F1 changes tack amid coronavirus crisis

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Lewis Hamilton is self-isolating after coming in contact with Idris Elba, who tested positive for Covid-19. Picture: Charles Coates / Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton is self-isolating after coming in contact with Idris Elba, who tested positive for Covid-19. Picture: Charles Coates / Getty Images

Formula One has been forced to rethink its season, but bosses are still optimistic the majority of the 2020 calendar can take place, despite the swiftly spreading Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The original schedule consisted of 22 races, beginning this month and ending in December. So far, eight races have been lost.

The season-opening round in Australia was called off just hours before it was due to begin.

This was swiftly followed by postponements of the Bahrain, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Netherlands and Spain races.

The Monaco Grand Prix was cancelled outright, marking the first season since 1954 without its presence, and the Chinese event was postponed in the early stages of the outbreak in China.

Despite the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, Formula One’s chief executive officer Chase Carey is confident the series can still contest a minimum of 15 rounds.

“We recognise that there is significant potential for additional postponements in currently scheduled events,” Carey said in an open letter to F1 fans. “Nevertheless, we and our partners fully expect the season to start at some point this summer, with a revised calendar of between 15 and 18 races.”

As it stands, the Canadian Grand Prix, originally the ninth round of the year, will become the opening round on June 14.

Despite the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, Formula One’s chief executive officer Chase Carey is confident the series can still contest a minimum of 15 rounds.

However, doubts have also been cast over that event’s viability.

To help open the calendar up, F1’s 10 teams and the International Automobile Federation (FIA) have unanimously agreed to move the series’ two-week summer break from August forward to March and April, and extend it to three weeks.

This now means the series can race through August, allowing postponed races to be slotted into the nearly month-long gap between the Hungarian and Belgian rounds.

The rules surrounding the traditional summer break also stipulate a mandatory factory shutdown to allow team members structured time off.

Bringing it forward also allows teams to comply with their respective countries’ lockdown procedures.

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton is currently self-isolating after coming into contact with actor Idris Elba shortly before he tested positive for Covid-19.

At the time, there was no lockdown in place in the UK. Hamilton has since come out strongly against those who are reluctant to self-isolate.

“There are people out there still going to clubs, bars and large gatherings, which I feel is totally irresponsible and selfish,” he posted on social media.

He also posted a video of himself washing his hands, and called on his fans to do likewise.

F1 was set to move to its new rule book next year, with new cars and sporting regulations.

Those changes have been shelved until 2022. A freeze on car design for next year means all 10 teams will run the same cars as this season to cut costs.

Some teams have responded to the UK government’s plea for businesses and organisations to offer their resources and facilities to help produce vital equipment needed to fight Covid-19, namely ventilators and protective clothing.

A collective of UK-based F1 teams, along with the UK government, is evaluating the feasibility of producing of such devices.

Read: Covid-19 leads to mass shutdown


If possible, the combined effort of the teams could provide a large quantity of the 30 000 new ventilators the National Health Service predicts it will need.

The changed DNA of this year’s season could lead series bosses to experiment with new formats to make up for lost races.

“The flexibility [of moving the summer break] offers an opportunity to evolve the sport, experiment and try new things,” Carey said.

“That may include initiatives such as expanding our e-sports platform and other creative ways to drive ongoing value for the ecosystem of our fantastic sport. Between F1, the teams and the FIA, we are planning and fully committed to returning to the track at the earliest opportunity.”


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