It’s been nearly two weeks since Formula One announced its plans to continue the 2020 season with a new schedule and no fans in the stands. Now the series has detailed some more of its plans to maintain social distance and they’ll significantly change the spectator experience. Even if you’re home on the couch.
In an interview posted on the official Formula One website, series managing director Ross Brawn laid out plans for drastically changing the dynamic on the starting grid before races and totally doing away with podium celebrations, all in the name of preventing close contact that could result in viral transmission.
Though the plans remain unfinalized, Brawn made clear that the trophy presentation format must be changed. One possible solution could be having drivers line up and stand by their cars in finishing order, though Brawn acknowledges that making the ceremony work for television has complicated this idea.
The other major change will be before races, where the starting grid will have to change significantly as well. In years prior, the starting grid wasn’t just for getting cars ready to race. The grid is where motorsports journalists, drivers old and new, engineers, and other racing stakeholders come together to hype each other up for the race and talk a little shop before everything gets started. Also, there were Grid Girls until Formula One finally decided to take legitimate criticism seriously and do away with the notoriously sexist practice.
Is it a little self-indulgent for some of society’s more self-absorbed characters? Sure. But it’s also a great way for newer fans of Formula One to get to know all of the personalities that make a race happen.
I love watching the grid show because it gives me a chance to fill gaps in my knowledge and understand the ecosystem in which Formula One operates. The personas on the grid are larger than life and they add a lot to what can appear to be a cold, technology-driven racing series.
The plan for 2020 is intended to be temporary. I hope it. stays that way. I can live without podium celebrations, especially when there are no spectators to enjoy them live. But the grid? That’s crucial.