Formula One has announced a 23-race calendar for the 2021 season which, if the schedule is completed, will be the longest in F1 history. The highly anticipated Vietnam Grand Prix will, however, not feature and a replacement for its slot remains to be confirmed but the controversial meeting in Saudi Arabia has been included.
F1 has previously held a maximum of 21 races in a season and this calendar represents the most ambitious plans yet by owners Liberty Media. The sport’s CEO, Chase Carey, was optimistic that having so far successfully managed a 17-race season in 2020 despite the pandemic, next year would represent a return to normality for the sport, including having fans attending races.
“We are planning for 2021 events with fans that provide an experience close to normal and expect our agreements to be honoured,” he said. “We have proven that we can safely travel and operate our races and our promoters increasingly recognise the need to move forward and manage the virus.”
The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is pencilled in for 18 July so it will not clash with the Wimbledon men’s singles final and the European Championship final at Wembley, which are both set to take place on 11 July.
The Vietnam Grand Prix was scheduled to make its debut this year but was cancelled as the coronavirus forced a string of changes to the sporting calendar. Its slot on 25 April in 2021 has been vacated following the arrest of the Hanoi People’s Committee chairman, Nguyen Duc Chung, a key figure in promoting the race. His arrest was not related to the GP but the Vietnamese government have subsequently decided to not continue with the project for next year.
The absence of the race is a blow for Liberty, who have stated their intent to add destination cities as F1 venues and this was intended to be the first new race meeting added to the calendar since buying the sport three years ago. Other venues which proved very successful in stepping up to host races this year are under consideration to fill the slot, including Portimão in Portugal, Turkey, Mugello and Imola.
F1 will however return to Zandvoort in the Netherlands. The circuit last held a grand prix in 1985 and was scheduled to do so this year before the race was cancelled. It has been scheduled for 5 September.
The season is set to begin in Melbourne on 21 March and both Barcelona and Interlagos in Brazil are included on the calendar although both have yet to conclude contracts for 2021. The schedule includes two sets of triple-header races. Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy feature in August and September, with a two-week break before three races in Russia, Singapore and Japan. Teams have previously expressed concern at repeating triple-headers due to the strain it puts on their personnel.
The race at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, condemned as sportswashing by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, is scheduled to be the penultimate meeting of the season on 28 November before the finale at Abu Dhabi on 5 December. The calendar remains subject to ratification by the World Motorsport Council.