liberty’s negotiating position as it seeks paying – as opposed to paid – rounds.

Liberty’s challenge is to construct a viable, profitable calendar in the face of continuing uncertainty across the globe. It is too early to speculate about F1’s meanderings after the first eight races, and no official calendar is expected until the end of the month, shortly before this heavily disrupted championship is due to begin.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 18 comments on “Three more races to be cut as second phase of 2020 F1 calendar takes shape”

    1. I can think of a trillion things I’d rather do than watch two back to back Sochi races.

      1. @fer-no65 Having two races at Sochi Autodrom is still better than no racing at all. During these times, circuit-preferences should be put aside. Yes, I’d also rather have this format somewhere like Suzuka, Spa, or COTA to name a few, but again, better than nothing.

        1. @jerejj yeah you mentioned that before… if they want to go because it pays well, fine by me, but don’t come later saying “we’re working to spice up the show”…

      2. I too think 2 races at Sochi is a crazy idea. I can understand they might have to go there once as they pay a lot for it. It’s an awful circuit though. Personally. no thank you!

      3. It’s the most extreme antithesis a F1 calendar has posed,
        either you will stage a race in an old (but new to F1) track with fast corners that lead to gravel traps and elevation changes, loved by many in the heart of the Italian mountains to celebrate the 1000th race of sport’s most successful team as well as the sport’s 70th anniversary…
        …or you will stage 2 back-to-back races in a circuit best described as “what would happen if there was a cement explosion in an abandoned parking lot” and its races can be advertised on TV in advance as: “feeling insomniac?, watching paint dry doesn’t make you fall asleep?, Don’t worry, the Russian goverment has you covered”.

        1. Peppe (@turbopeppino)
          11th June 2020, 22:44

          @black WORD. Hahaha

      4. looking a Sochi twice! brr…. then i rather have reverse grind anywhere!

    2. god forbid for a double header in sochi i would rather watch paint dry then watch cars race there. There must be better options must be for my sanity

    3. Unless the Vietnamese GP would become a fixture late-season event. This way it could realistically get rescheduled for this year, although the part about holding it without spectators remains in place.
      No mention of the Japanese GP BTW, which also looks set to lose out for this year along with Singapore, Azerbaijan, and Vietnam, etc. I’d be most unhappy about that, but nothing to do about it given Japan’s travel-restrictions.
      Hockenheim, yes, is unideal for F1 later in the autumn, but Imola is still decent in October given it’s in the Mediterranean climate zone.
      https://www.accuweather.com/en/it/imola/212984/october-weather/212984?year=2019
      Yes, it gets riskier and less consistent with the temps further into the autumn, but still decently warm as late as around the scheduled COTA-date.

    4. Four immediately spring to mind: Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, China and Russia – ‘propaganda races’ all. Added to the eight already confirmed, they would bring the total to 12, leaving three to five needed to hit Brawn’s target. Any or all of these could conceivably stage back-to-backs – more of which below.

      Well, I’d find any excuse to ditch Sochi and Yas Marina, holding a triple-header at Sahkir instead. GP + Endurance + Outer Ring circuits are good enough. Not to mention the Paddock Circuit, which has decent lenght as well, and could even be extended a bit. Plus, races can be hosted either day or night. I don’t know how they are exactly on Covid situation, but if any track should get back to backs, it is Sahkir.

      PS. Yes, Yas Marina can host day or night as well, but their track possibilities are just rubbish.


    5. #7 August 30 : Belgium
      #8 September 6 Italy (Monza)
      #9 September 13 : Italy (Mugello)
      #10 September 27 : Russia (Sochi)
      #11 October 4 : Spain (Jerez)… or Russia (Sochi) …again if necessary :(
      #12 October 11 : Portugal (Portimao)
      #13 October 25 : USA (Austin) ? … or Spain (Jerez) as a back up if Sochi double happens
      #14 November 1 : Mexico (Mexico City)
      #15 November 15 : China (Shanghai)
      #16 November 29 : Bahrain (Sakhir – usual circuit)
      #17 December 6 : Bahrain (Sakhir – outer cicruit) it would be like Monza on steroids in terms of fast laps
      #18 December 13 : Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)

      1. @black More realistically something like this:
        Italy II? (Monza or Mugello) September 13
        Russia September 27
        Russia II October 4 (alternatively September 20 and 27, or October 4 and 11 with China either October 18 or 4 in the former)
        China? October 11
        Mexico November 1 (Southern European circuits on this and or the surrounding weekends should all three of the Americas-leg fail)
        Bahrain November 29
        Bahrain II December 6
        Abu Dhabi December 13

    6. I just want to know when my Cnada GP ticket money will be returned

      1. that is a very good question… to ask the Canadian GP promoters

        1. The ticket folks say they’ll let us know when they know….I worry they might have cashflow problems and will hold off or only offer future credit

    7. If that Mugello race really would be the 1000th World Championship appearance for the Scuderia is a debatable proposition, of course :-)

      1. Last evening MotoGP announced their 2020 calender and Mugello GP has been cancelled.

        1. Yes, due to the interest from F1, as far as I understand

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