Formula One has today (Thursday) revealed a provisional 2020 calendar featuring a record 22 races, including the Italian Grand Prix, whose future had been uncertain, but omitting the German Grand Prix.
Dates have been confirmed for the motor-racing championship’s return to the Netherlands and its brand-new event in Vietnam, with the 2020 calendar submitted for approval during the International Automobile Federation’s (FIA’s) World Motor Sport Council meeting on October 4.
F1’s 70th anniversary season will take place with the familiar bookends of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 15 and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit on November 29. Seven back-to-back weekends have been scheduled, while Vietnam will become the 34th country to stage an F1 race on April 5 and the Dutch Grand Prix will return to Zandvoort as the opening European race on May 3.
Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi struck a deal in November to become the first new destination on the calendar since Liberty Media’s takeover of F1 in 2017. In May, Formula One confirmed that the championship would return to the Netherlands for the first time since 1985 through an initial three-year contract signed with Dutch Grand Prix (DGP) – a partnership formed by SportVibes, TIG Sports and the Circuit Zandvoort.
Commenting on preparations for the events, Chloe Targett-Adams, Formula One’s global director of promoters and business relations, told F1’s official website: “In Vietnam, for example, they are building their circuit from scratch and it’s the first major event there. We have every faith in our promoter and the city of Hanoi and the relevant stakeholders that they are going to deliver a great racing circuit for the beginning of April.
“With the Netherlands, Formula One is returning to Zandvoort and while we haven’t raced there for 35 years the essential infrastructure is in place. There’s no doubt that it is undergoing upgrading to be ready for Formula One but that was something that the owners of the circuit and the current promoter team looked at before they even approached us. There were a number of preliminary conversations with the FIA and planning has been ongoing for some time – with F1, the FIA and the designers – and we are on schedule.”
A calendar comprising more than 21 races needed the consent of the teams, and meetings were held earlier this month between Formula One chief executive Chase Carey and team bosses on the sidelines of the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest. At the time, Mercedes team principal and chief executive Toto Wolff said the teams had granted their approval for an extra race on the 2020 calendar.
Formula One entered its 2019 season with five races out of contract following this year’s races. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya extended its deal for the Spanish Grand Prix this week, while Mexico City did likewise earlier this month and it was announced in July that Silverstone will continue to host the British Grand Prix until 2024.
That left the futures of the Italian GP and the German GP remaining uncertain. The former event at Monza, which is currently the only circuit that has been part of every F1 championship season since 1950, has been granted a place on the 2020 calendar subject to contract. In April, Italian motorsport’s governing body, the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI), said it had reached an agreement in principle for a five-year extension to its race deal.
Targett-Adams said today: “We are hoping that we will have a positive outcome sooner rather than later. We announced earlier this year that we had reached commercial terms in principle, so it is now just a case of working through the final agreements and that takes a little bit of time.”
Hockenheim staged the German GP earlier this year but the future of the sport in one of its core markets has long been questioned with the two circuits that traditionally play host – Hockenheim and the Nuerburgring – having endured long-term difficulties in gaining additional financial support to stage their events.
“With Germany we knew it was going to be tricky,” Targett-Adams said. “It was touch and go with the last renewal but with the support of the circuit, the Hockenheim municipality and with Mercedes as title sponsor we were able to extend for a year but that wasn’t possible for 2020.
“It’s sad that F1 will not be in Germany next year but we will see what happens in the longer terms. There is a strong pipeline of interest from other interested regions, cities and parties. It’s great to have that level of interest even when you are leaving a territory.”
Meanwhile, Targett-Adams has disclosed the challenges F1 has faced in scheduling its calendar around a busy European sporting calendar that will notably see European football’s governing body Uefa stage its Euro 2020 tournament across the continent.
In connection to this, the Azerbaijan GP in Baku has been moved back from April to a June 7 date. The capital is also due to host three group stage games and a quarter-final during Euro 2020.
Targett-Adams said: “Baku was an interesting one for us because it is one of 12 cities hosting Euro 2020 matches next summer and we have been in touch with Uefa over the last year or so, just trying to avoid being in cities where they are, largely because of a lack of hotel rooms and tourism resources.”
Regarding the overall shape of the 2020 calendar, she added: “Formula One is in a good place right now. To be able to have 22 races across 22 different territories shows we have grown the sport’s fan base massively, both at the races and at home. There is huge engagement and people want to come and see Formula One. It’s a great opportunity for the sport.”