Japanese Grand Prix Cancellation Threatens F1's Most Exciting Championship in Ages
Brazil and Mexico might switch places and there might even be two races at COTA—who knows?
Formula One is enjoying one of its fiercest rivalries in ages thanks to Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Assuming the championship isn't ultimately decided Formula E-style, we're going to witness a fight to the end of the season in 2021. We just, uh, don't actually know how long that will be yet, as the Japanese Grand Prix is now officially canceled.
It's looking likely that the Brazilian and Mexican grand prix might be up for switching calendar dates, though everything is up in the air considering one of the calendar considerations could result in running two races at COTA in Austin, Texas.
Today F1 issued a statement saying that Suzuka is off the calendar for 2021 per the Japanese government. “Following ongoing discussions with the promoter and authorities in Japan the decision has been taken by the Japanese government to cancel the race this season due to ongoing complexities of the pandemic in the country."
“Formula 1 is now working on the details of the revised calendar and will announce the final details in the coming weeks. F1 has proven this year, and in 2020, that we can adapt and find solutions to the ongoing uncertainties and is excited by the level of interest in locations to host Formula 1 events this year and beyond.”
Although the Olympics and Paralympics have run in Japan, motorsport has consistently proven an issue with foreign Super Formula drivers Sacha Fenestraz and Tatiana Caldéron repeatedly blocked from being able to race there over the past two seasons, and returning Japanese drivers excluded after participating in WEC rounds.
Honda is understandably bummed to be missing what would've been its final home grand prix, leaving F1 for the fourth time at the end of this season. But there are problems for everyone as the calendar gets more and more haywire, making it really hard to plan the world's most technologically complicated, strategically nightmarish championship if you don't know how long it's going to be or where it's going to take place.
F1 only lets teams use three of the majority of power unit components over the course of a season. Christian Horner's been vocal about Red Bull losing power units to crashes because the penalties for a replacement in excess of that allocation are massive. Everyone remembers Fernando Alonso starting 105 grid places back during Honda's uh, less reliable era, right?
It's not even just the flyaway rounds that are currently troubling F1, but team sources have told me that Zandvoort has failed to issue guest pass allocations yet—although the Dutch Grand Prix is just weeks away—because of concerns over COVID restrictions. Just today, Dutch authorities announced the event (sold out to full capacity) would run with two-thirds of attendees, canceling some fans' tickets to understandably a pretty major outcry.
Teams now face the difficult challenge of trying to work out an incredibly intense, very close title fight that no one quite knows when it'll actually end.
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