Formula 1 is booming and with it comes a high demand to host Grand Prix weekends, with Miami joining the calendar this year and Las Vegas on track to be part of the 2023 World Championship but what of the sport’s traditional venues?
But with this demand, legacy venues such as Monaco and Spa-Francrochamps perhaps threatened, with McLaren chief Zak Brown warning that no track has an indisputable right to be included on the calendar, even the iconic race in Monte Carlo faces the potential threat of dropping off the schedule.
During the Australian Grand Prix weekend drivers were canvassed about the addition of new races and the potential threat to races that have long been the mainstay of F1.
Several drivers were asked for their opinions on the matter, with Aston Martin driver Lance |Stroll wading into the debate: “I think it’s, in a way, the direction Formula 1 has to take. It’s evolving, the sport, it’s great for the American market. And I think it’s bringing a lot of attraction to Formula 1 having the race in Miami, having the race in Vegas.
“So, you know, it’s great for our sport, in terms of audience, growing the sport, and I think it will be awesome to race in those cities. I’m sure that the weekends will be very exciting, and it will be great energy in Vegas and Miami.
“But yeah, it’s a shame that we’re seeing some of that tracks that are great to drive, that we’ve been going to for a long time, such as Spa, etcetera, I mean, these are the right things to do from a business side of things.
“Definitely will be a shame to see some… maybe some very traditional tracks, that are great to drive, that we’ve been going to for a long time be under threat and potentially disappear,” reckoned Stroll.
Alonso: It’s the way it is, the way Formula 1 is going
Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso added, “It’s the way it is, the way Formula 1 is going. So, we accept. There are some positives, bringing Formula 1 to new countries and discovering these new races.
“I think Las Vegas, for example, it’s going to be very exciting. And Miami, and these kinds of weekends. On the other hand, I think we need to be careful with the number of races, which I think we need to… we should agree on a limit, because I think for the teams, it’s quite demanding, how the schedule and the calendar is now, especially that we don’t have so many races in Europe anymore.
“So, I think that’s the only concern if we keep adding races,” explained the Alpine driver.
Fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz is on the same page as Alonso: Yeah, I agree with Fernando, I think there needs to be a limit for the number of races that we keep adding, so in the end some other races are going to pay the price of having to stay out.
“Obviously big fan of having to go to Miami and Vegas, but at the same time, big loss having to lose classic European races, I think. Hopefully for the future we can find a compromise where maybe races that cannot afford to be in the calendar every year, year-in, year-out, can be in the calendar once every two years, once every three years.
“You know? And we keep coming back to the places that we’ve always been. Business is business. Liberty and Formula 1 will look at what they have to do, I guess, for business, but I wouldn’t like to stop racing in Europe. I think it’s a great place to go racing, it’s where our heritage is.
“I think we need to keep coming back, even if it’s not every single year, but at least keep it on the calendar,” reckoned the Ferrari driver.
Albon: Maybe alternating venues is a good idea
Clearly the sentiments are similar, as Williams driver Alex Albon weighed in: “I feel like Carlos said it pretty well that alternating is a good idea to keep some of the races that we’ve been racing at going on. I’m sure a lot of us, we’ve started racing in Europe. That’s kind-of our background roots. So, it’s great to go back and I think we will enjoy racing over there. So… yeah.
Alpine’s Estban Ocon agreed with his peers: “We haven’t lost the great Spa, the great Monza and all these circuits at the moment, so yeah, it would be definitely a big shame to lose them, and I think we’re all on the same opinion, you know, drivers, teams, and probably Formula 1 as well.
“So, it’s not a topic for now, but happy to go to Vegas and Miami and discover a little bit the States and the new tracks,” concluded Ocon.
Vettel: It would be horrible to you lose some of the tracks, the core tracks in Europe
Four times F1 World Champion, Sebastian Vettel who is a traditionalist at heart said: “It’s always exciting to go to new places, providing they are good places, right places for us to be at. Yeah, I mean, obviously we had an absence of racing in America and then Austin sort of came back on the calendar, which was very exciting and established as a great race.
“Maybe another great example is Singapore. We’d never been there before and now, you know, it’s great to be back this year. And, you know, the first night race, I think there’s something special about that track and that place. So it’s good to explore new sides. And obviously, you hope that all the new places you go to are an addition.
“Equally you don’t want to lose out, as you said, on the places you’ve gone to for so long. So it would be horrible to lose Melbourne from the calendar. It would be horrible to you lose some of the tracks, the core tracks in Europe. But then there’s only so many weekends in the year and I don’t know, maybe altering one year and another year could be an option. But there’s plenty of interest.
“Obviously, there’s financial interests in new places that we are going and in the end F1 is a business. But I think, yeah, for us, it’s a sport, it’s our passion. So we don’t see it as a business. I think we see it more as a sport and yeah, places mean something because of the history they have, or the tradition they have.
“I think it needs to be sort of a mixture between exploring, but also holding on to places that have history, a big fan base. I think it’s unimaginable to lose Italy, for example, off the calendar, for many reasons, even though they probably pay the least. But yeah, I think this is something we need to hold on to.”
Ricciardo: Call it a double upside
Vettel’s former teammate Daniel Ricciardo, now with McLaren added: “Going to new places, I think there’s… call it a double upside, you know, you get to explore if you’ve never been to that place, a new city, new country, if it is. And then as a driver, you know, trying to let’s say, suss out a new circuit, and trying to break it down. And break it down quicker than anyone else.
“That’s something we also enjoy and thrive on. So I love getting to a new track and yeah, trying to just master it quicker than the others. So there is definitely some enjoyment and satisfaction from going to a new venue. Absolutely.
“So I’m all for it. And then yeah, obviously the flip side is as Seb said, whether it’s your Monzas or your Spas, your Silverstones, these are tracks we’ve competed at our whole life. So there’s also a lot of history, but also it’s kind of nostalgic and sentimental to race there and continue to compete there.
“I think for those home fans and that crowd, it’s very special to them. And there’s probably generations or whatever have been going to those exact races at those exact venues. So, there’s definitely some special places that I would obviously want to keep continuing to go to, but equally excited to explore new ones,” explained Ricciardo.
Reigning F1 World Champion Max Verstappen said: “We have to find a balance of course. I think it’s just very important that we make sure that we do visit you proper tracks still, not only street circuits, but I’m sure you know F1 is well aware of that but I can definitely understand that we need a few more races in the US to increase the popularity there as well and of course, we are happy to go there.
“But of course, we will also I think to find it important to keep a few historic tracks which are really enjoyable to drive on the calendar but there also some tracks which are let’s say less exciting, I’m not going to name them but a few out there so you just need to find the right balance.”
Norris: It’s still important that we evolve and adapt to the new situations
McLaren’s Lando Norris agreed with Verstappen: “I think Max said it well. You know, as drivers, we do still love the old school tracks and tracks which have been around for years and have good history to them.
“But it’s still important that we evolve and adapt to the new situations and the bigger following that we have now and so on, and although we’ll have in three races in America, they’re still very different places and very different places to be so…
“Yeah, I think it’s a good thing, but like Max said, important that we keep a fair share of proper racing tracks that we’re used to and have a good history and not all street circuits kind of thing but they’re all going to be good racing and they’re all going to have different fan bases and viewers and so on so yeah, so all for the best,” ventured Norris.
Finally Yuki Tsunoda, in his second year as an F1 driver who remarked: “I think it’s good. I don’t know. I’m not smart to answer. I think it’s good to like America, the country, it’s big. Others? Yeah, I don’t know.
A line of thought shared by seven times F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who said: “I feel the same as Yuki.”
Thus the opinions seem to be unanimous among drivers, adding new races to the F1 calendar but not at the expense of the traditional ones, but in the end, it’s clear that money will talk whether drivers, their teams or F1 fans like it or not.