Formula 1 calendar shrinks in World Cup clash, axed driver goes off-road — F1 Pit Talk

The Spanish Grand Prix is upon us, the sixth round of a 23-race calendar. Actually, make that 22 rounds. Formula 1 has been hellbent on growing the calendar, and this year it was set to crack a record-breaking 23 grands prix in a tight 36 weeks to avoid clashing with the start of the World Cup.

Watch every practice, qualifying and race of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship(TM) live on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14 days free now >
But Russia's invasion of Ukraine and F1's swift action to withdraw from the country put it in a quandary to keep to its 23 target, which it's ultimately resolved in the negative -- in what management might describe as a loss but several in the sport will likely consider a small victory for workloads.

F1 SCRAPS PLANS TO REPLACE RUSSIA, CALENDAR SHRINKS Formula 1 confirmed overnight that it won't replace the cancelled Russian Grand Prix on the 2022 calendar, reducing the schedule to a record-equalling 22 rounds, down from 23. The Russian Grand Prix in Sochi was called off one day after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, and F1 subsequently tore up its lucrative contract with the race promoter, ensuring "Russia will not have a race in the future", as per the statement.

The deal had four more year to run. Formula 1 has been deadset about maintaining what would have been a record 23 grands prix, but the cancelled race was the first of an ambitious triple-header travelling from Russia to Singapore to Japan, and the need for a replacement to be on the same weekend, 23-25 September, proved limiting. Qatar was an early frontrunner.

The Middle Eastern nation has a 10-year contract starting next year but isn't on this year's schedule to enable it to prepare to host the FIFA World Cup. September was theoretically early enough to avoid the build-up to the first kick-off on 21 November, but the weather is on average 10 degrees hotter in September compared to November, when it hosted its first race last year, which made it a non-starter.

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty ImagesPhoto by Dan Istitene/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Singapore then emerged as a possibility to host a double-header round, with the first race perhaps taking place in the afternoon before its traditional night race the following weekend, but plans more recently fell through, with financial considerations understood to be the sticking point, particularly given the temporary street circuit would need to be stood up a week earlier. And a race in Europe wasn't an option for logistics reasons.

F1 teams essentially have two different freight set-ups -- one that can travel by truck for European races and another configured for air cargo for overseas events. A race in Europe would have forced teams to pack down on Sunday night, truck their gear back to their factories, unpack their gear from the truck and repack it into airfreight containers, transfer to the airport and arrive in Singapore in the space of about a day. Instead the decision was made to leave the weekend blank, creating a two-weekend break between the end of the European season and the start of what could be the title-deciding six-race overseas leg in Asia, the Americas and Abu Dhabi.

The decision will come as a welcome relief for travelling staff, who were facing a gruelling schedule of 13 race in 10 weeks across seven different time zones and for whom burnout will become a major issue by November.

Brundle's hilariously awkward grid walk | 01:24

AXED F1 DRIVER MAZEPIN TO MAKE OFF-ROAD DEBUT Sticking with the Russian theme, ex-Formula 1 driver Nikita Mazepin will get back behind the wheel later this year in the Silk Way Rally, an off-road rally raid-style event. According to The Race, Mazepin will enter the multidisciplinary event in the car category in an all-terrain side-side-by side vehicle in the T4 class.

Mazepin has reportedly been training with Russian Dakar class winner Sergey Karyakin, though one might uncharitably opine that Mazepin had plenty of off-road experience over the course of his year in Formula 1. Mazepin had his F1 contract terminated before the 2022 started when his former Haas team tore up its contract with then title sponsor Uralkali in light of the war in Ukraine. Uralkali, part owned by Mazepin's father, Dmitry, has funded Nikita's racing career, and the Mazepin family was subsequently pinged by European sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs.

Mazepin has railed against his axing as being a form of "cancel culture". MORE MOTORSPORT SPANISH GP PREIVEW: The mystery that could turn F1 title race and Ricciardo's slice of history

DUCATI'S DILEMMA: How the battle over Jack Miller's MotoGP seat turned personal PIASTRI PROSPECT: F1 team finally puts timeline on Aussie hopeful's future Russian athletes are allowed to compete in FIA-sanctioned events providing they do so under a neutral flag and sign a "commitment and adherence to the FIA's principles of peace and political neutrality".

Mazepin has refused to say whether he would make such an undertaking to continue racing in Europe.

But the Silk Way Rally, ordinarily held through Central and East Asia but this year run exclusively in Russia, will not subject competitors to any such commitment given it's not an FIA-sanctioned event.

The Silk Way Rally was formerly part of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies, but this year it was dropped from the program when the series became a joint endeavour between the car and motorcycling governing bodies to form the World Rally-Raid Championship, which opened with the renowned Dakar Rally in January.