Grand Prix Schedule Changes
The 2020 F1 World Championship is just days away from beginning in earnest, as current world champion Lewis Hamilton bids to emulate the all-time record of world championship titles set by Michael Schumacher. Aside from the various race records that Hamilton could break in the 2020 F1 season, it’s important to note that the F1 World Championship will be celebrating its 70th year in motor racing. Consequently, the race schedule for the 2020 F1 campaign has been extended to 22 races, making it the longest season in F1 history.
As F1’s teams prepare to enter pre-season testing, let’s take a look at the key changes to the F1 race schedule, as well as everything else we can look forward to in 2020.
Introduction of the Vietnamese Grand Prix
From April 2020, the East Asian country of Vietnam will become the latest nation to play host to an F1 Grand Prix. The city of Hanoi will stage the 2020 Vietnamese Grand Prix, which is the inaugural new race destination to be agreed under the F1’s new ownership of Liberty Media. A “multi-year deal” has been agreed to stage the Vietnamese Grand Prix in Hanoi, creating another adrenaline-fuelled street race circuit akin to the likes of Singapore and Monaco.
Formula 1 has long reiterated its commitment to broaden its exposure and appeal to all four corners of the globe, with Asia most recently benefitting from new races in Singapore and China. The Vietnamese Grand Prix will mean that four of the 22 races in 2020 will be staged in the Asia region, including the long-standing Japanese Grand Prix. Hanoi’s new fast-paced 5.607 km street circuit, designed by the architects of the United States Grand Prix, is unique in that it fuses urban street racing characteristics with a permanent countryside track layout.
Reintroduction and history of the Dutch Grand Prix
It’s been 35 years since the Dutch have been able to watch F1 racing on their own circuit, but 2020 is the year that the F1 World Championship returns to the Netherlands’ historic Zandvoort circuit. Zandvoort was the venue for the last Dutch Grand Prix way back in 1985, which was won by Niki Lauda. The circuit, which is a stone’s throw from the nation’s capital, Amsterdam, is almost certain to welcome a capacity crowd. The unique FIA Grade 1 racetrack was built within the dunes close to Holland’s North Sea coastline, boasting a capacity of 105,000 spectators, the majority of which will be supporting compatriot, Max Verstappen.
There’s no doubt that F1’s new owners, Liberty Media, will have witnessed the tens of thousands of Dutch F1 fans that have made the pilgrimage to the many F1 races hosted across Europe in the last 35 years, particularly since the emergence of Red Bull starlet, Max Verstappen. The Dutch are well-renowned for wearing bright orange shirts in the grandstands, and the Zandvoort circuit is sure to be a sea of tangerine when Verstappen and co. drive into town on 8-10 May.
Removal of the German Grand Prix
It’s also important to note that the dominant F1 team, Mercedes, will not have a home F1 race in 2020 after confirmation that the German Grand Prix had been scrapped. It had been suggested for some time that the Hockenheimring circuit was under threat, due largely to the sizeable €44.5m fee that new F1 owners, Liberty Media, charge to host an F1 event. 2019’s German Grand Prix was partly funded by Mercedes themselves, given that the circuit’s ticket sales come nowhere near covering the costs incurred.
Liberty Media has not ruled out the German Grand Prix returning at an alternative circuit in the near future, with other circuits and cities reported to have registered their interest in staging a German Grand Prix in the coming years.
The F1 2020 Race Schedule Revealed
Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne
For 364 days of the year, Melbourne’s Albert Park is a tranquil, picturesque green space for the people of Melbourne to enjoy. However, for one day a year, it comes alive as a unique F1 street circuit. Albert Park has staged the Australian Grand Prix since 1996, after Melbourne lost out to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games and sought to bring world-class motorsport to the city’s streets instead.
It’s said that it takes up to three months to prepare the circuit each year, given that part of the track comprises public roads. The flat streets make for a super-fast, free-flowing circuit, although its tight barriers give drivers little margin for error.
Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir
Dubbed the only true ‘desert circuit’ on the F1 2020 schedule, the Bahrain Grand Prix offers drivers and their engineers a stiff test of their abilities thanks to one of the dirtiest tracks of the season, especially when high desert winds can whip up debris onto the surface.
The Bahrain government sought to improve tourism in their country by hosting the first F1 race in the Middle East. The new $150m circuit in Sakhir is one of only two ‘FIA Centre of Excellence’ tracks in the world. Its tight corners and high-speed sections place huge emphasis on braking.
Vietnamese Grand Prix, Hanoi
The colourful country of Vietnam will play host to its first F1 Grand Prix in April. It is set to be one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the entire season, thanks to its brand-new street circuit in the capital city, Hanoi, which fuses public streets with a host of permanent racetrack sections.
The circuit’s designers are working tirelessly to ensure the track offers ample overtaking opportunities while incorporating turns and gradient climbs inspired by the likes of the Nürburgring and the iconic streets of Monte Carlo. It’s also designed to have a 1.6 km straight, one of the longest in the F1 2020 calendar.
Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai
The Chinese Grand Prix is located only 20 km outside of Shanghai. The Zhuhai International Circuit was constructed on the eve of the Millennium, but plans to stage a Grand Prix were shelved until Beijing was named the hosts of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The state-of-the-art Shanghai International Circuit was established in double-quick time, ready for its inaugural race in 2004.
Shanghai’s racetrack is akin to those in Bahrain and Malaysia, with lengthy straights, tight, technical corners, and turns rotating a full 270 degrees, requiring drivers to decelerate by as much as 200 kph from the straights. The highlight being the 1,200-metre back straight that gives drivers plenty of space to manoeuvre.
Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort
Circuit Zandvoort is due to play host to the first Dutch Grand Prix since 1985, which will delight the travelling band of Dutch F1 fans that loyally appear in the stands of other F1 races throughout Europe. It promises to be a step into the unknown for the Zandvoort track, given that no modern-day F1 car has been around the circuit yet.
Old-school F1 fans consider Zandvoort to be one of the few ‘classic’ circuits in the F1 schedule, with the wind and dirt from the nearby dunes posing a test for drivers. Several corners are already being widened for safety purposes, while other sections are being expanded for enhanced overtaking opportunities.
Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona
The Circuit de Catalunya is situated on the fringes of Barcelona city centre. Thanks to its flawless weather, the racetrack is routinely used for pre-season testing, as well as the base for the Spanish Grand Prix. The Circuit de Catalunya is well-renowned for the number of corners, with limited straights resulting in minimal overtaking opportunities.
In fact, the first corner is arguably the best chance of drivers overtaking here, making it a very exciting start to the race. The plethora of fast corners are a dream for highly technical drivers, although this does tend to lead to faster tyre degradation than most other circuits.
Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo
Considered by many to be the ‘daddy’ of all F1 races, the Monaco Grand Prix is certainly one of the most demanding yet illustrious races on the calendar. Meandering through the glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo and its world-famous harbour and casino, it’s certainly one of the most prestigious races for F1 drivers to win.
At just 260 km in race length, Monaco is the only F1 Grand Prix that falls below the FIA’s minimum race distance of 305 km. Needless to say, the iconic nature of the race means that it’s still alive and kicking. Wet weather can be a real leveller at Monaco, while close proximity to the walls means drivers cannot afford to lose their focus for a split second.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku
The street circuit of Baku became the fourth street race on the F1 calendar back in 2016. The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is raced over 51 laps of the 6 km circuit. It boasts an incredibly long straight which runs along the Baku coastline. The wide first turn has also been known to encourage drivers to go three abreast in the battle for position.
After the first couple of turns, Baku’s street circuit meanders into the old town of Icheri Sheher, with drivers flying beyond the walls of this medieval city. As with other street tracks, Baku is capable of punishing drivers for the slightest technical errors, with teams forced to choose between good downforce for the tight, bendy sections or reduced drag for the long straight.
Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal
Montreal’s Circuit Du Gilles Villeneuve is a homage to Quebec’s own F1 superstar, designed to snake in and around the island in the heart of the St Lawrence River. The Canadian Grand Prix was named after him in 1982 as a heartfelt tribute, following his tragic death in an F1 accident.
With plenty of lengthy straights and a multitude of tight bends, it’s difficult for drivers to get any fluidity at the wheel, with an emphasis on protecting the brakes and having good traction control. As it is partly a street circuit, the barriers are closer than most other tracks, giving drivers little margin for error.
French Grand Prix, Le Castellet
Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet only returned to the F1 racing calendar back in 2018 but has already captured the imagination of F1 fans in the French Riviera. It’s regarded as a popular test track, due to the wonderful variety of low, medium and high-speed corners, including a right-hander where drivers can fly around at speeds of up to 290 kmph.
Le Castellet was one of Sebastian Vettel’s most successful circuits last season, setting a new lap record despite finishing fifth in the race. You can’t take your eyes off the French Grand Prix for a second, with overtaking opportunities abound.
Austrian Grand Prix, Spielberg
Acquired by Red Bull owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, Spielberg’s circuit is the original home of F1 racing in Austria. Formerly known as the Osterreichring, the Red Bull Ring has been more recently converted into a shorter, faster-paced racetrack. At just 4.3 km per lap, it’s one of the shortest circuits on the F1 scene, but it packs plenty of adrenaline rushes along the way.
The opening half of the circuit is best suited to the faster cars, thanks to three lengthy straights giving teams the chance to put some daylight between themselves and the rest of the field uphill. However, the latter downhill sections are more akin to a luge or toboggan track, with lots of fast, technical corners in sectors two and three.
Silverstone in Northamptonshire is one of the most historic F1 circuits left in the F1 calendar. Dating back to the 1950s, it is regarded as the ‘Home of motorsport’, with iconic features and an incredible crowd that venture to the East Midlands each year to try and catch a glimpse of the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Alex Albon attempting to win their home race.
Silverstone was once known for its long, fast sweeping corners, but more recently reconfigurations to the circuit have created more technical challenges, such as the new Arena section, taking the track to 5.89 km per lap. When it rains it can also cause mayhem on the track!
Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest
Located less than 20 km from the heart of the Hungarian capital, Budapest, the Hungaroring is one of the most controversial circuits in the F1 schedule. It’s one of the slower racetracks in the calendar, due largely to the regular track debris and its narrow, windy nature, drawing comparisons to a classic go-kart track.
Despite alterations made to Hungaroring in 2003, it remains one of the hardest circuits to overtake. Those that lead from lap one tend to stand a great chance of winning from the front. The race is also staged mid-summer, with uncomfortably high track temperatures also proving a big obstacle for drivers to overcome.
Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps
Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps race circuit is up there with Silverstone as one of the most historic and best-loved tracks among drivers. Set within the heart of the Ardennes Forest, Spa is a race that offers some of the most unpredictable weather conditions for teams and drivers to handle. Heavy rain showers have been known to be the undoing of many teams through the years, particularly as one half of the track can even avoid those showers, thanks to the Ardennes’ microclimate.
Spa-Francorchamps is one of the longest tracks in F1, whilst enjoying fast, demanding corners with sudden elevation changes that put each driver’s technique and bravery to the test.
Italian Grand Prix, Monza
The proud home of the Scuderia Ferrari team and its supporters, Monza is the third-oldest racetrack in the permanent F1 calendar. It’s the quickest circuit on the schedule, with some cars capable of hitting 360 kmph around the Royal Park setting, 15 km outside Milan. Despite the inclusion of three chicanes, the average speed around the entire circuit is an eye-watering 240 kmph.
At these speeds, it means drivers really need to be in-tune with their cars. They need to be able to ride the kerbs and be light on the brakes where necessary to give them that extra tenth of a second.
Singapore Grand Prix, Singapore
After Monaco, many consider the Singapore Grand Prix to be the second most glamorous race of the F1 season. The bright lights and grandeur of Singapore’s Marina Bay provide the basis of Singapore’s night-time street circuit, with the downtown streets weaving their way around the bay. There are plenty of tight corners and bends, and the relatively short straights mean that technique is more important than raw power here.
The cars fly across the iconic Anderson Bridge, which many compare to Monaco’s unmistakable tunnel, before finishing along the home straight past the grandstand, which is arguably the longest part of the circuit. Singapore’s searing heat, coupled with its plethora of corners, make the Singapore Grand Prix one of the stiffest tests yet.
Russian Grand Prix, Sochi
Former Formula One supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, secured a deal with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in October 2011 to stage a Russian Grand Prix from 2014. The Black Sea town of Sochi staged the 2014 Winter Olympics, and this town’s International Street Circuit was also selected as the venue for the new-look Russian Grand Prix.
The initial agreement between Formula One and President Putin was to stage seven race meetings in Sochi, with the final one scheduled for this year’s race calendar. The third-longest circuit after Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone, more than a third of the track comprises public roads. It’s also notorious for braking, with 12 braking points and an average deceleration of 3.7 Gs.
Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka
The Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka is another long-standing fixture in the F1 calendar. The circuit – and its iconic Ferris wheel – has often been the location of many deciding races in the battle for F1 world championships, notably helping the likes of Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher to world titles. It’s also been the scene of controversial incidents between the likes of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
Suzuka’s 130R corner is also considered one of the best corners in F1 history. With a 130-metre radius turn, it’s one of the fastest corners, with drivers taking it at 305 kmph resulting in a lateral load of 3.5 Gs.
US Grand Prix, Austin
Formula One returned to the United States in 2012 after a five-year absence. Historically, the US Grand Prix was staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but when the F1 circus returned in 2012 a purpose-built circuit in Austin, Texas was the new-look venue.
The Circuit of the Americas was designed taking inspiration from some of the best-loved sectors at racetracks such as Suzuka and Silverstone. It comprises a string of high-speed sections and sections at the other end of the spectrum where braking and technique come to the fore. Austin’s geography means that the US Grand Prix can offer huge temperature swings, ranging from freezing track conditions to sweltering, humid weather that pushes teams and drivers to the limit.
Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico
Considered one of the best-supported and most vibrant races on the F1 calendar, the Mexican Grand Prix is a highly anticipated affair scheduled during the closing stages of the season. Located at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, this 4.3 km circuit is set within the public parks of Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City, due south-east of Mexico City itself.
It was the venue for Lewis Hamilton’s world championship successes in 2017 and 2018. The most iconic section of the circuit is the final corner, the Peraltada, where some 40,000 spectators sit to watch from the grandstands as the drivers contest the almost 180-degree right-hander.
Brazilian Grand Prix, São Paulo
São Paulo’s Interlagos circuit is the much-loved venue for the F1 Brazilian Grand Prix. Established in 1973 following the success of Brazilian F1 driver, Emerson Fittipaldi, the Brazilian Grand Prix started out at Interlagos. At the time, Interlagos was the longest track in F1, spanning over 8 km. The venue moved to Rio De Janeiro’s Jacarepaguá racetrack during the 1980s before returning to Interlagos a decade later and remaining there ever since.
Considered one of the bumpiest, most undulating circuits in F1, the ever-changing camber and elevation puts each driver’s technique firmly under the microscope. The track landscape also means that mechanical retirements are more common at Interlagos than most other circuits.
Abu Dhabi Gran Prix, Yas Island
F1’s only day/night race of the 2020 calendar is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. As part of the city’s tourism plans, Yas Island became a focal point for high-profile developments, as well as an iconic F1-grade racetrack. The Yas Marina circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke, with lengthy straights giving cars a chance to open up and plentiful tight braking zones ensuring brains as well as brawn is required to win here.
There are plenty of driving challenges here, not least the underground pit exit and a braking point requiring drivers to drop up to 240 kmph from the long back straight.