When I first got into F1, Australia was always the opener. It was one of the most fun weekends of the year. I would burn the midnight oil to stay awake for the late-night start, and it was always worth it.
Now though it is race three as the calendar, and the dynamics, of Formula 1 have changed massively over the last few years.
One of the conversations I saw pop up throughout the fallout from the Saudi weekend centered around what the future of the sport will look like. There was a lot of discussion about the rise of races in west Asia and in America.
By 2024, the two regions will have seven races on the calendar (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Austin, Miami, Las Vegas). That’ll be roughly a third of the schedule. The fear of many is that the grand old tracks in Europe will fade away and become only memories.
The sport will continue on like it has for almost 75 years. Will it lose its soul though?
But for that matter, what even is the soul of a sport? Does it have one? Intrinsically, no, at least I don’t think so. Racing has always been part research/development and part money-making operation, just like everything else in our wonderful corporate landscape.
The sport does have meaning though, and what it means to me will be different from you or your neighbor. For me, F1 is a glamorous global circus exhibited at almost 220 mph. I love how over the top it is and how ridiculous the people are that live inside the F1 bubble.
And, at least for me, F1 will still be F1 even as tracks fall away. Germany is gone. France may go soon and has been gone before in the recent past (RIP Magny-Cours). But the sport abides and finds ways to thrive.
As an American, I’m thrilled that the sport finally has some type of fanbase in the country. I remember my teenage years, when NASCAR got super popular, and friends would just stare at me blankly when I would try talking to them about Formula 1.
But now F1 is hot in the streets and continuing to grow in the country. To me it parallels the rise the UFC saw in the early 2000s. Sure, it eventually cooled off, but when it did it stabilized in a far more popular place than it was initially.
Is that F1 giving up its soul for the money? I see F1 as one of the ultimate forms of theater, and the combo of art & commerce tends to end poorly for the art. Hopefully, at least, the races won’t get too gimmicky because the product on track is as good a spectacle as anything in sports.
I love how accessible it is. A NASCAR race is going to be 3-4 hours, but a grand prix is two hours at most and usually less. I can closely follow the season without having to devote dozens of weekend days churning through laps as a fan to watch it.
That still begs the question of what is the soul of F1, and what is lost as it continues to evolve? Is anything lost? The coolest music tends to be what we attached ourselves to between the ages of 10-25. Could the F1 fanbase be feeling the same kind of way?
I don’t want to see tracks like Silverstone or Spa disappear. Since I got into F1 Spa has always meant the unofficial end to summer. Hearing Sam Posey wax poetic about the cars snaking through the Ardennes ahead of SPEED TV’s broadcasts were some of the formative moments of my F1 fandom when I found the sport as a teenager.
Something would certainly be lost if the grand old tracks of the sport fade to the past or become sporadic events.
However, the sport would still find a way to thrive, and I’m excited to follow along. With the new cars this year, and the new engines in 2026, I feel that one of the wildest decades in the history of the sport awaits us.
Thanks for reading. It may not actually be the world’s best F1 blog, but I think it’s pretty ok. Here’s one for the road.