Lando Norris, Sebastian Vettel, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020

F1 season will start later than ever after longest break between races since 1966

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The disruption to the start of the 2020 F1 season has forced the world championship to take its longest break between races for more than five decades.

Formula 1 confirmed today it intends to postpone three more races as a result of the worldwide pandemic. This brings the total number of race weekends called off this year to seven.

While the sport has indicated it intends to rescheduled the cancelled events, no new dates have yet been announced. As things stand the new championship is due to begin with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on June 7th.

This will be the latest ever start to a Formula 1 season. Not since 1988 has the world championship begun after March. The previous latest start to a season came in 1951, the second year of the world championship, when drivers assembled for the opening race on Switzerland’s seven kilometre Bremgarten circuit on May 27th.

If the Baku race is able to go ahead on its original date, it will be 189 days since the last round of the world championship, Lewis Hamilton’s victory in Abu Dhabi. This will be the sixth-longest gap between consecutive races in the championship’s history.

F1 hasn’t seen a longer gap between races since the start of the 1966 season in Monaco on May 22nd. This was 210 days after the 1965 season finale in Mexico City.

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Start, Mexican Grand Prix, Autodromo Magdalena Mixhuaca, 1965
F1 didn’t race for 210 days after 1965 Mexican Grand Prix
This was partly because the race at South Africa’s East London circuit on New Year’s Day in 1966, which held world championship status the year before, was downgraded to a non-points race. This change resulted from the introduced of new technical rules, with three-litre engines replaced the previous 1.5-litre units, and a concern many F1 teams would not be ready in time.

There have only been three longer delays between consecutive races. But it remains to be seen whether Azerbaijan’s Grand Prix will go ahead as planned, and if F1’s wait for the resumption of racing will go on even longer. It’s a development no one would have imagined when the 2020 F1 calendar, featuring its original record-breaking 22 races, was announced.

Longest gaps between consecutive F1 races

Race Next race Gap (days)
1950 Italian Grand Prix 1951 Swiss Grand Prix 266
1961 USA Grand Prix 1962 Dutch Grand Prix 224
1965 Mexican Grand Prix 1966 Monaco Grand Prix 210
1951 Spanish Grand Prix 1952 Swiss Grand Prix 203
1958 Moroccan Grand Prix 1959 Monaco Grand Prix 203
2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2020 Azerbaijan Grand Prix 189

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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6 comments on “F1 season will start later than ever after longest break between races since 1966”

  1. This will be the latest ever start to a Formula 1 season.

    I knew 2020 was going to be about records, but never thought it was going to be this particular record.

    1. Someone somewhere wished on a monkey’s paw – “Let 2020 be the year where unusual records are broken”.

  2. If it starts at all.

  3. @keithcollantine Presumably Monaco also has the record for most Grands Prix held consecutively on the same circuit? Popular ‘classic’ races have taken breaks – I think Monza was missed one year for Imola, Silverstone swapped with Brands Hatch, Spa missed a year or two; but Monte Carlo has hosted the Monaco Grand Prix without missing a year since 1955.

  4. TL;DR – If the first race is Belgium or later, this will take over the longest gap record.

    If my maths are correct, losing two more races (Baku, Canada) would tie this gap for 3rd at 210 days. Two beyond that (France and Austria) would move this to 2nd at 231. Beyond that, if the Hungary round is canceled (and assuming no races are rescheduled during the current summer break, that’s it.

    Given that seven have been cancelled so far, and the circumstances, five more cancellations seems like a low estimate. I’d say we’re looking at a lost season.

    Here’s a stat-related question though, if 2020 were canceled and Hamilton wins 2021, is that a four-peat? They would be four consecutive titles in terms of seasons raced, but not years. Thoughts?

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      5th April 2020, 14:08

      It’s a four-peat, of course.

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