F1 CEO says ‘potential’ for 30-race season, warns some grand prix at risk of being axed

Iconic races such as the Belgian Grand Prix could be under threat as Formula 1 looks towards a possible 30-race season.

Such is the profound global interest in Formula 1 that CEO Stefano Domenicali has suggested that a 30-race calendar is plausible as he seeks to expand the sport’s geographical horizons.

Rumours have recently been spreading that, on top of Austin and Miami, a Vegas race in the United States is entirely possible, as American interest – particularly due to Netflix’s Drive to Survive series – grows.

Long-standing have been suggestions that the pinnacle of motorsport should return to South Africa, while China is expected to make its return to the calendar next year following an absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: ‘Completely out of order’: Lord slams Horner for Hamilton comment at British Grand Prix

Domenicali would like to explore those avenues, but is taking a cautious approach for the timebeing.

“We need to be balanced; we need to see what the other opportunities are,” he told Sky Sports.

“Very soon, we are going to tell everyone what our strategy is to develop that market.

“On top of America, on top of China, I think there is the potential also to be in Africa soon.

“There is a lot of interest there. For sure, that’s another area that, so far, is missing in the geography of our calendar.”

Article continues below

Asked about how many races can be added on to what is already a busy annual schedule, the former Ferrari boss indicated that an astonishing 30-race season could be on the cards.

“I think there is potential to go to 24. I would say there is potential to go to 30, in terms of the interest we see all around the world,” he explained.

The Italian was keen to place an emphasis on balance, and recognises that the a calendar with new venues would need to be countervailed by the all-time greats we have come to know and love.

“It is up to us to try to find the right balance, considering the venues which would like to be in F1, [and] the historical values we need to see on the calendar,” he added.

However, he did concede that we may have to prepare for the eventuality that some of the golden oldies will disappear.

France, Belgium, Austria and Mexico all see their contracts expire after this year, with uncertainty reigning over Monaco after the principality’s contract ran out last year, but that race is on the calendar for this season.

“There are some promoters who have expiring agreements, and probably some of the current Grands Prix will no longer be part of the calendar,” Domenicali admitted.

Can we lose greats like Spa?

In a word? No. The mammoth seven-kilometre Spa Francorchamps circuit has played host to 54 championship races over the years, and has given us countless, memorable and cherished moments throughout its proud history of hosting F1 races.

The weather always plays a part due to its presence in the midst of the Ardennes Forest, and its undulating nature as well as exigent corners make for a beloved challenge for the drivers, and it seems unfathomable that there appears to be a chance that the iconic race could vanish.

Under a multitude of variations, Monaco has held 67 championship grands prix during its own considerable lifespan, and it is revered for a reason.

The proximity of the barriers, the uniqueness of the track, and the magnificent chronicles that can be told of moments and winners gone by is something that F1 cannot do without and, just like Spa, it is a race that should always hold a special place on the racing calendar.

READ: Hamilton ‘crusaders’ brand Verstappen ‘human error champion’ after FIA report released

The beautiful setting at Spielberg would also be a big miss, as well as the vibrant and exhilarating atmosphere provided by Mexico – both races steeped in sumptuous history and iconic racing memories.

While additional venues and the exploitation of more markets is always welcome, Formula 1 has a responsibility to ensure that it does not forget its roots as it heads into an unprecedented era of global interest.