Creating Formula 1 calendars is anything but easy. Some of the race promoters have clauses in their contracts giving them certain rights, such as being the first or the last race, or not being held too soon after another race in their region. In addition the calendar must avoid major clashes such as the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup and there are also local events to be avoided, if possible. On top of this there is the weather in different regions, the need for sensible TV scheduling to maximise the viewing figures and on top of all of this are the agreements with the teams and the FIA to have certain races included each year and certain ratios that much be respected. There must be a certain length of time between the last race of one year and the first race of the year. There must be an August break. There is believed to be a list of 12 events, six of which must be included in any calendar. No individual race has absolute protection, which is why we have seen the disappearance of the French GP and why there is no German race this year. In the future we may lose Italy and Belgium if they cannot meet the required financial demands. The other important element is that the calendar must be balanced between Europe and the United States (that are treated as one unit) and the rest of the world. Half the races must be in Europe and the US, unless the teams agree otherwise. As the teams cannot generally agree on the day of the week, this is virtually impossible. At the same time, the commercial rights holder must taken into consideration the logistics of moving the F1 circus from one place to another, bearing in mind that import and export activities are rarely the work of a moment, particularly in countries where permissions are seen as currency. On top of all of this, the Formula One group is trying to convince the teams that there can be more races a year. They are resisting further growth, arguing that this will require major restructuring because their personnel are already at the limit and there would need to be duplication of personnel if the sport expands further.
In recent years the Formula One policy appears to have been to put races in awkward places to get the teams arguing in favour of more back-to-back events (and thus the potential for more races). That has not been a success so a leaked 2016 calendar that was doing the rounds last week seems to have adopted a new approach by pushing back the start of the season into April, but still managing to include 20 events before the end of November. The only logical explanation for this is that it is designed to prove that more races could be added in March and to make it hard for the teams to argue otherwise.
Anyway, the calendar that appeared last week was rather more sensible than it has been in recent years in relation to twinning races. The series might began late – on April 3 – but the second race would be just a week later in Shanghai. Malaysia would be pushed back in the calendar to September, where it would be twinned with Singapore, thus creating another back-to-back. The Malaysians might not be overly keen given that a percentage of their audience comes from Singapore. There are drawbacks to the late start in Melbourne, notably the weather and the fact that the local football season will have begun.
The second foray from Europe would be for a double-header with Bahrain on April 24 and Russia on May 1. This makes sense. Then the European season would begin with the traditional Spain and Monaco and then a trip to Canada (a stand-alone event) and then a Britain-Austria double-header on June 26-July 3. It would then be back to intercontinental flying to Azerbaijan, although as predicted the event would be billed as a European GP, in order to keep the required balance. It seems that when it comes to this event, if the Azerbaijanis are willing to pay enough, F1 is willing to accept that it is a European country, just as the Eurovision people did and as the European Olympic Committees will shortly do with the European Games to be held in Baku in June. The GP will be held on July 17 and then the cars would go back to Europe for the revived German GP at Hockenheim. It is not clear what will happen with the German event in the longer term. The race has alternated between the Nürburgring and Hockenheim since 2008, with the contract due to run until 2018. The races planned are at Hockenheim in 2016 and 2018, with Nürburgring scheduled for 2017, unless FOM decides to ditch that contract as the race will not happen this year. A week later the race will be in Hungary and then there will be the two weekend break before the circus reconvenes at Spa on August 28, rushing straight from there to Italy the following weekend. There is then the Singapore-Malaysia double-header and then a stand-alone Japanese GP on October 9. This will be followed by an Austin-Mexico double-header on October 23-30 and then a weekend off before the stand-alone Brazilian GP, with the season coming to a close on November 27 in Abu Dhabi.
All things considered it is a lot more sensible than recent calendars but the late start makes no real sense at all.