The 2020 Formula One season schedule originally had a massive 22 race weekends on the board, but nine of those have already been cancelled or postponed (and a tenth, the French Grand Prix, on deck). As the motorsport community continues to spiral in the wake of the covid-19 international crisis, the series managing director Ross Brawn has set a “drop dead point” for running a season almost by default.
That date is important, because it’s basically Brawn punting until the last possible moment. In order for a championship season to be official in the eyes of the FIA, it has to host at least eight events. If the series can’t begin operating Grands Prix by the beginning of October, there simply won’t be enough time in the year left to fit eight rounds.
Brawn remains hopeful that the season can begin in July, likely without any spectators allowed in the gates. If this does happen, the series believes up to 19 Grands Prix can still be held in 2020.
Expounding on this idea to Sky Sports, Brawn continued, “If we were able to start at the beginning of July we could do a 19-race season. (It would be) tough – three races on, one weekend off, three races on, one weekend off. We have looked at all the logistics, and we think we can hold an 18-19 race season if we can get started at the beginning of July. The choice is between those two numbers.”
In order to allow teams the time needed to travel between three consecutive race weekends, Brawn is considering condensing race weekends to a Saturday-Sunday affair, which is a GREAT idea.
“Travel for the teams and travel for everyone involved is going to be one of the big issues,” he said. “You could argue once we get there we could become fairly self-contained.
“Our view is probably a European start will be favorable and that could even be a closed event. We could have a very enclosed environment, where teams come in on charters, we channel them into the circuit, we make sure everyone is tested, cleared and that there is no risk to anyone.
“We have a race with no spectators. That’s not great, but it’s better than no racing at all. We have to remember there are millions of people who follow the sport sat at home. A lot of them are isolating and to be able to keep the sport alive and put on a sport and entertain people would be a huge bonus in this crisis we have. But we can’t put anyone at risk.
“We’re looking at the organizational structure which would give us the earliest start. 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.”
The thing to keep in mind here, however, is that those teams and drivers would still need to travel through a world ravaged by disease, and it’s unlikely that they would all be able to do that without coming into contact with someone carrying the disease. Even though the F1 paddock is largely insulated from the outside world, once the virus finds its way inside, it’ll spread like wildfire, just like it did at the Australian Grand Prix.
Also, unnecessary travel is discouraged for a reason. The drivers and teams would be driving or flying on roads that can and should be reserved for absolutely mandatory personnel.
And finally, if these privileged drivers and engineers and tire changers are going out to conduct a season of F1, it would undermine the idea of shelter-in-place for many people. If Lewis can swig champers on the podium, why can’t I go down to the pub for a pint with my mates? This will only make the issue worse.
Come on, Ross. I admire your optimism in the face of a crisis, but 2020 is over. As the great Bill Paxton once said, “Game over man, GAME OVER!”