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Formula 1

Saturday F1 races aren’t as uncommon as you might think

by Edd Straw
4 min read

Formula 1’s return to Las Vegas in 2023 will be the first time a full world championship grand prix race has been held on a day other than a Sunday in 38 years.

The Las Vegas race will be held on Saturday night local time, which means a very early Sunday television broadcast time in Europe given the time difference to Nevada.

This means the Las Vegas Grand Prix will be the first world championship race to be held on a Saturday since the 1985 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. That makes Williams driver Nigel Mansell the last driver to win a full points race on anything other than a Sunday, given the three Saturday sprints held in 2021 weren’t considered fully-fledged F1 races.

Nigel Mansell Story

Sundays have long been a traditional day for staging grands prix, although for the first 35 years of the world championship it wasn’t unusual for there to be deviation from this. That changed with increasing commercialisation of F1, with the value of the appointment-to-view of Sunday races and the desire to maximise crowd on-site for the qualifying and race days by staging them on weekends becoming the usual pattern.

Even with the addition of races in the Middle East to the calendar in countries such as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which have a Friday/Saturday weekend, the usual pattern wasn’t deviated from for nearly four decades.

Las Vegas bucks that trend and will become only the 74th world championship race to be held on a day other than Sunday. This is out of a total of 1059 points-paying races, meaning 93% have been held on Sundays.

World championship races have been held on every single day of the week throughout history. The 11 anomalous points-paying Indianapolis 500 races of 1950-1960 were held on a wide range of days – Monday (1954, ’55, and ’60) Tuesday (1950), Wednesday (1951 and ‘56), Thursday (1957), Friday (1952 and ’58) and Saturday (1953 and ’59) .

This is because the Indy 500 was held on Memorial Day itself – May 30 – through to 1970 – although when that fell on a Sunday, the race ran on Monday instead.

But that still leaves 63 ‘regular’ world championship events – ie genuine grands prix – that were not run on Saturdays.

In addition to the three Indy 500s, there have been six world championship grands prix held on Monday. The Dutch Grand Prix was held on Whit Monday in 1958, ’60 and ’61, while the 1972 Spanish Grand Prix was staged on the Labour Day public holiday on Monday May 1 in the hope of drawing a bigger crowd to Jarama.

The South African Grand Prix ran on Monday twice, in 1967 and ’68, while it also cropped up on a Friday in 1965. This was a consequence of the race being put back a week having held a late-December slot in 1963, not being held in ’64 as a result, hence the New Year’s Day running in ’65.

But most of the non-Sunday races – 58 of them to be precise – have been on Saturdays. This includes the very first world championship race at Silverstone in 1950.

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The British Grand Prix was held on a Saturday up until ’77, and then again in ’79, ’81 and, most recently, ’83. In total, 30 British Grands Prix were held on Saturdays in the world championship era – following the trend of the first two British GPs at Brooklands in 1926 and ’27, as well as the ’48 and ’49 races at Silverstone.

The South African Grand Prix was also held on a Saturday 18 times, with the Netherlands also holding two Saturday races (1969 and ’82). The Canadian (1969), the United States (1959) and Swedish (1978) Grands Prix were also staged on a Saturday. In the case of Sweden, this was to avoid a clash with the football World Cup as no matches were held on the Saturday, but there were games on the Sunday.

But Las Vegas can at least claim to be sticking with tradition, albeit a shortlived one, by hosting a Saturday race when it returns to the calendar.

The two Last Vegas races on the unloved circuit laid out largely in the car park of the Caesar’s Palace Hotel in 1981 and ’82 were both on Saturdays – albeit with the first edition starting early in the afternoon at 1:15pm rather than the night race planned for next year.

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