Lewis Hamilton led his Mercedes to a win in the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday over Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and is just eight points behind his rival as they head to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to complete the tightest championship battle in years.
But in a year when F1 has enjoyed historic success in North America and Europe, it is a shame to see the winners of the Driver’s and Manufacturer’s Trophies deciding on the less traditional and accessible venues on the calendar.
SkyOne and digital video recording have made the early morning start times less of a problem in recent years, and these races will receive the attention they deserve no matter where they take place. But imagine the final battles of this legendary season at Imola, or Silverstone, or (and it will be a sacrilege for Eurocentric F1 purists) Austin or Miami.
In recent years, Formula 1 executives and the teams themselves have shown themselves to be open to new ideas such as sprint qualifying, last minute schedule changes and even a black driver. It’s time for them to become more open-minded about the proper way to end a season.
And yes, F1 still wants to position itself as the sport of the elites; Part of the success of this year’s United States Grand Prix has been the presence of celebrities like Megan Thee Stallion and Serena Williams, who are perhaps the closest thing to American royalty.
I’m not suggesting that they stop racing in Monaco or Yas Marina, but the sport has a lot more room for improvement among people who can afford to see a race at Monza or Spa. And holding the season’s closing races on one of Europe’s legendary tracks could add new meaning and prestige to one of F1’s old races.
But while rain can be a good equalizer every now and then throughout the calendar, we want the Championship to be decided by merit, not the weather – which is why the NFL plays the Super Bowl exclusively in locations. or winter domes in good weather – and most of Europe is not very welcoming to run this late in the year.
Enter the United States. The Middle East regional races take place at night and could easily be shifted by a month and swapped with the three North American late season races (US, Mexico and Brazil).
All three locations are still temperate until the end of November, and all three tracks offered thrilling races, even for the current generation of six-foot-wide cars that can’t stay on the track in dirty air.
Come on, Liberty. Close your eyes and imagine Verstappen, Russell, LeClerc and Norris with me, all within 15 points of entering the 2023 United States Grand Prix in mid-December, hurtling down the long main straight on the last lap, separated by just a few seconds, while Beyonce and Barack Obama cheer on the two new black F1 drivers.
I said it was a dream.