Teams and drivers are gearing up for what promises to be the most extensive season in Formula 1 history, with potentially 24 grands prix scheduled on the calendar. However, the 2024 season holds another unique aspect, as it kicks off with two races on Saturday: the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 2nd and the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on March 9th.
So, why this departure from the usual Sunday start for the 2024 F1 season? The answer lies in Ramadan, which commences on Sunday, March 10th – the original date for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
In light of Ramadan’s start, the Saudi race has been rescheduled to the previous Saturday night. Consequently, the Bahrain season opener has also been shifted a week earlier to maintain the mandatory one-week gap between races as per F1 regulations.
What’s the rundown for the Bahrain and Saudi Arabia GPs? Given the Saturday start, the entire weekend schedule has been adjusted accordingly.
Thursday hosts the two one-hour free practice sessions, while Friday sees the third free practice and qualifying sessions. Both races are then set for Saturday, making race day the focal point of the weekend.
Here’s the detailed schedule for both events:
Bahrain GP 2024 schedule:
- Thursday, February 29th: First free practice at 6:30 am ET, Second free practice at 10:00 am ET.
- Friday, March 1st: Third free practice at 7:30 am ET, Qualifying at 11:00 am ET.
- Saturday, March 2nd: Grand Prix at 10:00 am ET.
Saudi Arabian GP 2024 schedule:
- Thursday, March 7th: First free practice at 8:30 am ET, Second free practice at 12:00 pm ET.
- Friday, March 8th: Third free practice at 1:30 pm ET, Qualifying at 12:00 pm ET.
- Saturday, March 9th: Grand Prix at 12:00 pm ET.
Furthermore, the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grand Prix aren’t the only Saturday races in 2024. The Las Vegas Grand Prix on November 24th is also scheduled for a Saturday. This decision is primarily influenced by the significant time difference with Europe.
With the race taking place at 10:00 pm local time, a Sunday race would begin at 6:00 am UK time, potentially causing a dip in viewership due to people preparing for work. Hence, moving the race to Saturday allows for broader viewership worldwide.
As for F1 history, while it’s not a frequent occurrence, races on days other than Sunday aren’t entirely unheard of. Out of 75 instances, the most recent deviation was the Las Vegas GP in 2023. Prior to that, the last Saturday race was 38 years ago at the 1985 South African GP.