This Tuesday (Nov. 10), Formula 1 unveiled its proposed schedule for the 2021 season. As of right now, the schedule looks to have a few questionable sites that might drop the count from the 23 events listed to possibly 20.
Dropping three races does not seem like a cataclysm, especially when comparing fluid scheduling with the 2020 season. When F1 was supposed to begin in Australia in March, the schedule held 22 races and sported two newcomers with the Dutch and the Vietnamese grand prix. When the checkered flag falls on this season, assuming that the sport can stick to its current plan, the season will end up comprised of 17 races.
Dropped from this year’s schedule: Australia, Vietnam, China, Monaco, Netherlands, France, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Japan, Brazil, United States and Mexico. That’s 12 of the 22 sites dropped from the calendar. To say that F1 did some reshuffling would be an understatement.
Next year’s plan follows what has been more conventional, but there are still some things to work out.
Here are five thoughts regarding the schedule:
- The Dutch GP is back. The return to the Netherlands looked to be a homecoming for Max Verstappen and a way for the sport to capitalize on his popularity. The organizers chose to cancel the event, hoping that they would be able to host the race when the Danish fans could attend.
The last Dutch GP came in 1985 with Niki Lauda earning the win. What is one more year when everyone has already waited for 35?
This track features one of the notable banked turns on the calendar, which is supposed to offer something unique and potentially a passing zone. Drivers have stated that they do not think that turn will offer much but at this point, who knows who might find a way to use it to their advantage.
- The open date on April 25 provides a weird hole in the schedule. The idea was for the Vietnamese GP to take this slot and make it theirs. That is not happening. Political infighting has disrupted what was going to be a unique race.
The track premised consisted of half city-streets and half track, making for a fascinating dichotomy in the challenge drivers faces. Also left out now is that the series will not be visiting another new locale.
This open date brings a question as to which track might be able to step up and meet the demands of Liberty Media to slide in late with a race. The preceding race is in China, so there may be some hope that a place like, say Korea, jumps at the chance (highly unlikely) or that a track in Europe will do so, setting up the following race in Spain. This date is one of intrigue.
- Saudi Arabia joins the fun, in what will be the second night race on the schedule, joining Singapore.
The sport continues to place itself in problematic contrast with some of the elements it tries to feature. Saudi Arabia’s attitude toward human rights issues is roundly considered the worst on the planet. The country’s practices toward women and queer persons are violent and oppressive, and the government continually pushes extremist ideologies.
Two other stops on the F1 tour — Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi — have behaved in similar manners regarding human rights, though they have not reached Saudi Arabia’s status. Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia are both oil-rich countries governed by kings, and the contracts with them seem to instill an auspicious that F1 is a continued plaything for the rich and that human rights are of little concern.
It is difficult to reconcile the efforts of #EndRacism and #WeRaceAsOne with the locations that are chosen sometimes.
- While Barcelona made this year’s calendar and Brazil did not, both appear for 2021. Their spots are tenuous. Neither track has signed the contract necessary to make the race happen, and both locales are fraught with issues.
Barcelona has struggled to manage its position on the schedule for years. Between Spain’s economic struggles and the confusion that surrounds its promoters, the track has held onto its position by its proverbial fingernails. It would not be a surprise, especially with an economy further challenged from the effects of COVID-19, to see the track lose its date.
For Brazil, the story is somewhat similar, though there are extra elements in play. The government has taken over aspects surrounding the race, which has played havoc with trying to determine if the funds are there or not to be able to host. The government’s stance seems to waffle between holding and canceling the race about every other day.
In conjunction, the hope in Brazil was that they would be racing at a new track in Rio de Janeiro rather than the one in Sao Paolo. That means there is competition between the two sites, even though the track in Rio has yet to be built. The thinking is that the government might take a year off from F1, allow the new track to be constructed and then come back with a splash in 2021.
- For fans that have criticized F1 for straying from Europe, next year should be welcomed. Even though Germany will not be represented, there will be nine races in Europe next year. That’s a solid contingent of races.
Concerned voices that fear that F1 is straying from its roots by having too many races in the Middle or Far East should be quieted with this schedule. Of course, the very robust number of 23 races means that there should be something for everyone, the continued visits to what are often thought of as traditional sites or tracks may provide comfort for some.