Twenty-three race 2021 calendar
Formula One has published a twenty-three race 2021 calendar with a vacant slot after the Vietnamese Grand Prix dropped, leaving a gap between the Chinese and Spanish races.
The season will begin in Melbourne on 19 – 21 March followed by Bahrain a week later, the Chinese Grand Prix will take place two weeks, due to Easter falling on 04th April, later on, 09 – 11 April.
The twenty-three race calendar has the weekends of 23 – 25 April and 07 – 09 May Spanish Grand Prix marked as TBC. The European season largely resembles a normal season Monaco 20 – 23 May, followed by Baku, Montreal and Paul Ricard in June with Red Bull Ring, Silverstone, Hungary in July.
The season resumes with a tripleheader on 27 – 29 August at Spa followed by the return of the Dutch Grand Prix 04 – 05 September, and then the Italian Grand Prix 10 – 12 September.
The only change to the original 2020 calendar is Sochi 26 – 26 September and Singapore 01 – 03 October, followed by the Japanese Grand Prix on 08 – 10 October.
The Americas leg resembles normally with Austin 22 – 24 October and Mexico City on 29 – 31 October. The Brazilian Grand Prix still hasn’t signed a new contract with Interlagos but is provisionally listed for 12 – 14 November.
As announced last week Saudi Arabia will make its debut on 26 – 28 November pushing Abu Dhabi back a week to 03 – 05 December. Pre-season testing plans are yet to be announced.
F1’s chairman and CEO Chase Carey said that he hopes the, despite the pandemic, events will be “close to normal” next year, including having fans through the gates.
Saying, “We are pleased to announce the 2021 Formula 1 provisional calendar after extensive conversations with our promoters, the teams and the FIA. We are planning for 2021 events with fans that provide an experience close to normal and expect our agreements to be honoured.”
Vietnam dropped from 2021 calendar
The Vietnamese Grand Prix isn’t on the provisional calendar but could be added at a later date. Hanoi was due to make its debut on the calendar in April, however, it was later ultimately cancelled due to coronavirus.
But the decision to drop it for 2021 is understood to be linked to political issues in the country.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Interlagos is set to continue for next season with work on a planned new circuit in Rio still awaiting government approval to start work.
If the race is dropped the leading contenders to fill the slot are Mugello, Imola for either Tuscan or San Marino Grand Prix, Portimao for the Portuguese Grand Prix or the Nürburgring for German or Eifel Grand Prix, all four circuits have indicated they are willing to ‘stand-in’ if races have to be cancelled due to the on-going pandemic.
The first ten races of this year were called off due to the pandemic, with only nine events of the original calendar rescheduled.
Melbourne hoping for fans
Organisers of Australian Grand Prix are working with local government and health authorities on a plan to get fans through the gates at next March’s season opener.
The Melbourne event has been confirmed for 19 – 21 March 21 as part of today’s calendar announcement. The move comes after the city exits a second lockdown after daily Coronavirus cases reached 700 in July.
The city was in differing stages of lockdown from early July onwards, harsh Stage 4 restrictions, which at one point kept people indoors for 23 hours per day, only lifting in recent weeks.
The payoff has been an extreme suppression of the virus, Melbourne now on its 10th day of zero cases and effectively on par with the rest of Australia.
With a new ‘COVID normal’ expected to be in place before Christmas, there is reason for optimism that crowds will be welcome in Melbourne next March. The Victorian government has already begun to allow fans to return to stadiums, and the AGPC now working with health officials and the Victorian government on what may be feasible at Albert Park.
CEO of the AGPC Andrew Westacott said, “We’re thrilled that the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship will commence at its traditional home here in Melbourne.”
“We continue to work closely with health authorities and the Victorian government as we develop our plans for fan attendance, which will be announced when finalised. We’re adopting a sensible, adaptable and flexible approach, ensuring that a safe environment for fans and participants is our top priority.”
He says that the 10.6km of areas around the circuit provides the perfect space to be COVID secure. Its however unlikely that international visitors will be allowed to attend with the race.
Mercedes fired up to ensure dominance doesn’t end
Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says his team is fired up to ensure its Formula One dominance does not end in 2022, because “everything has been done to stop us”.
The German manufacturer has secured its seventh successive F1 world championship double this season. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are the only drivers remaining in contention for the driver’s title, with the Englishman mathematically able to wrap his seventh up this weekend.
Mercedes are likely to take an eighth next season, with the regulations been stable. Wolff accepts that the raft of changes coming for 2022, which include all-new car regulations, a budget cap and a new prize money structure, will be especially challenging for his outfit.
He suggests that the main ambition behind the changes has been to close up the field and wipe away any advantage Mercedes has had. Wolff told Autosport, “Next year will be a transitional year with the same machines. As I’ve said before, I expect Honda to give it a big push.”
“Then obviously this big challenge of 2022 is on the doorstep. That will motivate us. Everything has been done to stop us. We will all fight on a level playing field financially and everything is pretty much capped.
“I’d like to see us continue to perform well, even though this most dramatic regulatory change that has ever happened in F1.” Wolff while yet to decided his own future, it’s understood that he is in negotiations with Mercedes’ parent company Daimler about implementing a succession plan, as he begins looking for a long-term replacement.
Wolff will stay on at Mercedes next year but would like to transition into a new role that does not require him to attend every race. At Imola, he told Sky Sports, “My situation is a little bit different, because I’m a co-owner with Mercedes of the team, so I’m never going to abandon it, because it’s just what I love to do.”
“What’s better than to be part of a sports team, to be part of such a fantastic gang of people?”
Racing Point may switch set up for qualifying boost
Racing Point technical director Andrew Green says that the team may switch its focus to finding more qualifying pace in the final races of the 2020 season.
This season the British team has appeared to make set-up choices which have harmed them on single-lap pace but have allowed them to protect their tyres in the race. The team are currently locked in a battle with Renault and McLaren, who are both one point ahead in the championship.
Despite the closeness and with four races still remaining, Racing Point has stopped development on the RP20 and already turned its attention to its 2021 challenger.
He told Motorsport.com, “We have been looking to next year for quite a while now. Significant aerodynamic changes are needed for next year’s car, so we’ve been looking at that for a while. We haven’t got anything planned to come to this car for the last few races, as much as we’d really like to.”
“I still think there’s more in the car. And we sort of showed at the last two races that we definitely perform really well on a Sunday afternoon, the car is really, really quick on a Sunday afternoon.”
Green says they need to look whether they need to adjust the cars set up away from racing and slightly more towards qualifying.
Sergio Perez has banked points in every race he has started this year, finishing each of the last five races inside the top seven, teammate Lance Stroll hasn’t scored a point since his podium at Monza.
Stroll has had issues in the last four races he has started, including a tyre blowout at Mugello, contact with Charles Leclerc in Sochi and Lando Norris in Portugal, and a damaged front wing on the opening lap at Imola. This may have “dented his confidence” and left Racing Point rallying to get Stroll scoring points again.
But Green said the team had “put all that behind us” and was fully focused on the final four races, which he said didn’t hold “any major concerns”.
Pirelli concern about 2021 test programme
Pirelli says it has concerned about being able to run its twenty-five days of tyre testing for the eighteen-inch 2022 tyres. The Italian manufacturer had the same number of days this year, across all the teams before the pandemic caused the programme to be cancelled.
Only four of the eighteen days will take place, two took place at Jerez with Ferrari in February and what was due to be the last test will take place as planned in Abu Dhabi.
The original schedule included visits to Fiorano, Bahrain, Barcelona, Red Bull Ring, Silverstone, Suzuka and Paul Ricard, and included five days of wet running at the French GP venue.
The 18-inch testing will now have to be slotted in during 2021, and in theory, the definitive 2022 tyres will have to be ready for a final validation test, with mule cars from all teams, after the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Pirelli’s F1 manager Mario Isola says that they face a difficult challenge as it tries to plan the necessary days. He told Autosport, “It will be very difficult to fit the 25 days of testing in next year’s calendar. We know for sure that we are going to start the season with COVID restrictions still in place.”
“As soon as there is a draft of the calendar, we will try to put some days in it. One option, for example, is to try and use as much as possible the Tuesday and Wednesday after events, so staying on the same track. This minimises the movement of the teams.”
He says that restrictions moving between countries are likely to remain in place, an option could be slotting tests at the same circuit following races on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s.
Isola added, “We will try to do a clever and flexible plan for testing, but it is clear that without testing, we cannot introduce the 18-inch tyres, so we have to find a solution. It’s not easy, but we will do our best, but together with the teams we will try to introduce a calendar for these criteria.”
The Paul Ricard test is seen as very important as it is one of few circuits which can be artificially made wet.