Formula 1 will potentially run on its busiest ever calendar in 2016, with a 21-race schedule officially signed off by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on Wednesday.
The rule capping the number of Grands Prix in a season at twenty has therefore been increased, although it is alleged that some of the secret contracts between the various parties that the figure is as high as 25 races.
All twenty of the 2015 events have remained in place, although the United States Grand Prix is provisionally listed over concerns as to whether it can continue to be funded.
The sole addition to the calendar, taking it to a record 21 races, is the ‘Grand Prix of Europe’ in the Asian oil-rich nation of Azerbaijan.
That race will run on June 19, which is the same date as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a decision that occurred much to the reported consternation of the event’s organisers who had hoped to lure a number of current Formula 1 drivers to race following Force India driver Nico Hülkenberg’s shock win for Porsche at the 2015 event. The German will therefore be unable to defend his title.
The calendar itself has had little change as far as the ordering of events goes – an interesting exception is that the Hungarian Grand Prix will occur before the German race for the first time ever – although a number of events’ dates have been shifted.
Mercifully, organisers have abandoned the unpopular notion of kicking off the season with the Australian Grand Prix at the beginning of April; the event retains its rightful spot as the curtain-raiser and will now be held in mid-March ahead of standalone events in Bahrain, China and Russia (which moves to an earlier calendar spot).
The Spanish Grand Prix will kick off the European leg of the season in May, followed two weeks later by the Monaco Grand Prix ahead of a brief trip across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada.
The next round is the inaugural race in Baku, just one week after Canada. That in itself presents a logistical headache for the teams – traditionally debut races are run with a week either side to reduce the risk of customs and shipping hold-ups in a new territory.
It will be followed by two more pairs of back-to-back races (Austria and Great Britain, followed by Hungary and Germany) before the traditional four-week summer break that precedes the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix, which close out the European component of the season.
The year will end with a succession of flyaway races in the Far East, the Gulf and the Americas, with Singapore getting a standalone round before back-to-back events in Malaysia (moved from its traditional March slot) and Japan, followed by the United States, should it go ahead.
Mexico is slotted one week after the Texas race, leaving Brazil and Abu Dhabi to close out the season as standalone events.
Given the FIA’s recent trumpeting about cost-cutting concerns for the Formula 1 teams, it clearly has not been carried across in once again delivering a calendar that is clearly not sensible when it comes to being efficient financially.
Four standalone long-haul races kicking off the season and a logistically dangerous Canada-Azerbaijan succession are both clear examples.
Furthermore, the decision not to pair Singapore and Malaysia together (a move clearly made at the behest of the Singaporeans) will leave teams and the media with the invidious decision of either remaining in Southeast Asia for 10 days or making a return long-haul trip from almost identical locations in between. If they remain in Asia, it will leave these people away from home for a month, given Japan follows the week after Malaysia.
|2016 FIA Formula 1 World Championship Season Calendar|
|20 March||Australian Grand Prix||Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne|
|03 April||Bahrain Grand Prix||Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir|
|17 April||Chinese Grand Prix||Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai|
|01 May||Russian Grand Prix||Sochi Autodrom, Sochi|
|15 May||Spanish Grand Prix||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona|
|29 May||Monaco Grand Prix||Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo|
|12 June||Canadian Grand Prix||Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal|
|19 June||Grand Prix of Europe||Baku City Circuit, Baku|
|03 July||Austrian Grand Prix||Red Bull Ring, Spielberg|
|10 July||British Grand Prix||Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone|
|24 July||Hungarian Grand Prix||Hungaroring, Budapest|
|31 July||German Grand Prix||Hockenheimring, Hockenheim|
|28 August||Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot|
|04 September||Italian Grand Prix||Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Milan|
|18 September||Singapore Grand Prix||Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore|
|02 October||Malaysian Grand Prix||Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur|
|09 October||Japanese Grand Prix||Suzuka International Racing Course, Suzuka|
|23 October||United States Grand Prix||Circuit of the Americas, United States*|
|30 October||Mexican Grand Prix||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, Mexico|
|13 November||Brazilian Grand Prix||Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo|
|27 November||Abu Dhabi Grand Prix||Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi|
* Subject to confirmation
Image via Red Bull Racing