Formula One’s governing body FIA has released its schedule for 2018, marking the return of the French and German Grand Prix, but with races in China and Singapore running the risk of being cancelled, according to reports.
The schedule includes 21 events, starting again in Melbourne on March 25 and culminating in Abu Dhabi on November 25, as in the past few seasons.
The Malaysian Grand Prix has been dropped, following a decision by the Malaysian government, but the Formula One circuit will return to France on June 24 for the first time since 2008. The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim will also make a comeback after a one-year absence, slotted in between Silverstone and Budapest on July 22.
The races in Shanghai and Singapore – slated for April 8 and September 16 – are meanwhile “pending confirmation by commercial rights holders,” according to Xinhua News Agency, prompting some talk that China could be giving up its prestige motor racing project.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates with champagne after winning the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, China on April 9, 2017. /VCG Photo
Shanghai first welcomed the F1 cavalry in 2004 and the Chinese Grand Prix has been held every year since.
As early as 2008 however, China was considering ditching the loss-making event. Still, the initial seven-year contract was extended in 2010 despite poor attendance. That deal ends this season.
While the Shanghai Grand Prix may be at risk, it seems China could be considering a different type of involvement in Formula One.
Rumors have been swirling about a China-backed team entering the fold next season for the first time, bringing the number of teams back up to 11. Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport magazine quoted Red Bull chief Christian Horner saying, "Some of our people were asked if they would be interested in working for a new team."
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of Canadian Grand Prix, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on June 11, 2017. /VCG Photo
Formula One's new motor sport managing director Ross Brawn said he was also asked about conditions for newcomers joining the circuit.
According to reports, the new team would get funding from China but be based in the UK and also include elements from the now-defunct Manor stable.
Whether it can be assembled by next season and get all its paperwork in on time, or whether it will have to wait an extra year, remains to be seen.
A Chinese team already competes in the Formula E Championship: Techeetah, owned by SECA-China Media Capital, joined the electric-powered version of Formula One this year, with former F1 drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Esteban Gutierrez on its roster. It is currently fifth out of 10 teams in the table.