Formula 1 Correspondent
11:52 AM 23rd January 2024
Madrid To Join The F1 Calendar
It has been officially revealed today that, after being mooted for several years, the Spanish capital city, Madrid, will, with effect from 2026, join the Formula 1 calendar with a new track close to its Barajas international airport, the IFEMA exhibition centre, and the Real Madrid football team’s Valdebebas training complex. The contract between F1 and the city will last for ten years.
The Madrid race will be held on an all-new circuit
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has hosted the Spanish Grand Prix since 1991 and has a current F1 contract, which is set to expire after the 2026 race. It’s understood that discussions are ongoing with representatives of the Barcelona event about its future, and it’s possible that Spain could hold two Grands Prix that year before reverting to just Madrid with effect from 2027. There is a precedent for this, as Spain held races in both Barcelona and Valencia between 2008 and 2012 before the latter was dropped from the calendar, and of course, the USA currently hosts three Grands Prix in Miami, Texas, and Las Vegas, and a couple take place in Italy at Emilia Romagna and Monza.
Spain has two high-profile drivers in the form of double champion Fernando Alonso, who competes for the Aston Martin team, and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the President of the Community of Madrid, understandably feels that the future of her own city is her key task, even if at the expense of Barcelona, and the F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has enthused about this new development:
Madrid is an incredible city with an amazing sporting and cultural heritage, and today’s announcement begins an exciting new chapter for F1 in Spain.
Being the home of a Formula 1 round is a highly sought-after, if usually expensive, honour, which many countries and cities around the world vie for, as, in addition to the associated prestige and publicity, the arrival of F1 provides a massive financial boost to so many sectors of the local economy. Formula 1 last visited Madrid back in 1981 when it raced at the nearby Circuito del Jarama in San Sebastián de los Reyes.
(L-R) Mercedes’ James Allison and Toto Wolff
In other news, Austria’s Toto Wolff has signed a new three-year deal to continue until 2026 as the team principal of the Mercedes F1 operation, which is jointly owned by Wolff himself, Mercedes-Benz, and Sir Jim Ratcliffe. Also, its experienced technical director, James Allison, who joined the outfit back in 2017, has committed his future to the Brackley-based squad after signing a long-term contract extension. The team hopes that these signings will help lead them back to title-winning ways after two difficult seasons dominated by its biggest rival, Red Bull.
Over in the resurgent McLaren camp, its UK-based American CEO, Zak Brown, has made it clear that one of his highest priorities is to try to retain the services of its very gifted and highly likeable 24-year-old British driver, Lando Norris, who is only contracted to the team until the end of the 2025 season. He and Australian Oscar Piastri are arguably the best driver combination on the current grid. The latter is about to start only his second season in F1 and has already signed a long-term contract with the Woking-based team, but Milton Keynes-based Red Bull has already made it abundantly clear that the team would be very interested in signing Norris to drive alongside his close friend Max Verstappen. Time will tell on this front, but Norris clearly has a bright and very well-remunerated future ahead of him.
Lando Norris is very much in demand
Formula 1 currently has ten teams, and, for the first time in its long history, all driver pairings will remain the same for 2024 as at the end of last year, at least to start with. The individual new car launches are set to begin with Williams and Sauber on 5 February, with the remaining eight to follow before the official pre-season three-day test in Bahrain from 21-23 February. The opening Grand Prix of the new campaign will take place at the same venue on Saturday 2 March.