Nine races to go in just 13 weeks. Working for a Formula 1 team always requires deep wells of resilience, but this season will push grand prix racing’s hardy band of brothers and sisters to new extremes.
The late start in July following four months of pandemic-induced inactivity was always going to concertina what amounts to a salvage operation on the 2020 schedule, as eight initial races were announced up to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last weekend. The plan was always to add more as F1 bosses scrambled to find suitable venues and strike late-braking deals, and they’ve succeeded in confirming a further nine, starting this weekend at Mugello and finishing just 12 days before Christmas in Abu Dhabi on 13 December. F1 people will have earned an extra mince pie or two this coming Yuletide season.
It may be relentless, but the 17-race schedule also happens to be one of the most refreshing in years. The complications created by the global health crisis has ruled out usual annual highlights such as Monaco, the Singapore night race, Austin in Texas, wonderful Suzuka in Japan and the cauldron of intensity that is always the Brazilian GP at Interlagos. But in their place a smorgasbord of tracks are served, some of which have never held an F1 grand prix before, some of which used to but haven’t for years and one that will hold back-to-back races but on differing layouts. It’s going to be a genuine adventure.
Majesty of Mugello
This Sunday’s Tuscan GP begins the string of unfamiliar races at a circuit best known for its MotoGP rounds and being owned by Ferrari. The vast majority of drivers will only be familiar with this fast, undulating 3.25-mile track via simulations, and they can be forgiven if they feel a little daunted. Opened in 1974, it’s properly old-school and will punish mistakes. It’s also set in a stunning part of Italy rich in motor racing heritage. The old Mugello public road circuit that dates back to the 1920s hosted international sports car races through the 1960s, included both the Futa and Giogo mountain passes and was faster than the Targa Florio. It’s about time Mugello hosted an F1 race.
Rain? It might even snow
The Russian GP on the uninspiring Sochi track has survived the coronavirus cull – sadly. But after Putin’s GP on 27 September, F1 returns to familiar old ground at the Nürburgring, the first time the German track has hosted a round since 2013. The ‘modern’ circuit, opened in 1984, is clearly not a patch on the Nordschleife (how could it be?), but an F1 race in the Eifel mountains as late as 11 October is playing with… well, water. It will surely rain buckets – at least.
From the German forests, F1 then heads to the Algarve, hopefully for some autumn sun, to another track that’s new to grand prix racing. Built in 2008, Portimão was partly intended for use as a winter F1 test facility.