Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

Which races are vulnerable as F1 makes room for two Spanish rounds in 2026?

News Focus

Posted on

| Written by

For obvious reasons, Formula 1’s announcement last week that a new circuit in Madrid will join the calendar was regarded as bad news for the Circuit de Catalunya.

Although F1 announced in 2021 the track outside Barcelona would remain the host of the Spanish Grand Prix up to and including 2026, its new Madrid deal supersedes that. It therefore remains to be seen what Catalunya’s last F1 race in its current deal will be called, and whether the series will return after then.

However the news of Liberty Media’s latest race deal poses a further question. The 2024 F1 calendar is already at its capacity limit of 24 races.

So Madrid’s arrival on the calendar in two years’ time requires one of two different solutions. One of those is an existing venue leaving the schedule between now and then.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Bahrain, 2023
Bahrain has F1’s longest contract, running to 2036
Which might that be? As it stands, half of the current venues are already contracted to be on the calendar come 2026. That includes two races in Spain.

Liberty Media has talked up its desire to attract interest in F1 using eye-catching events in destination cities. Several existing races which fit that description are already on board for 2026: Montreal, Melbourne and Singapore.

However many of the venues which hold the longest deals arguably fit a different description: Repressive regimes seeking to burnish their reputations. Each of the quartet of races in the Middle East are all locked into lucrative, long contracts: Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. Asian venue Azerbaijan also inked a new deal last year, though its goes no further than 2026.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

In F1’s traditional European heartland, besides the two Spanish rounds, only two other races already have deals for 2026. These are the Hungaroring and the Red Bull Ring – the latter having signed two new contracts with F1 in the space of last year, a measure of how grand prix promoters are realising they need long-term deals to secure their futures in the sport.

Las Vegas Strip Circuit, 2023
F1 is set to stay in Las Vegas
The USA, a major target for F1’s growth, will almost certainly continue to have three races in 2026. Miami and the Circuit of the Americas already have deals in place. Las Vegas joined the calendar last year on an initial three-year deal, but F1 has already gained approval to continue using the roads which comprise the circuit for 10 years, and as it is also the race’s promoter an extension is likely to be a formality. F1 will also retain a presence in South America having extend the deal for Interlagos to hold the Brazilian Grand Prix last last year.

Finally, there was good news for Suzuka yesterday as F1 confirmed its place has been secured for another five years, keeping it on the calendar until at least 2029. With track owner Honda returning to F1 as a manufacturer with Aston Martin in 2026, this always looked on the cards.

That leaves a familiar looking hit-list of vulnerable races, most of them in Europe, plus a few other long-standing venues.

China’s race at Shanghai International Circuit will mark its 20th anniversary this year, but hasn’t taken place in the last five years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However F1 is clearly keen to sustain a presence in China, and although the race’s contract runs until 2025 it would be a surprise if it does not remain beyond then.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Shanghai is the world’s third-largest metropolitan area, followed by Sao Paulo (already home to an F1 race) and Mexico City. However the latter event only has a deal up to 2025. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez enjoys an advantageous location and regularly delivers packed crowds to cheer Sergio Perez. However it remains to be seen how long the 34-year-old will continue to race in F1: He was thrashed by team mate Max Verstappen last year and his contract is up for renewal.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Silverstone, 2023
Silverstone’s contract is up for renewal this year
The other races whose contracts don’t run into 2026 are all in Europe. They include Verstappen’s home races at Zandvoort and his beloved Spa-Francorchamps, plus Britain’s round which is home to more drivers and teams than any other. Both of Italy’s races are in need of new contracts, though Imola is thought likely to gain a one-year extension taking it into 2026 after flooding forced the cancellation of last year’s race. Finally, Monaco’s long history is in jeopardy if it does not secure a new deal taking it beyond 2025.

The possibility of European rounds having to alternate rounds from year to year to stay on the calendar has been raised many times. The arrival of Madrid may be the tipping point which finally makes it reality. Particularly as F1 is known to want a return to Africa, and Mercedes’ Malaysian title sponsor Petronas is believed to be pushing for a return to the Sepang International Circuit.

Coincidentally, one country which had this arrangement in the past was Spain: It rotated between the permanent Jarama circuit in Madrid and the parkland Montjuic circuit in Barcelona between 1968 and 1975. European race promoters may dislike the idea of holding races biennially, and losing the regularity of attendance which comes with being on the calendar every year, but unless they can rival the huge fees being paid by new races – Madrid is reportedly promising almost €500 million (£427m) over 10 years) – they may have no choice.

Then there is the other potential solution to the calendar congestion: Growing the schedule even further. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has repeatedly said “24 is the right number” of rounds on the calendar, but there have been hints F1 could go beyond that – if it secures the agreement of teams.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Become a RaceFans Supporter

RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.

Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

Formula 1

Browse all Formula 1 articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

26 comments on “Which races are vulnerable as F1 makes room for two Spanish rounds in 2026?”

  1. I don’t think they will go beyond 24 races. It might be the straw that breaks, etc.

    Surely F1 won’t drop Monaco, Monza, or Silverstone. So based on the logic above, this leaves Imola, Spa, Zandvoort or Mexico City. Maybe they will want Imola and Monza to alternate? Or Spa and Zandvoort.

    1. I’d say they will probably drop Imola and Spa. Spa has no money, so that is an easy choice for the money men. And Imola, well, how much are they really paying? I doubt it is anywhere near the amount these new entries are paying.

      1. If they really have to drop spa, I’d hope they keep going there with f2 or F3. Id rather see Mexico dropped. Got nothing against the place and I think it’s great for them. But they really butchered the track when they revamped it.

        That may have been one of the last tracks to go for very slow narrow and off camber corners before the opposite trends began of opening up corners and making tracks more flowing eg abudhabi changes. Probably the worst track on the calender.

        In Mexico they could have recreated a Bahrain type 123 sequence which would have been great for racing. Yes racing not overtaking.

  2. When Perez is dropped from Red Bull at the end of this year, the crowds in Mexico will drop significantly

    1. God has spoken. No idea what you are talking about.

  3. Just yesterday, Domenicali in the press release said Suzuka was “a special circuit and part of the fabric of the sport.”

    Yet Spa-Francorchamps isn’t?

    1. “Just yesterday, Domenicali in the press release said Suzuka was ‘a special circuit and part of the fabric of the sport.’ Yet Spa-Francorchamps isn’t?”

      I don’t see Gillet having the same pull as Honda with Domenicali.

  4. Silvestone renegotiated their contract after terminating their contract due to costs. When you have governments paying to host Grand Prix it’s very difficult for private enterprise to compete, which Silvestone is. Now Liberty are in a much stronger position than they have ever bee, it’ll be interesting if they pile on the pressure. Never assume Silverstone is safe.

  5. The idea that a circuit like Monza or Silverstone may be dropped for a race around an industrial park on the edge of Madrid is absolutely absurd and the people who have created this situation should be embarrassed.

    1. Amen brother/sister.

      Embarrassed and also whipped with a wet noodle!

    2. That is absurd and it’s not what’s going to happen. They’ll drop imola.

  6. Imola, of course. The track is particularly badly suited to modern F1 cars. And even in the early 2000s it wasn’t much better.

    1. Tommy Scragend
      3rd February 2024, 15:16

      Imola would seem the obvious one to go. I’m surprised it ever made it back in the first place. I could understand it being used in the pandemic season, but I didn’t expect it to stick around after that.

      1. I was surprised too Tommy.

    2. Say what?!? How is Imola “badly suited” to modern F1 cars? Monaco is. Hunagoring is. But Imola?!

      1. The races at Imola have long been a procession. Those other tracks aren’t much better, but at least they’re not the second race in the same country.

        Still, ditching Imola, Hungaroring and Zandvoort seems fine, they are very near Monza, Red Bull Ring, and Spa-Francorchamps which are superior tracks in every way.

  7. FOM and Libery Media care only about money so nothing is safe and literally anything is possible. I expect them to drop Monaco asap, Monza will have to alternate with Imola (just check where Domenicali comes from) and Spa will either alternate with Zandvoort or will be dropped completely. And Silverstone will stay only until a street race in London will be agreed. But as long as this DtS generation of “fans” will pay the exorbitant prices, nobody will care about guys who follow the sport for 30+ years.

    1. They are concerned with being profitable and the only way they can do that is to keep adding races in places that will pay several hundreds of millions over several years like Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China. I think Azerbaijan pays a lot too so they can also pretend they are also a modern, free society that’s open to business with the West.

      Expect more fake street circuits in cities of corrupt countries with deep pockets. This is the new F1.

  8. Bringing back Kyalami and Sepang would be massive pluses, and I actually think the Madrid circuit looks pretty good. I’d be happy with any European circuit except Spa being on rotation to do this, including Monoco.

  9. Its going to be a heritage track that will disappear, which also happens to bring in the least amount of money, yet should have a protected status because it is so special, Spa will disappear or be rotated.
    Either way it is a travesty how they treat such a legendary track.

  10. Axing or bi-annual rotation, but Spa-Francorchamps most certainly is under threat with these constant single-year deals, although even Zandvoort could be under threat in the long-term.
    These two & Monza-Imola alternating would be a decent compromise.
    Petronas already declared the reports about them pushing for a Malaysian GP revival unfounded, so that speculation should end for good, especially as Malaysia hasn’t really been keen on GP revival at any point post-2017 anyway.
    Regarding the last paragraph, in the end, only Domenicali’s words matter rather than third-parties, so the long-term stable GP amount target is what it is as long as he doesn’t say otherwise.

  11. There’s at least three races in the Middle East that could drop off the calendar without anyone shedding a tear.

    Azerbaijan has had a good run.

    Hungary is sliding into authoritarianism, so maybe it is time to consider whether F1 should be complicit in that.

    So that brings the total down to 19, add this second race in Spain to bring it up to 20 and call it a day.

  12. I can’t see there being two races in Spain.

    Any of the heritage tracks are likely to be dropped at any time.

    COTA possibly as well – too far from the city and likely to be replaced by a street race.

    Only ones that are probably safe are all the Middle Eastern ones.

    1. I agree. If there are two races in 2026 I don’t think it will stay that way. I can see Barcelona being dropped.

    2. “COTA possibly as well – too far from the city.”

      What? Are you on walking there on foot from a hotel on Main St.??? The Austin International Airport is on the south-east corner of the city, 6 km from the city center. The CotA is 4 km south of the airport. The only way it could be closer is to have a street race in the downtown core.

  13. For heavens sake – drop Monaco.

Comments are closed.