Start, Imola, 2020

Imola is frontrunner to fill vacant slot on 2021 F1 calendar

2021 F1 calendar

Posted on

| Written by and

Imola is emerging as the frontrunner to fill the empty slot on the 2021 F1 calendar.

The provisional schedule for next year’s championship was revealed last month, including a record-breaking 23 races. But the location of the fourth round of the championship, which will take place in less than four months’ time, is yet to be confirmed.

The gap in the calendar arose after plans for Vietnam’s first Formula 1 race, scheduled for April this year, fell through. The Hanoi street race was one of several 2020 events which were cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

The Vietnam Grand Prix was not included in the provisional 2021 schedule following the arrest of Hanoi People’s Committee chairman Duc Chung, who was closely involved in the event.

Formula 1 is therefore looking for an alternative venue for the fourth race of next year. Imola, which returned to the calendar in 2020 following a 14-year absence, is considered the favourite to fill the empty slot.

This would restore to the track to its once-traditional role as the first European round of the calendar, which it often held when it played host to the San Marino Grand Prix between 1981 and 2006.

Imola was one of several circuits added to the 2020 schedule at short notice in place of rounds which were cancelled due to the pandemic. Lewis Hamilton won the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix last month.

Another late addition to the 2020 calendar, the Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal, is also in contention for the race. However a return to Istanbul Park in Turkey for an event in the last weekend of April is thought unlikely as it would coincide with Ramadan.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2021 F1 season

Browse all 2021 F1 season articles

67 comments on “Imola is frontrunner to fill vacant slot on 2021 F1 calendar”

  1. *sad malaysian noises*

    1. Ι would prefer Mugello but no complains if Imola returns in 2021. Both circuits,with their old school style are a positive addition to the calendar. Although Mugello isn’t mentioned in the article so i guess its not a candidate.

      Imola,as we saw, is extremely difficult to follow(plus overtake) but the layout is really good and the venue is a welcome return (hopefully for more than a couple of years)

    2. Sorry ,it was meant to be a comment on it’s own. Malaysia is a great venue no doubt, but F1 seems to want to stay in Europe as much as possible with the current pandemic.

      1. I think that’s largely down to keeping costs in check, when at this point its highly likely for another season without fans at the track. Malaysia would be nice, but there would be more travel / shipping costs involved, but potentially nothing to offset those costs.

  2. Hm, I would have preferred a different venue (Turkey, Portugal, or Malaysia) but Imola is still a really nice track to have once in a while.

  3. Ι would prefer Mugello but no complains if Imola returns in 2021. Both circuits,with their old school style are a positive addition to the calendar. Although Mugello isn’t mentioned in the article so i guess its not a candidate.

    Imola,as we saw, is extremely difficult to follow(plus overtake) but the layout is really good and the venue is a welcome return (hopefully for more than a couple of years)

    1. My perspective too.

  4. I like Imola, but I’d prefer either Portimao, Mugello, or the Sakhir outer circuit as the replacement track.

    1. @ll1026 The outer circuit would only be viable on subsequent weekends with the Bahrain GP, not as a standalone after China. Portimao would only really be worth it on the weekend before Spain. Imola (or Mugello) is the better option location-wise for travelling in Europe, so not as critical if it would be standalone. I’d, of course, want the Vietnamese GP to be able to go ahead, but for replacements, my preference #1 is Fuji Speedway, but Imola would be okay as well, even though I’d prefer Mugello as I like the lap flow more. I suppose Imola’s chances are higher due to greater attendance capacity and location of the track that isn’t as difficult to access as maybe the other alternatives.

  5. I would be fine with Imola, but I would definitely prefer Istanbul!

    1. @Dave Same, but unfortunately, they don’t want to hold an international event such as an F1 GP during Ramadan because they fear it might hit attendance.

      1. The irony is that the attendance at either location will likely be zero.

        1. Eh? Why? Covid restrictions won’t last forever

          1. No, not forever I would hope and expect @banbrorace. But almost certainly well into 2021 – I’d expect that it will be sometime in autumn 2021 before we might be seeing regular audiences at tracks, so that means @eurobrun is right on the money.

            Interesting @jerejj, I didn’t know that one played a role here. But then, for next season it might well be a moot point.

          2. I’d expect the first European crowds in early May. After all, even now some footie stadiums have fans

            It will be limited – so if you mean full crowds, then you’re on the money

  6. Any reason why they don’t go to Sepang?

    It’s adjacent to the international airport about 50-60km away from the centre of the city it seems like it would be the perfect venue for a COVID bubble.

    Surely will give much better racing than Imola which was bad 14 years ago and bad today.

    Could even have a double header with one race at night at Sepang.

    1. @deanfranklin Distance to Europe maybe. On the quality of racing, I agree, but the last part about double-header isn’t an option due to lack of space in surrounding weekends.

    2. @deanfranklin It isn’t bad today though, the layout is different and the race was perfectly decent this year though not a stunner. With regards to Sepang you’re forgetting that it left f1 calendar a year earlier than the expiration of its contract due to falling out of love with the series as the attendance was low and the locals prefer bikes. It was only an option for 2020 if f1 agreed to race for free. In the end it wasn’t feasible. So I don’t see Sepang being a viable option in the near future

    3. They’d be in ramadan like turkey for what it is worth.

  7. Wow, great news. Fingers crossed.

    If not Imola, Portimao please.

  8. What a monumental disappointment. Imola is rubbish. Portimao and Turkey are way better.

    1. @ultimateuzair Or even Fuji Speedway.

    2. With you on that. 👍 Imola stinks as a track for present F1 cars, it’s as bad as the Barcelona bore fest for creating stalemate lap on lap. Historic tracks are all very well but nothing stands still, certainly not F1.

  9. However a return to Istanbul Park in Turkey for an event in the last weekend of April is thought unlikely as it would coincide with Ramadan.

    As far as I know, Turkey is a secular state with no official religion. I know the majority of Turkish people are Muslims. However, in Islamic countries in Ramadan, there are special adjustments made with regard to working hours during day time to respect the “Iftar” time (moment in which they break their fasting). I don’t know how it works though in Turkey during Ramadan.

    1. @tifoso1989 I suspect that a few years ago hosting a race there during Ramadan wouldn’t have been an issue, but the Turkish government is becoming more and more Islamist, so I imagine they might not be so conducive to that now.

    2. @tifoso1989 The problem with scheduling a Grand Prix in Ramadan in a country expecting a lot of local attendance is that during Ramadan, observant Muslims try to respect the spirit of the month – which much like Lent in Catholicism in centuries past, is focused around avoidance of luxuries and unnecessary non-religious pleasure, to focus on spiritual renewal. F1 is considered high-end entertainment and definitely isn’t religious or expected to produce spiritual renewal. As a result, many Muslims who would normally want to attend would stay away out of respect for the Ramadan.

      While the secular government would probably be quite happy to hold a Grand Prix any time of the year in principle, they also want lots of Turkish people to attend – something that is not feasible if a large section of the population is only interested in attending when it is in a different calendar slot to the one offered.

      There’s also the part where this neatly sidesteps COVID concerns, since nobody can predict whether the Turkish outbreak that derailed the audience plan for the 2020 race will still be a factor by April.

      1. @alianora-la-canta
        Theoretically speaking, 2021 will be another COVID year even if the vaccination will help immune a large part of the world, life will only resume to normal in 2022. So a large part of the crowd in Turkey won’t be expected especially in April.

        In Islamic countries, entertainment events like football matches can be held later in the night after the observant Muslims completed their religious duties during the day and it’s common to see stadiums full of crowds. There were memorable football matches between the North African football clubs in African champions league that were actually held in Ramadan (Al Ahly, Zamalek, Raja Casablanca, Esperance…)

        I’m just questioning how the Turkish government operates in Ramadan given that the country is declared officially as a a secular state. I mean this just like The Sweden Democrats calling to join NATO which is opposed to Sweden political position as a neutral country. I mean you can’t involve in war and declare yourself as a neutral country.

        1. @tifosi1989 I don’t think the Turkish government has written off the possibility of getting an audience late in the year – though with developments in the week since you wrote that post, I must concede an audience in April is very unlikely.

          Thank you for enlightening me about the football situation.

          As for how a secular state operates in Ramadan: it is sensitive to local cultural expectation, just not religious expectation. All secular governments are different in how they respond to local cultural expectation. (This is also why I drew a distinction between the secular government’s desire for a Grand Prix and timing it so it gets people through the gates – assuming this is possible). Also, Switzerland works with NATO in peace-support operations despite being neutral; Sweden may well want something similar, though I’ve not researched the issue to know exactly what Swedes advocating the option want from that hypothetical membership.

  10. I am happy to see Imola return but I am a little surprised. I think Portimao or Mugello are better circuits but then there might be other factors at play.

    I am pretty sure I read that Portimao is quite difficult for people to get to. Especially if we are talking about a full crowd. I am not sure about Mugello but maybe Ferrari are not keen on a regular race being held there.

    Money is also probably a factor as well. Then who knows what will happen about crowd numbers.

    1. @phil-f1-21 Imola indeed has an advantage over both Mugello and Portimao in that the track area is easier to access location-wise.

  11. Obviously for me the right choice would have been Portimão

    However considering that there are some people still trying to get out of the parking lot I can’t say I’m surprised

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      29th December 2020, 11:55

      Only nostalgia explains this current enthusiasm about Imola. The track was loathed as not allowing overtaking in 2006, and it was clear in 2020 that it remains that way. Verstappen could only get past Bottas after his mistake. But well, maybe in the DRS era this is what we need for a good race.
      But yes, Portimão would have to block visitors with the excuse of the still-going pandemic to avoid a repetition of that mess.

    2. However considering that there are some people still trying to get out of the parking lot I can’t say I’m surprised

      LOL, OMG @johnmilk. Harsh, but probably only too accurate. A bit like the Silverstone audiences getting sucked up in the mud, right.

      1. @bascb and let me tell you, that was the smallest of problems there

        if you wanted to eat or drink something, in some grandstand a minimum 2h wait

        1. Oh, wow. I guess it gave you that unforgettable experience as well as endless patience @johnmilk!

          1. it allowed me to realize that I’m quite good at sneaking in food and water into a circuit

  12. Please, no.
    Sepang, Buriram, Fuji, the Bahrain Outer layout or a number of other European circuits would be far better than Imola.
    Think about the racing and entertainment rather than the money for once, F1.

    1. Come on now… If they thought about the racing for once, then that would set a precedent. Then they’d have to think about the racing every time! Surly no one (that has say in the matters) wants that!

    2. S, it is rather strange to hear an argument that they should “Think about the racing and entertainment rather than the money for once” when Imola was a circuit that never paid especially high hosting fees and both Sepang and Fuji were accused of buying their way onto the calendar.

      After all, it could be said that Imola dropped off in part because of Valencia, which later took up the place vacated in the calendar by FOM declining to renew their contract with Imola – and I don’t think many would say that the sport went to Valencia for the quality of the races it produced.

      1. But which one is listed above as the front runner, and why aren’t any those other circuits, which would all almost certainly provide a better race and viewing experience? Who’s willing to cough up the money, and who isn’t?
        Every country/circuit ‘buys’ their way in to the calendar – that’s exactly how F1 has worked for many decades, with only one exception. Monaco.
        And to touch on your final point – I think given the choice between Imola and Valencia, I’d still take Valencia, thank you.

        1. S, Fuji was only on the calendar because Toyota owns Fuji and Honda owns Suzuka – it was a case of Toyota offering Bernie more money so they would have the prestige of holding the Japanese GP instead of Honda.

          The people here on this site did not mourn Fuji dropping off the calendar – in fact, this site called Fuji “the worst track on the calendar” back in 2008 (, with most of those commenting on that article agreeing and quite vocal in their complaints that money had won out over the quality of the racing.

          Similarly, when the fans were asked if they were sorry to see Fuji fall off the calendar, the overwhelming consensus was that the fans here couldn’t wait for it to be kicked off the calendar – more than 2.5 times more fans said they were happy for it to go than there were those who supported it (

          Fans described the races held there as “boring”, “atrocious” and “terrible” – the quality of the racing that was experienced there was dismal and the track was extremely unpopular.

          With regards to the Valencia street circuit, you would definitely be in a very small minority, if not the only person on this site who would want the Valencian street circuit over Imola. That circuit was almost universally reviled as a miserable experience for all involved, be that the fans complaining about the exposed seating that gave them poor views of the cars or the utterly monotonous races it usually produced.

          Out of the 5 races held there, two are amongst the least popular races ever on this site and the circuit as a whole is one of the least popular ever on this site (only Sochi and Paul Ricard are downrated further). Even the local populace preferred to let the circuit completely rot away due to the allegations over endemic corruption being involved in the circuit and the utterly banal nature of the circuit – about the only area being used now are the old pit garages, and that is just a car park now.

  13. Incredible news! My absolute favourite circuit

  14. Has Mondello Circuit ever been considered for an F1 race? With the amount of different layouts you could almost turn that place into the outer Bahrain circuit.

    1. @canadianjosh The Mondello Circuit isn’t FIA grade 1.

    2. @canadianjosh if you’re talking about Mondello Park in Ireland, that’s currently a Grade 4 circuit, which means it is currently only allowed to have vehicles with “a weight/power ratio higher than 3 kg/hp”.

      That means that the highest single seater category which could run at Mondello Park is a Formula 4 car, which is the only one where the power to weight ratio would be in excess of 3kg per brake horsepower. It’s currently not even remotely close to getting up to scratch for an F1 race – even a Formula 3 race is out of the question right now.

      1. Oh wow certainly wouldn’t be good for F1 if F3 wouldn’t go there, I was looking at some onboards and had the outer Bahrain circuit in mind obviously a lot less extravagant though.

  15. Or we could just give the teams a extra rest week to spend with their families and save some much needed money all round for everyone.

    1. @slowmo Not a bad suggestion.

  16. In April only Imola or Portimao. They both perfectly fit into this F1 calendar.

    1. @bulgarian Portimao only if on the weekend before Spain, otherwise, Imola, Mugello, or even Fuji as they’re all equally fitting climate and travelling-wise.

  17. Coventry Climax
    29th December 2020, 19:16

    Any further arguments on the ‘why’ part of it? ” Imola, which returned to the calendar in 2020 following a 14-year absence, is considered the favourite to fill the empty slot.”
    Considered by whom? You?

    I found Imola rather boring, as usual, actually. Liked Portimão much, much better.
    But as long as it’s nothing but grapevines, let’s just see what happens.

    1. @Coventry Climax I suppose attendance capacity and track accessibility are contributors here.

  18. Would have preferred either of Portimao or Istanbul park. But Imola isn’t that bad.

  19. I’m echoing a lot of people here, but Portimão will surely give a better race and adds another country to the “world” championship.

    However, I already think there are too many races this year so I’d be happy if they reduced the number.

    1. No give us more tracks!

      I want my imola, portimao, mugello, sepang, fuji, zandvoort, estoril, kyalami, istanbul park dammit!

  20. Portimao need another change! C’om!

    1. @win7golf I prefer Mugello. Out of the five non-original 2020 tracks, Mugello is the one I like the most driving-wise.

  21. With the current second wave of COVID, I imagine there’s quite a possibility of changes to the calendar anyway so I’m not overly fussed about which one is in and which one is not in.

    I’m expecting an alternate for Melbourne soon as I don’t see the Australian Government allowing anything other than a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all international travellers so the logistics will be all but impossible.

    1. 14 days on the way in to Australia is totally do-able as it’s the first race of the season. People and freight travel separately, so there is plenty of time for team and media staff to do it.
      F1 just needs to remember that they aren’t above the law, and can potentially carry the virus wherever they go.
      Having said that, I’m expecting that they’ll probably negotiate some arrangement that grants them an exception to the 2-week quarantine period. Either that or they just won’t come, and will have a clause built into the contract so they aren’t financially penalised for the no-show.

      1. Given that the tennis players that wanted to compete in the Australian Open weren’t granted any exceptions I’d say there would be a snowballs chance in hell of them being able to negotiate anything.

        Bear in mind that quarantine is also strictly controlled over here and there is just not the capacity to quarantine that number of people at the expense of returning ex pats who have been waiting for months for their turn to get back.

        Add to that that a large number come from the UK that at the moment is pretty much on a global travel ban list – I’d give the chances of Melbourne happening at less than 10%

    2. @dbradock
      @S Indeed. The travelling F1 circus would have to get exempted from the required quarantine for arrivals (if still in place in March), although this isn’t the only thing that will eventually determine how doable the Australian GP as the season-opener is, but also trackside attendance, which would most likely have to be formed up by locals only.

  22. Is no one remembering how boring the race was?

    No thanks Imola.

    1. @viscountviktor The quality of racing matters less in this context.

  23. imol or portimao yessss i want also hockenheim

  24. Imola? Nuh-uh, Russell’s gonna get cursed again.
    Bring back Nürburgring or Hockenheim.

Comments are closed.