Many sporting fixtures around the world have been either postponed or canceled as a result of the measures put in place to restrict the spread of COVID-19. Tennis has seen the annual Wimbledon event canceled, Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics have been pushed back to 2021, and as we know, Formula 1 is in a state of flux as to when the season will restart.
The current conversation is centering on which section of 2020 will see the first race. April 7 saw confirmation that the Canadian GP was postponed, meaning it’s likely, in real terms, to see the schedule run through from late 2020 into 2021. Postponing the round in Montreal means nine races, to date, have been canceled or pushed back, and that’s nearly half of a normal season.
F1 supremo Ross Brawn appears to confirm that any restart will be in Europe, the category’s largest audience and will likely be raced “behind closed doors.” This infers that all teams would be in an isolation environment before what would be the first rescheduled event and that, whichever circuit is chosen, no people other than the race team and officials would be permitted to attend. However, the payoff is that a TV audience would potentially be bigger as a result.
“We’re looking at the organizational structure which would give us the earliest start,” said Brawn in an interview with Sky Sports. “But also the ability to maintain that start. There’s no point having a start and then stopping again for a while. It’s most likely to be in Europe. It’s conceivable that it could be a closed event.”
A likely schedule obviously depends on “the flattening of the curve.” Brawn hints at a possible 18 or 19-race season if started in July, but also appears to say the absolute latest would be October with a drastically reduced schedule of eight races. “Eight races is the minimum we can have a world championship, according to the FIA Statutes,” said Brawn. “We could achieve eight races by starting in October. So if you wanted a drop-dead point it would be October.” By running a series through the northern hemisphere in winter, it also opens up the possibility of visiting circuits in the southern hemisphere’s summer and racing at night, such as that seen at Singapore.
Another change to the schedule would be to compress a weekend by one third, meaning a two-day race event, not three. Naturally, says Brawn, “For instance, China looks like it will probably be a two-day race if we go ahead with it because to get there and get away to the next event we are planning, it could easily be a two-day race.”
In order to assist the category and some teams, measures have been implemented to assist the lesser financially viable and this has come from drivers and staff taking pay cuts, in one area. Extended holidays have been given in order to reduce a daily payday workload.
However, in a team-wide and F1 & FIA teleconference discussion, a cap of $175 million has been put in place for the 2021 season. Some reports have come out saying quite a few teams and the F1 organization itself had hoped to see this a lower dollar figure. “It was higher than we wanted but that was the equilibrium we could find with all the teams,” Brawn later confirmed. “I won’t pretend that was ideal, it was not what we wanted but that was where it was.”
He’s also said that he believes the current global situation should be an inspiration for groups such as Formula 1 to look at their current work methods, the cost structure and look at how what is happening now can spark and influence the way business is conducted, and he feels it can only be of benefit for the way F1 works. “We all have to re-adjust to these new levels. It’s going to be painful, but the sport is going to have a future. I think we will come out of it in a much stronger place once we get through this.”