The longest-ever season
In 2023, F1 is set to hold 24 races in a season for the very first time, with the addition of two extra events creating the sport’s largest-ever calendar.
Following a single pre-season test in late February, the F1 2023 season will kick off in Bahrain on March 5 and conclude in Abu Dhabi on November 26.
F1 has now hit the 24-race cap that was agreed with the teams. However, the packed calendar has led to scepticism over F1’s commitment to become net zero carbon by 2030, as well as questions about the toll placed on F1 staff who are already stretched thin.
After starting with four standalone races, the 2023 schedule features two triple-headers; one in Europe and one in America, the latter of which makes up a brutal run to the end of the year.
There was talk that F1 was planning to group more races by region in 2023 to improve sustainability by reducing freight movements and personnel travel, but the sport will still amass more air miles than ever as it jumps from continent to continent.
Azerbaijan has been moved forward but retains a questionable back-to-back combination with America. Canada remains separate from the other rounds in the United States, while Qatar stages a curious Middle East standalone event at the beginning of October.
It will be interesting to hear what the F1 drivers and teams make of the changes when they next face the media at the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix.
A scheduling clash
The reshuffling of the Belgian Grand Prix did cause a scheduling clash with the Spa 24 Hours, which was due to be held on the race’s traditional slot on the last weekend of July.
After being given an extended one-year deal to host F1, the Belgian Grand Prix has been brought forward to before the summer break, with the Spa-Francorchamps race now taking place on July 30.
As a result, the 2023 edition of the Spa 24 Hours has been moved to an earlier date over the weekend of July 1-2.
Hungary has given up its usual pre-summer break slot to Belgium, with the two races now forming a back-to-back at the end of July. It will mark the first time that Spa has held a race prior to the mandatory summer shutdown since its implementation.
The latest-ever F1 start time
The F1 2023 calendar includes the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, which will take place on November 18, forming a back-to-back with Abu Dhabi to round out the season.
Championship officials have confirmed that the race will be run on a Saturday, with a 10pm local start time (6am UK). The 50-lap penultimate round of the 2023 season will feature the latest start time in F1 history.
The unique schedule for F1’s showpiece event in Las Vegas will see practice take place on Thursday instead of Friday, with qualifying held on Friday night.
It will be the first world championship race to be held on a Saturday since the 1985 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, and join Austin and Miami as one of three US-based races.
Qatar and China (maybe) return
Along with Las Vegas’ inclusion and the axing of the French Grand Prix for 2023, the other changes to the calendar will see a return for two countries F1 has already raced in.
Qatar, which made its F1 debut on the revised 2021 calendar, will return after taking a break this year to host the men’s FIFA World Cup in November.
Doha’s Losail International Circuit is set to once again host the Qatar Grand Prix but a new venue is expected to be found in the near-future as part of the country’s 10-year deal with F1.
F1 is planning to return to China after a three-year absence next season, though this is only provisional.
A final decision over the Shanghai race is set to be taken after the National Congress in October amid the country’s approach to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Interestingly, a free weekend has been left on either side of China’s planned slot. This would ease potential logistics headaches if the race was called off for a fourth straight year.
Even if China did drop off the calendar and no replacement was found, a 23-race season would still mark a new record for F1.
A new deal for Monaco
Overshadowed by the calendar news was the announcement of a new three-year deal for the Monaco Grand Prix.
A new contract was confirmed on Tuesday, meaning that Monte Carlo will continue to host the ‘crown jewel’ of the F1 calendar until at least 2025.
Fresh terms have been finalised between F1 and the Automobile Club of Monaco, putting an end to months of uncertainty about the future of the glamorous race in the Principality, which was first held in 1929.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali had made it clear that no circuit had a right to host grand prix, regardless of its history, amid suggestions that Liberty Media was seeking concessions from Monaco over the race hosting fee, TV rights, trackside sponsorship and infrastructure.
Barring its cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Monaco Grand Prix has been a feature of every F1 season since 1955.