Formula 1’s Longest Off-Seasons

Formula 1’s 2019-20 winter break was set to be the shortest in 38 years. Instead, it became the longest in 55 years. We take a look back at Formula 1’s longest – and shortest – off seasons.

At just 105 days, Formula 1’s 2019-2020 off-season looked set to be the shortest since just 98 days separated 1981’s season finale in Las Vegas and the first race of the 1982 season. The last Grand Prix was in Abu Dhabi on 1st December, 2019, and the 2020 Australian Grand Prix was scheduled to take place on 15th March – a gap of 105 days.

Had the 2020 Australian Grand Prix gone ahead as planned, this would have been the thirteenth shortest winter break in F1 history, coming in at 105 days – the same amount of time as there was between the 1978 season finale and the first race of 1979. The shortest ever winter break was between the 1959 and 1960 seasons, when the 1959 United States Grand Prix took place on 12th December and the 1960 Argentine Grand Prix took place on 7th February, a gap of only 57 days.

Instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the off-season between the last race of 2019 and the first race of 2020 has ended up at a mammoth 217 days – the third longest in F1 history. When racing resumes at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on 5th July, it is likely to be the longest gap which any driver on the grid has not driven a racing car for in the entirety of their careers.

The latest start to a Formula 1 season

This year will also mark the latest ever start to a Formula 1 season, beating the previous record of 27th May, the day on which the Swiss Grand Prix kicked off the year in 1951. Of course, things were much different back in the earlier days of F1, with non-championship races being a common occurrence. In 1951, for example, the BRDC International Trophy race was held at Silverstone before the start of the World Championship.

The ten latest starts to a Formula 1 season:

YearFirst RaceDate
2020🇦🇹 Austrian Grand PrixJuly 5th
1951🇨🇭 Swiss Grand PrixMay 27th
1963🇲🇨 Monaco Grand PrixMay 26th
1966🇲🇨 Monaco Grand PrixMay 22nd
1962🇳🇱 Dutch Grand PrixMay 20th
1952🇨🇭 Swiss Grand PrixMay 18th
1961🇲🇨 Monaco Grand PrixMay 14th
1950🇬🇧 British Grand PrixMay 13th
1964🇲🇨 Monaco Grand PrixMay 10th
1959🇦🇷 Argentine Grand PrixMay 10th

Which winter breaks were longer than in 2019-20?

It has been almost 50 years since a winter break lasted longer than the gap between the last race of 2019 and the first race of 2020. That was between the 1961 and 1962 seasons, when there were 224 days between races (or 32 weeks, compared to this year’s 31 weeks). The 1961 season ended with the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen on October 8th, and the 1962 season began at Zandvoort – the only time that the Dutch track has hosted the first race of a season – on May 20th. Between those two dates, however, there were twelve non-championship Formula 1 races and on the first day of the 1962 season, there was also the non-championship Naples Grand Prix.

The longest ever “winter break” came at the end of the sport’s inaugural season in 1950, when there were 266 days between the season-ending race and the first race of the 1951 season. Giuseppe Farina wrapped up the title at his home event, the Italian Grand Prix, on 3rd September and the 1951 campaign began with the Swiss Grand Prix on the 27th May. This 38 week gap was also scattered with ten non-championship events, including the Goodwood Trophy, the Pau Grand Prix and the BRDC International Trophy.

Header image: Pedrik, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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