BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — About the only certainty with the Formula 1 schedule of races during the second half of this year is that there is a lot of uncertainty.
What is certain is that the schedule will not look like the 23-race calendar put out by the FIA and Formula 1 earlier this year, as it all depends on the pandemic situation in the various countries.
The remainder of the European season and Russia are solid and fans will be able to attend those races.
And there are no doubts about the United States Grand Prix (Oct. 22- 24) taking place as Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, has already hosted a large number of fans during its NASCAR weekend.
The fate of this year’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka will likely depend on what happens with the Olympic Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo between July 23 and Aug. 8, according to F-1 CEO Stefano Domenicali.
The Canadian Grand Prix has been canceled and the Turkish Grand Prix, which was brought in to replace Canada, was also canceled. The race in Singapore has also been dropped.
Events in Australia, Mexico and Brazil are in jeopardy. In fact, the latter two will almost certainly be canceled. The Victorian government is insisting that all F-1 personnel sit out a 14-day quarantine upon arriving in Australia. A proposal by the race organizers to have the teams spend just five days in Australia living in a “bubble” and having no contact with local citizens has been rejected.
China and Turkey (again) are possible replacements. Meanwhile, several tracks in Europe, including Mugello in Italy and Germany’s Nürburgring are on standby to host races.
Domenicali says 23 races remain the target, although last year there were only 17. So he is constantly looking for substitutes. There could be a second race in the USA this year, but it won’t be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“We’re not in any position at the moment to do that,” IMS owner Roger Penske told the Associated Press.
Bobby Epstein, the promoter of the United States Grand Prix, says a second round at COTA is “possible.”
Indianapolis held F-1 races from 2000 through ’07. When Penske bought the track in November 2019, he made it clear he wanted F-1 to return.
But with Miami joining the F-1 schedule in 2022, there will already be two races in the USA. One proposal is that COTA and Indianapolis host F-1 races on alternate years, but Penske would not support that plan. He is only interested in having F-1 return to Indianapolis if the track can have a race every year.
Meanwhile, look for Bahrain, which hosted the 2021 season opener, to stage another race as part of a tripleheader along with the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi round to conclude the season.
– Other Formula 1 teams had their driver lineups set in stone as July approached, but Mercedes was dithering and had no drivers signed for 2022.
There was no doubt that Lewis Hamilton, who has a one-year contract for 2021 with Mercedes, would sign a new deal for at least two more years. The dilemma for Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was whether to sign rising star George Russell or keep Valtteri Bottas for a sixth season as Hamilton’s teammate.
And the problem for Bottas and Russell was that they did not have a lot of alternatives because most of the teams have long-term driver lineups.
Esteban Ocon signed a new contract that will keep him at Alpine through 2024 and he will again team with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso. Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren contract runs through 2023 and his teammate, Lando Norris, inked a long-term deal.
Ferrari is focused on Charles Leclerc, who is contracted through 2024, and Carlos Sainz, who will be back next year. Max Verstappen will remain at Red Bull until 2023, but his contract does contain escape clauses if the team does not provide him with a winning car. Red Bull has almost always hired young and up-and-coming drivers from its young driver program. But by bringing in “outsider” Sergio Perez this year, Red Bull made an exception. Perez only has a one-year deal, but his win in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix certainly endeared him to the team.
As Lawrence Stroll owns the Aston Martin team, there is not much chance that his son, Lance Stroll, will lose his seat. And Aston Martin has also invested in four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will be back for a second season at Haas. Alfa Romeo has already renewed Antonio Giovinazzi’s contract and will no doubt retain Kimi Raikkonen.
Russell, 23, will end up back at Williams, his current team, if he doesn’t make the move to Mercedes.