The FIA has published its latest version of the F1 calendar, which is very different to the first and which throws some light on the FIA’s current state of weakness in relation to F1. The fact that the new race in Azerbaijan has been put on the same day as the Le Mans 24 Hours is a sign of the waning influence of the federation. Two years ago the FIA was still able to decree that there would not be a Grand Prix on the Le Mans weekend. Now there is an F1 race running on the same weekend. To avoid the Le Mans finish at 3pm French time (6pm in Baku), the race would begin at 2pm (11am at Le Mans) and it would be over by 4pm (1pm in Le Mans). This would still impact on the Le Mans viewing figures. To avoid Le Mans completely the Baku would have to start at 6.30pm, at the earliest, and thus would finish by 8.30pm local time. Sunset will be at 9.15pm, so this would be a twilight race. This may be a prelude to Azerbaijan becoming a night race in 2017. Otherwise, the dates are pretty much as suggested in this week’s notebook, with one or two tweaks with Germany following Hungary and Britain back to its traditional July weekend. There are some fairly daft stand alone races, but clearly saving money is not on the agenda at Princes Gate and the FIA gets no say. The dates are as follows: March 20, Australia; April 3, Bahrain; April 17, China; May 1, Russia; May 15, Spain; May 29, Monaco; June 12, Canada; June 19, Azerbaijan; July 3, Austria; July 10, Britain; July 24, Hungary; July 31, Germany; August 28, Belgium; September 4, Italy; September 18, Singapore; October 2, Malaysia; October 9, Japan; October 23, United States; November 6, Mexico; November 13, Brazil; November 27, Abu Dhabi.
I am told it will not change again… We’ll see.