F1 calendar aims across the pond while cutting fan favorites

How the single-seater championship is trying to go global - but at a price

Arthur Ferridge
26th May 2022
Image credit: Twitter @AhmetCirF1
The F1 calendar has been steadily expanding since its launch in 1950. The 2022 season is set to feature a record 23 races, nearly four times as many as F1’s inaugural championship (6).

This daunting calendar has sparked fierce debate in the Formula 1 community. While drivers and teams complained about the amount of travel and months away from home, many fans began to wonder whether we even wanted to watch this many races.

Many circuits have signed multi-year contracts with Liberty Media to retain their place in the top flight of motorsport. Bahrain recently signed the longest current contract in F1, retaining the opening race until 2036. Close behind is Saudi Arabia, which will scrap the brand-new street circuit in Jeddah for a new circuit in Qiddiya, which will feature through 2031.

These contracts are not without controversy. There is near-constant conversation surrounding the state of the Formula 1 calendar, about which tracks should be added and which should be dropped.

Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit is often brought up. Since its F1 debut in 2009, it has produced some of the most uninteresting season finales in the history of the sport. Its long technical sections make racing and overtaking difficult, leading to long, dull races. This was proven in 2021 as Lewis Hamilton pulled out an eleven-second lead before Nicholas Latifi spun out and Michael Masi took it upon himself to inject some drama.

The same can be said for Hungaroring, which contains many of the same issues as Yas Marina. Much of the track is barely wide enough to permit side-by-side racing and features hardly any overtaking opportunities.

These tracks, alongside other F1 mainstays such as Monaco and Barcelona, routinely produce lackluster racing, a fact which is made all the more frustrating when you consider the plethora of incredible circuits around the world which are repeatedly snubbed by the FIA.

Tuscany’s Mugello Circuit, home to MotoGP and DTM racing, made a brief Formula 1 cameo in 2020, standing in for races cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tracks’ long series of flowing corners, esses, and chicanes produced constant wheel-to-wheel racing, leaving many fans confused as to why it did not return for 2021.

These tracks routinely produce lackluster racing, which is frustrating when you consider the incredible circuits snubbed by the FIA

Countless circuits fit this bill, getting mysteriously dropped from the championship after having been considered fan favorites for years.

Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit featured between 1999 and 2017, hosting iconic moments such as Red Bull’s “Multi-21” controversy and Michael Schumacher’s return to the sport after breaking his leg in 1999, but was ultimately dropped with little explanation offered.

Unfortunately, as with most elements of motorsport, a circuit’s inclusion often comes down to money and FIA requirements. Ahead of its reintroduction in 2021, Circuit Zandvoort spent an estimated £15.2 million on upgrading their facilities to suit modern Formula 1 cars.

This is the reason that iconic German circuits, Hockenheimring and Nürburgring, have also disappeared from the sport, as local governing bodies are not prepared to cover the astronomical cost of hosting a race, which can be as much as £38 million. In addition, F1's Concorde Agreement has stipulated a maximum of 24 races per season, at least until 2025.

As the FIA continue to add new races throughout the US and the Middle East, it seems increasingly unlikely that these fan favorites will ever return to the sport. Liberty Media seem to prefer purpose-built tracks in exotic and marketable locations such as Miami and Las Vegas, which begs the question: is the spirit of racing itself not entertainment enough?

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AUTHOR: Arthur Ferridge
Head of Sport, 2023/24. @rthur_ferridge on Twitter/X

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