F1 can still manage to complete a 17 or 18-race season this year despite the delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to managing director Ross Brawn.
As with sporting events and series across the globe, coronavirus has halted F1’s season. The Australian Grand Prix was supposed to be held on March 15 but was cancelled after a McLaren team member contracted coronavirus — the following three races in Bahrain, Vietnam and China have been postponed.
The next scheduled races are the Netherlands-Spain double header at the start of May, but both look doubtful, as does the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of the month. June’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix looks like a logical starting point, albeit depending on the coronavirus situation by then.
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The 2020 season was supposed to feature a record 22 events spread throughout the year. The congested nature of the season already prompted questions about where F1 would find space to reorganise the Chinese Grand Prix, but Brawn is confident there is enough space to salvage most of the year as planned.
“I’m pretty optimistic that we can have a good 17-18 race championship or more,” Brawn told Sky Sports. “I think we can squeeze them in. But it depends on when the season will start.”
Usually F1 seasons are broken up by a four-week summer break — two of which are a mandatory shutdown for teams at their factories. This shutdown period looks likely to be brought forward to reflect the new nature of the 2020 season, with August used to make up for lost time.
“Maybe we take a hiatus, we take a pause — and then we use that opportunity to say right, for this time at the beginning of the year we won’t have any races, we’ll look at relocating those races later in the year,” Brawn added.
“I think by freeing up the August break, we give ourselves several weekends where we can have a race. And I think we can build a pretty decent calendar for the rest of the year.
F1 managing director Ross Brawn is confident that there can be an 18-race season despite the delays caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
“It will look different, but it will still preserve a good number of races, and they’re exciting races. So the season’s going to start later, but I think it will be just as entertaining.”
That might prompt fears of a crammed schedule in the second half of the year. Brawn says F1 will have to consider condensing the race weekend format to ease the burden on teams, especially if F1 finds itself in situations where it hosts three races on three consecutive weekends.
He said: “One thing we have been talking about is two-day weekends, and therefore if we have a triple header with two-day weekends, that could be an option. I think what we need from the teams this year is flexibility, I think they’ve got to give some scope to do these things. Because we are in very unusual circumstances, and we’ve got to make sure we’ve got a season that gives a good economic opportunity for the teams.
“For sure we’re going to have a quiet start. I’m sure the teams will be flexible to allow us to fit those things in.”