The 2019 Formula One season is off and running as we are in the week for the Chinese Grand Prix, a significant one as this weekend marks the 1000 F1 GP. The math is a little hazy as there have been many races in the past that have counted as an F1 Grand Prix that would not under the current regulations. For example, the Indianapolis 500 counted as an F1 race in the 1950s. However, for the love of marketing, it will be the 1000th Grand Prix and with that comes some interesting news and notes for the future as F1 is set for a complete shakeup in the coming years.
Dutch Grand Prix and Zaandvort Joins 2020 Schedule
First thing is an update to the track schedule; an announcement is expected next week that will confirm a five-year agreement to bring the Dutch Grand Prix back to F1. Zaandvort Circuit and Liberty Media have been flirting with the idea of a Dutch GP return since November of 2018, however, chatter around the F1 world indicates that a deal has been struck and the 2020 schedule will include a trip to the Netherlands for the first time in 35 years.
A 50 cent increase in tourist tax seems to be the investment in improving roadways to make the track more accessible leading up to the race weekend. With Max Verstappen stepping into F1 stardom, Liberty Media is taking advantage of the buzz that the race will draw after seeing the Dutch attendance for adjacent circuits like Austria and Belgium. This is the second track added to the 2020 F1 schedule after Vietnam was announced to host a race that season as well.
It will be interesting if some current races will be removed to make room for the two new circuits. Drivers have complained in the past that a 21-race schedule is too long, and with the additions, there is potential for a 23-race schedule coming next season.
Silverstone Keeps British Grand Prix for at least 2020
Auto Motor und Sport a German press outfit (English story) reports that Liberty Media has struck a deal to keep Silverstone on the F1 schedule for 2020. After much speculation as to whether or not the British Grand Prix will continue at Silverstone, British fans can rest assured that there will be a 70th F1 Anniversary of the maiden race, held at Silverstone. The future of the Circuit with F1 following the regulation change in 2021 has yet to be decided. With the changes to the schedule, adding two new races and discussions about adding a street circuit race in Miami, Florida, there is much speculation to a few of the current races on the calendar, including Silverstone and Brazil.
However, F1 managing director Ross Brawn told Sky Sports: “Despite the pessimism, I’d be surprised if we lose any of the races we have.”
Will F1 potentially feature 23-24 races in a season? Do not tell that to the families of F1 drivers and engineers.
SportPesa Racing Point to Build New Factory
With the change in ownership comes a change in facilities. Silverstone may not host a race in F1 come 2021, but it will host the new factory for the SportPesa Racing Point team. After much publicity following the former outfit of the team, Sahara Force India, being able to build a competitive car on a small budget, Racing Point is blowing this out of the water. The new facility is estimated to be worth $25 million US dollars to construct. It is clear the new financial backing from Lawrence Stroll and Co. is set to raise the budget and the competitiveness of Racing Point come the regulation change in 2021.
“Not only are we delivering the new car, but we are also planning for the future and trying to improve our facilities and tools following years of under-investment,” states Racing Point Team Principal, Otmar Szafnauer. “We are expanding the current factory to accommodate a growing workforce and simultaneously planning the building of a new facility, which will also be located in Silverstone. These are not easy tasks and they require lots of energy and resources to deliver. But we are well aware that the focus of our key people needs to remain on the performance of the car and that’s very much the case.”
Lewis Hamilton Hints at Potential Switch to Formula E
There have been many rumors about the future of five-time F1 Champion, and current King of the sport, Lewis Hamilton. Many believe that the end is near for his reign on the sport. Hamilton has made it clear in past interviews that the Michael Schumacher records of wins and championship are not a distinct target for him.
There have also been reports of seeing Hamilton driving a MotoGP Sports bike as well as other racing equipment over the past few offseasons. These events could also be looked at as Lewis’ adventure-seeking life, but it could be a wandering eye for the British driver if he decides that he wants to leave the F1 life behind, especially with the major shakeup that the 2021 regulation changes have coming. Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes contract is up after 2020. One of the series that Hamilton has spoken about is Formula E.
In a conversation with Hamilton about the racing series, he goes on record to say, “I actually grew up in the same era as Gary Paffett. He is a little bit older than me and is now racing in Formula E and that is now going to be the future.
“So, who knows, in the future that’s maybe an area where I can use my skills but as you get older, it is more challenging to find the motivation to stay focused and you have to find something you love.
“I am pretty sure I will always love cars, and for now I am going to try and stay in Formula One, so long as I stay focused and fit, I will carry on driving the best that I can.”
It does seem that his mindset is still on Formula 1. He is reaching legendary status with his team Mercedes AMG Petronas, and if he continues to win, there should be no reason for him to stop. It is just hard to believe that whenever he does leave F1 that he will retire to a cottage in the woods of England.
Sebastian Vettel Unsure of Future Post 2020 Season
The four-time F1 World champion has his eyes out for the future of F1. The 31-year old German driver is not sure if he will stay in the sport after his contract with Ferrari is up in 2020. In a conversation he had with the Times, Vettel is not very satisfied with the direction that F1 is heading under Liberty Media leadership.
“A lot of the values that used to be around, they are only partly around,” said Vettel. “Formula One is now more a show and a business than a sport. You can say the same probably for other sports, but maybe in other sports, it doesn’t filter down as much to the actual athlete as much as it does here.”
Vettel continues to say, “if we say we are a show, then bring on the show. I feel we are wasting so much time and energy with regulations that are just expensive really for nothing. I’m certain I really want to drive this year and next year, then I don’t know what happens to the regulations. Nobody knows so far.”
Finally, he added he would not remain in the sport “just for the sake of being in Formula 1.”
There have been many opinions given about Vettel and his time with Ferrari, many of which given by this website. However, it would be a massive shakeup in the F1 order if Vettel were to leave before the new regulation changes, especially if Hamilton heads out the door as well after 2020.
Vettel has been in F1 since he filled in for an injured Robert Kubica in 2007 with BMW Sauber and had his much-publicized four consecutive world championships. Perhaps with the “show” that he describes F1 to be, including pressure from teammate Charles Leclerc, who beat him in the last race in Bahrain in a straight fight, and a potential team interest in creating a seat for Heir-to-the-thrown Mick Schumacher in the coming years, Vettel’s time could be ticking with the Prancing Horse and F1 in general.