Following confirmation that the Singapore Grand Prix will not take place in 2021, we take a look at the other at risk races, plus alternative circuits which could yet join this year’s schedule.
Last week, it was announced that the Singapore Grand Prix will not go ahead in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. There had been plenty of prior speculation that the race, which had been scheduled to take place on the first weekend in October, would be unable to be held this year.
“Responsible and cautious” cancellation
The pandemic has been relatively well managed in Singapore, with only 33 deaths recorded as a result of coronavirus. For that reason, having thousands of fans descend on the Marina Bay Street Circuit has been deemed unviable – as has holding the event behind closed doors, given that the track runs on the city’s streets.
Colin Syn, Deputy Chairman of Singapore GP Pte Ltd, commented on the “difficult” but “responsible” decision to cancel the event for a second year in succession:
“We understand that our fans were looking forward to another edition of the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix. To cancel the event for a second year is an incredibly difficult decision, but a necessary one in light of the prevailing restrictions for live events in Singapore. We would not be able to deliver a full event experience fans have come to expect over the years, while safeguarding the health and safety of our fans, contractors, volunteers and staff. Ultimately, we have to be responsible, cautious and prudent as safety is our number one concern.”
Unlike some other races which have been cancelled due to the pandemic, the Singapore Grand Prix is yet to announce a contract extension. The current contract, signed in 2017, ends this year. The event’s return in 2022 is dependent on a new agreement being signed with F1.
Does there need to be 23 races in 2021?
The simple answer to this question is no, there is no necessity for there to be 23 races in 2021. Formula 1’s plan to hold a record-breaking 23 races this year, in the midst of a global pandemic, has always appeared ambitious.
While there needs to be only eight races for the season to qualify as a World Championship, it is believed that there needs to be upward of 15 races for F1 to fulfil its contractual obligations and receive full payment from broadcasters. Considering that 17 races took place in 2020, it seems unlikely that the sport will struggle to get to that number this year.
Nevertheless, Formula 1 will be keen to fit in as many races as possible in 2021 – with fans in attendance where restrictions allow – given Liberty Media’s 44% decrease in income during 2020.
More races under threat
A number of other races in the second half of the calendar are under threat due to travel restrictions and the spread of the virus in certain countries. The second half of this year’s calendar features a number of “flyaway” races – most of which were cancelled in 2020, with the sport remaining mostly in Europe.
Mexico and Brazil are the two races most at risk of being cancelled due to the high number of coronavirus cases in these countries. Mexico has recorded well over 200,000 deaths from the virus, with Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez having been transformed into a temporary hospital as the country attempts to keep its cases under control. Brazil has surpassed 450,000 deaths; second only to the United States. The spread shows little sign of stopping in Brazil, with around 60,000 new cases being reported per week – over a sixth of those being in Sao Paulo, where the Interlagos circuit is located.
Australia and Japan are also under threat due to potential travel restrictions. Melbourne has strict rules on lockdowns in the event of a positive coronavirus case – of which there have been 21 in total at the six Grands Prix so far in 2021. F1 would not visit Australia without assurance that the event would not be called off in the event of a positive coronavirus case.
Meanwhile, Japan has suffered a rising number of coronavirus cases recently. Suzuka’s place on the 2021 calendar is likely to become clearer after the Tokyo Olympics, should the event take place in the summer.
Where else could Formula 1 visit in 2021?
If all of the races mentioned above were unable to take place, F1 would be faced with a sparse second half to its 2021 schedule. Given the ever-evolving nature of the pandemic, the sport is constantly monitoring its plans for the rest of the year. With that in mind, there is likely to be a number of contingency plans in place should more Grands Prix be cancelled. Below are some of the alternative venues which could host F1 races in 2021.
A second race in America this year would almost certainly take place at Circuit of The Americas, though both Ross Brawn and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske have recently spoken in the media about the possibility of F1 returning to the famous brickyard in the near future.
The additional race would likely take place the weekend before the United States Grand Prix is currently scheduled to be held.
A return to Turkey
After being added to the United Kingdom’s red list for travel, the Turkish Grand Prix – scheduled to take place on June 13 – was indefinitely postponed in early May. The race was a late addition to the calendar, added to replace the cancelled Canadian Grand Prix.
There is yet a chance that Istanbul Park could return to the calendar later this year, should the travel restrictions change. Last year, the Turkish Grand Prix was held in November.
A China comeback
The 2020 Chinese Grand Prix was the first race to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic all the way back in March 2020. Formula 1 has not returned since, with the 2021 Chinese Grand Prix being indefinitely postponed at the start of the year. It was replaced by the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. There is a chance that F1 could visit the Shanghai International Circuit before the end of the year.
More races in Bahrain
Last year, Formula 1 headed to Bahrain near the end of the season, for the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Sakhir Grand Prix. The Sakhir Grand Prix was held on the outer loop layout of Bahrain International Circuit.
Though F1 has already visited Bahrain this year for the season-opener, it’s a possibility that there could be a return later in 2021 for one – or if needed – two further races on different layouts of the track.
Mugello or the Nurburgring
Mugello and the Nurburgring are the only circuits which featured on the 2020 calendar which have not yet been featured on this year’s schedule. Mugello hosted the Tuscan Grand Prix, while the Nurburging hosted the Eifel Grand Prix.
If a gap needs filling, these two European tracks will likely be on the list of possible replacements once again. Germany’s Hockenheim circuit may also be under consideration.
A wildcard option: Sepang
Speang International Circuit last hosted the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2017. The fan-favourite circuit was rumoured to be on the list of potential replacement venues in 2020, but the race never materialised.
A race at the Sepang track may seem unlikely at the moment, but with the ever-evolving situation Malaysia may be in a position to host a race later in 2021.