Formula One has brought forward its mandatory summer shutdown and extended it from two weeks to three as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The shutdown is usually enforced in August and requires teams to bring a halt to work at their factories for a period of 14 consecutive days during a three-week window. The idea is to give team members at least two weeks off to spend with their families during school summer holidays while ensuring no team gains an advantage by continuing to work in the background.
However, the current hiatus in racing caused by the coronavirus pandemic means the August break could become a fertile period for rescheduling postponed races. What’s more, a countrywide government-enforced shutdown in Italy means Ferrari and Alpha Tauri have already stopped work at their factories and a similar policy is likely to follow from the U.K. government, affecting seven of F1’s 10 teams.
By bringing F1’s regulatory shutdown forward and extending it to three consecutive weeks at any point during March and April, F1 is attempting to adapt to the challenges presented by the coronavirus while simultaneously planning for the greatest amount of flexibility in rescheduling races. Because the new shutdown period requires a change to Article 21.8 of the sporting regulations for this year, it also required the unanimous support of all F1 teams.
Within 30 minutes of the news being confirmed, Red Bull announced its plans for the new shutdown.
“As a team we currently plan to shutdown on 27th March for a three week period, however due to the ever changing nature of the pandemic there may be some flexibility around these dates,” the Red Bull statement said. “Whilst we would all love to return to racing, the severity of this global pandemic is changing by the hour and the impact transcends our sport.
“We therefore agree with the measures being taken to reduce the risk of transmission and will support any further race postponements that are deemed necessary.”
The first four races of the original 2020 calendar have already been postponed, with an announcement of further postponements for the Dutch, Spanish and Monaco Grands Prix expected in the coming days. F1 released a statement last week saying it hoped to start the new season in late May, but internally the sport is now looking to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in early June as a best-case scenario for the season opener.
However, a revised calendar is not expected for another three to four weeks as the situation continues to be dictated by the global spread of the virus, making long-term planning incredibly difficult. Flexibility will also be required from teams and race promoters in order to fit postponed races back into the calendar at later dates, meaning F1 will have to negotiate with both to ensure as many races go ahead as possible.
The Dutch Grand Prix is likely to be a candidate for a rescheduled date in the original summer break due to its proximity to Spa-Francorchamps where the summer break was due to end on August 25. Spain is less likely to return in 2020 as it was on a one-year contract that can be more easily deferred by a year to 2021.
The long set-up period for the Monaco Grand Prix and the fact it does not pay a race sanctioning fee to Formula One means it is likely to fall to the bottom of the pile with Australia if it does not go ahead on its original date.
One plan to further increase flexibility in the calendar is to move the season finale in Abu Dhabi two weeks later to December 13 to open up dates for rescheduled races at the end of the year.