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.
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.
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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.
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…