F1 still on track for 23-race season, says new CEO

LONDON • Formula One is still aiming for a record 23 grands prix this year but could have fewer in future with some held in rotation, the sport's new chief executive officer Stefano Domenicali said on Wednesday.

The Italian, a former Ferrari team boss and most recently CEO of Lamborghini, told Sky Sports that this year would require a flexible approach due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A revised calendar was issued this month, with Australia postponed from its March season-opening slot to November. Italy's Imola was brought in as the second round with China omitted for the second year running unless things change and another race drops out.

Bahrain is now the opener on March 28 and Domenicali is hopeful there will be no further disruptions.

"Twenty-three races is a very important number of races, no doubt," he said, adding that for some, it was too many and for others, not a problem.

"I would say that this equation will solve itself by the fact that if we're able to deliver an incredible product, we may go to a situation where maybe we can go back to a fewer number of races.

"Then maybe the chance of a rotation is possible for certain grands prix, keeping a focus on different areas. This is something that is in our plan to think about carefully this year, getting ready for when the world is normal again."

His predecessor Chase Carey spoke in November of plans to expand to 24 races. The sport planned 22 rounds last year but ended up with only 17, with showcase street races such as Monaco and Singapore cancelled.

Some of the circuits - such as Italy's Mugello and Portugal's Algarve circuit - hosted a grand prix for the first time while others like Istanbul returned after long absences.

Domenicali revealed that he was speaking daily with race organisers and all were keen to go ahead with the calendar.

"Of course we need to be flexible enough to understand that maybe in the first part of the season, we may have some events with no public or with restricted members of the public," he added.

"But what I can assure our supporters, our fans, is that really we want to make sure that the season is there."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2021, with the headline 'F1 still on track for 23-race season, says new CEO'. Subscribe