Formula One wants to get back to racing sooner rather than later, and for some teams it might be a matter of survival that it does. Following the cancellation of the French Grand Prix earlier this month, that makes ten races that have been scrapped from the calendar, and it’s looking like an eleventh is in the offing.
Announced on Thursday, the country of Hungary is extending a ban on gatherings over 500 until at least the middle of August. The Hungarian Grand Prix, originally scheduled for August 2nd, would exceed that number even if the event was held without fans present.
Further, the Hungaroring was contractually obligated to have built a new race control and pit complex for this year’s race, but the construction work has been postponed as a result of the viral threat. It is unclear whether this construction could be completed in time for the August date in any case.
The calendar continues to look bleak for F1, as the original 22 race calendar has already been knocked back to half its strength and the coronavirus pandemic has not shown any sign of stopping. The first race up for 2020 looks like it may be the Austrian Grand Prix in early July. Austria has recently begun easing restrictions, allowing some shops to open and some residents out of their houses, but its borders remain closed to anyone until at least the end of May.
The British Grand Prix in mid-July is not yet in doubt, but The United Kingdom has been the fourth most affected country by the covid-19 virus with over 170,000 cases and nearly 27,000 dead. The country is still diagnosing over 4,000 new cases per day. In fact, on Thursday UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson placed new lockdown restrictions on the country, including giving police the authority to enforce these new rules. Nobody currently knows how long these new regulations will last.
If none of these three events come to pass, that puts Formula One dangerously close to an inability to hold the 8 grands prix it needs to be considered an FIA World Championship in 2020.
At this point I’ve lost any semblance of an ability to retain optimism for the 2020 Formula One season. Even if the season does start back up, it’ll be a shell of its former self. Is a partial season worth the potential spread of illness and loss of life? The answer can only be no.