The last anyone heard of FORMULA 1 hosting a 23-race calendar, it was probably with Grand Prix racing being held amid clouds with flying dragons stacked at the start-finish line with a champagne shower flowing above the earth in a surface-less podium.
But in a sport where the unexpected is the norm- last lap overtakes, unfortunate crashes that often involve the frontrunner and even tyre-delamination in a 70th anniversary Grand Prix- guess a calendar with 23 races isn’t that hard a fact to swallow.
Or is it?
Surely, with the way FORMULA 1 has been expanding and trying all it can in its might to reach places it was never present at, installing the exuberance of youth alongside the wealth of experience, old guards still hanging in there as a new generation dawns on a glorious future, a 23-race calendar can be fathomed at the end of the day.
So in 2021, prepare for newer venues, hitherto never imagined in the topsy turvy world where unpredictability looms supreme.
For instance, who would’ve thought that the Hanoi street circuit, constructed specifically to host the Vietnamese Grand Prix, which is yet to be held- would never make it for 2021?
While 2020 did play a spoilsport; it’s yet to be fully established as to why Vietnam misses out in the forthcoming season.
Similarly, did anyone see Riyadh ever becoming a part of the calendar?
A country that only recently allowed its women to take the wheels of a car, surely that’s a mighty impressive move, won’t you think?
Not that the naysayers of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix haven’t quacked already, for sure the blaring human rights con pose a looming concern. But it isn’t that FORMULA 1 isn’t trying to expand its horizons.
Which is why part of the 23 race calendar, 2021 is all set to unleash Zandvoort, home to the Dutch Grand Prix, last held in 1985.
Imagine FORMULA 1 returning after three and a half decades to a venue steeped in rich history, where the great Niki Lauda last won with a McLaren?
Surely, not everything about the 2021 Calendar – you would reckon- is lost, but is, in fact, won!
But with the increased length of races, imagine in 2017 there were only 20 Grands Prix- there shall be an enormity of challenges and expectedly so.
While surely the costs associated with hosting a Grand Prix point to numbers that conjure an outlandish figure in the north of north, but the challenges do not confront the sport’s administrators alone.
From a driver perspective, it’s an even bigger ask. And while on the surface, it means entering only two more Grands Prix than what is the norm, it does, after all, mean battling the risk of the ‘what-might’ since there’s always uncertainty attached with entering a venue you haven’t previously raced at.
For instance, in 2020 alone, Mugello, the first-time FORMULA 1 entrant unfurled a contest so very nearly dire that we had 8 race retirements, including 7 who simply collided.
One only hopes that while each of the 23 races in the 2021 F1 calendar are thrilling, they do not tax a FORMULA 1 driver with the towering uncertainty that comes along with every time you take to the wheels of a car especially at a track you never previously have raced before.
Not even Kimi Raikkonen, the sport’s most experienced driver on current numbers has set a foot at Zandvoort, the Iceman only a little over 5 years of age when F1 last went racing at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Which only increases the excitement of seeing how might the stars of the younger generation fare at venues where even their superiors haven’t raced at- take Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, and that To-Be-Decided Venue post China and prior to Spain.
Suffices to say with just 4 races remaining this year, Lewis Hamilton sitting on the cusp of the greatest glory any driver aims for- collecting the most world championship titles- F1 has only increased the expectations and with it the enormity of challenge associated with the 2021 season. Right?