Provisional 2023 F1 calendar reveals bizarre date for the Belgium GP
There has been a lot of speculation in recent months about the look of the 2023 Formula One calendar. Circuits out of contract include Monaco, Paul Ricard in France and the infamous Ardennes forrest track in Belgium together with Austria and Mexico. During the Hungarian GP a select few glimpsed sight of the latest provisional F1 schedule for 2023.
The current 17 circuits with nailed down contracts are: Abu Dhabi, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, Emilia Romagna (Imola), Hungary, Italy (Monza), Japan, Miami, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Singapore, Spain and the US (COTA).
Joining them will be the new Las Vegas GP. Liberty media acquired 39 acres for $240m east of ‘the strip’ to provide a pit lane complex, parking and hospitality.
China is to return to the F1 calendar after a three year absence due to Covid and South Africa has been seen visits from the FIA in recent months in an attempt to upgrade its facilities an achieve a grade 1 license required for Formula One.
Qatar made its Formula One debut in 2021 as part of a hastily put together calendar due to global Covid restrictions and whilst it doesn’t feature in this years schedule the Gulf State is set to return in 2023.
At a London meeting earlier this year between the teams, the commercial right’s holder Liberty media and F1’s governing body, the teams were asked if they’d agree to upping the current maximum 24 race weekends allowed. The teams refused.
Stefano Domenicali of Liberty was reported to have reminded the teams that with the 24 race calendar only 8 races would take in the teams’ heartland of Europe. So with 20 races confirmed for 2023, 5 current circuits out of contract and South Africa in the wings, 6 venues wanting to host F1 into 4 slots available doesn’t go.
The Red Bull Ring Austrian venue is nailed on for a new contract. Owned by the Red Bull empire billionaire and with a front running F1 team its inconceivable the race in Styria will be dropped.
Mexico is close to a deal and given its convenient proximity to Austin Texas, retaining this circuit which is usually rammed with around 375,000 delirious Perez fans makes logistical sense.
This leaves France, Monaco, Belgium and South Africa vying for the last 2 slots.
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It is widely accepted we have seen last F1 race for now at the Paul Ricard circuit in the Castellet region of France. This together with the Belgium GP were expected to be dropped as South Africa joins the F1 circuit.
There are questions about Monaco too given the principality has historically paid a fraction of the hosting fees into the F1 coffers that the other venues contribute. The reason for this is believed that the current Prince’s father lent Bernie Ecclestone money to buy the commercial rights to the sport and received a handshake agreement on the current fee arrangement continuing indefinitely.
Bernie along with CVC Capital partners sold the F1 commercial rights to Liberty Media who have no such commitment to Monaco, yet if it’s merely about upping the fee paid, the Principality is hardly short of cash.
The race in Belgium along with Paul Ricard likely to be dropped by F1. The weather in the Ardenne mountains can be atrocious and resulted in a farcical 2021 race which started behind the safety car in torrential rain and was red flagged on lap 3 due to the horrendous conditions.
Verstappen took the win and half points were awarded despite the cars never having gone racing.
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Differing global seasons and the usual local weather affect when in the year a circuit can viably host an F1 event. Due to the hot summers in the America’s the race in Austin Texas and Mexico are usually held late October and for the same reason Las Vegas will feature either in the spring or the fall.
South Africa of course is in the southern hemisphere and has been widely touted for a spring race in April as part of the early season flyaway events before the European leg begins at Barcelona in May.
However it is increasingly doubtful as to whether the promoters in SA will have the circuit modifications complete before the deadline when the upgraded FIA grade 1 license must be awarded. Kyalmi which hosted F1 on and off from 1961 to 1985 currently has a grade 2 FIA certification.
This appears to have given the Belgian race in Spa a reprieve, because the latest provisional calendar seen by a few in Hungary has Spa Francorchamps listed provisionally or April, the expected date for the South African GP.
However the scheduled date is bizarre to say the least.
The Spa circuit hosts other motor racing world championships like the World Endurance Racing sports cars. The race in 2019 early May saw the circuit covered in snow.
F1 has never held a GP race in the snow, though in early pre season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in February, snow has ‘stopped play’ on a few occasions in recent years.
Unlike sports cars, F1 cars are not good in the wet or the snow, so if the Belgium GP does get a reprieve and goes racing in April the fans could be in for an interesting weekend.
The drivers maybe less so.
French media have Ricciardo in pole position for Alonso’s seat
20 Confirmed F1 race venues for 2023
Emilia Romagna (Imola)
Spain and the
3 Probable new contracts for
Last slot to either
South Africa or Belgium