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Vettel: COVID-19 Will Dictate Next Year’s F1 Calendar

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Sebastian Vettel in Ferrari SF70H
Sebastian Vettel at the wheel of the Ferrari SF70H
Photo: Artes Max via CC

Sebastian Vettel believes the 2021 Formula One World Championship will continue being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the sport is targeting a record 23-race calendar.

The World Health Organization assessed COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020, just a few days before the planned season opener in Australia, leading to the cancellation of the race as well as that of more than half the grands prix on the original calendar.

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F1 owners Liberty Media were eventually able to piece together a new, 17-race calendar that included several triple-headers and back-to-back races on the same circuits, though teams expressed concerns about racing over three consecutive weekends.

Earlier this month, F1 released a provisional 23-race calendar for the 2021 season, one similar in structure to the pre-pandemic calendar that had been intended for 2020. When asked if this risked reaching saturation point, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel had the following to say:

“Well, obviously we’re not going 23 times to the same place because then I would say definitely yes. But it is a world championship and it is held around the world so probably not, but then again we have large following not just on track but also on the screens.”

“I think far more important is whether the teams will be able to make 23 races because it is quite a bit of an effort, it is not just the one and a half hours you see on a Sunday, it’s a lot more work behind the scenes.”

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Even outside of a pandemic year, the logistics of running an F1 team and competing at various locales all around the world are tremendously complicated. But the pandemic won’t be gone by 2021, and Vettel was keen to point that this creates even more problems.

“Then the other one even before that is what type of beginning of the season we will have and how long the situation around the pandemic will last,” Vettel added. “I think that will dictate also next year’s calendar and probably at least the start of the season. We all hope by then we are back to normal, people are allowed to come to the races [and] we can focus on the racing again.”

F1’s provisional 2021 calendar no longer features the Vietnamese Grand Prix that had been planned to debut in 2020, but does include a new race in Saudi Arabia that has been met with no small amount of justified criticism. So far, the season is intended to start on March 21 in Australia, but the state in which the circuit is located is under strict entry restrictions.

Needless to say, the term “provisional” has never been more relevant.