A historic change is on the horizon for Formula One’s jewel in the crown, with the Monaco Grand Prix format set to be cut to three days next season.
Traditions held since the first official championship in 1950 have dictated that practice sessions in Monaco are held on Thursday, leaving the typical practice day of Friday free for festivities in line with a Christian holiday and extending the overall format to four days.
However, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has exclusively told CNN Sport that Monaco’s schedule for the 2022 calendar will be shortened to the conventional three day format.
“Monaco will be in three days, straight away,” Domenicali told Amanda Davies.
“So Friday, Saturday and Sunday instead of Thursday, hold, and then Saturday and Sunday. That’s the change we’re going to introduce next year,” Domenicali added.
Monaco’s unique tradition of a four-day schedule has added to its aura as one of the flagship races on the F1 calendar, complementing the narrow street-circuit’s glamorous reputation and scenic setting, as well as the Grand Prix’s prestigious history.
Originally in place to observe the Christian holiday of Ascension Day, a bank holiday in the principality, the pausing of the race program for Friday has traditionally opened the day up for off-track festivities and parties – a unique occasion amplified by a typically bustling celebrity presence.
In a statement to CNN, Richard Micoud – the Communications and Media Manager of the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM), organizers of the Monaco GP – said, “It [Monaco GP 2022] will be a 3-day event for F1 and a 4-day event for ACM. The Thursday will be dedicate [sic] to support races. Our organization is actually working on the 4-day timing who will be available soon on our website.”
Domenicali’s revelation regarding Monaco is set to be one of the central discussion points in relation to the 2022 calendar, which the CEO said would be announced at the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris on October 15th.
Domenicali, who took over from former F1 CEO Chase Carey ahead of the current season, said that the plan was to have 23 races in 2022 – assuring France was among the hosts – but did not confirm reports suggesting South Africa is to return to the schedule via the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit.
“We received interest from Kyalami to be back in the calendar,” Domenicali said.
“Of course, we have discussed with them in order to see if they are ready from the technical perspective, the financial perspective, to be inserted in the calendar, so discussions are there.
“We have received other requests from other countries in Africa … in this moment, I need to keep it confidential,” Domenicali added.
In December, the Jeddah Street Circuit will host Saudi Arabia’s inaugural F1 race, though the landmark occasion approaches amidst allegations of human rights abuses and ‘sportswashing’ – a phenomenon whereby corrupt or autocratic regimes invest in sports events to whitewash their international reputation.
Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, president of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), told CNN in September that F1 “would never have agreed to come” if they had concerns over the impact of the country hosting a race on the organization’s “reputation.”
In response to questions regarding Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues, Domenicali said he believed F1 could serve as a “facilitator” for change.
“The beauty of the sport is that we need to talk about sport. In our culture, the human rights are crucial and important to be followed,” Domenicali said.
“We believe that with Formula One in the country, there’s no scope or space not to think the truth. We are going to be facilitators, to anticipate the change that maybe in a different situation would have taken a longer time.
“On the other side, we cannot expect to switch in a blink of an eye, a change of a millennium, thousands of years of culture in something.
“I don’t want to be political, but I think that that’s the beauty of the sport to make sure that they can really prove that they [Saudi Arabia] really want to change,” Domenicali added.
Having led Ferrari as team principal from 2008 until his resignation in 2014, Domenicali has seen his former employers fall behind the leading pack in the 2021 season, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes locked in a tense battle for the World Championship.
Verstappen holds a five point lead over seven-time champion Hamilton heading into this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, the pair’s first race since a dramatic Italian Grand Prix at Monza that saw the two rivals collide.
The crash, which saw Verstappen’s car land on top of the Brit’s, ruled both drivers out of the remainder of the contest, with Hamilton telling reporters after the race that he felt “fortunate to be alive.”
Content to now be taking a rear view seat for proceedings, Domenicali believes the rivalry can only be a good thing for the sport.
“You know what is beautiful because you don’t feel the pressure that I’m sure that both Lewis and Max have a feeling behind the visor and also Toto [Wolff] and Christian [Horner], when they’re acting as team principal,” Domenicali said.
“It is great because they are putting on a great show for the people. The limit is getting higher and higher. And the more we go up to the end of the season … there’s a sporting fight at the maximum intensity, not only for them, but also for the team.
“The situation that happened in Monza was related to the fact that both were in a position where if everything was perfectly done, it was not there. So everyone is pushed up to the limit. It would be interesting to see, hopefully, up to the last race.
“The good thing is that every time they would be close, everyone will try to think what the others are thinking: ‘Who is stronger? Do I need to give up or not?’ That’s incredible in terms of tension,” Domenicali said.
On the decision of the race stewards to give Verstappen a three-place grid penalty due to his part in the crash, Domenicali said it was “important to respect the role of the steward.”