European season still count as championship
Formula One motorsport director motorsport and technical Ross Brawn has announced that an eight-race season would count as a world championship, even if no further races can be run.
Usually, a world championship has to visit three continents, as prescribed by the FIA’s own International Sporting Code. According to the code, a world championship must “calendar must include Competitions taking place on at least three continents during the same season.”
However, the governing body the FIA has confirmed that in the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 crisis that requirement won’t have to be met. Brawn told Motorsport.com, “In theory, the eight European races will constitute a world championship.”
No races have been scheduled after Monza on September 6, and teams have been told that the only events outside Europe that are fairly solid are Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in December. Brawn admits that putting together a calendar outside of Europe has been a challenge.
Saying, “Two or three weeks ago, a month ago, it looked impossible. But now we’ve got a decent calendar put together. I think this situation changes on an almost daily basis. In the main, it’s getting better, but there are still some countries which are going through the worst.
Adding, “So we need to give them, time, to see how quickly they are able to recover. Mexico is one where they still want to have a race, but they are in the throes of the pandemic at the moment.” Brawn says there are various options, but he remains confident that a good season can happen.
One of the key topics is how much venues are willing to pay to host races potentially without income from spectators, but which still promote their cities or countries. However, Brawn declined to comment on which races he is most confident in.
Adding “There’s a whole range of things that need to be considered, and the financial aspect is part of it, both let’s say the holistic effect on F1, and the micro effect of how much it’s going to cost us and the teams to go and race there.”
He believes that it would be wrong to have written off 2020 because it would have put F1 in a much worse place than doing what we’re doing. Brawn says the priority is circuits already on the calendar were the priority but hasn’t ruled out one-off races at Imola and Hockenheim.
Saying “They are options, but they are not options we are pursuing at the moment. We’re just checking out what can be done. As any sensible party would do, we’re looking at what can be done on flyaway, what can be done within Europe.”
Positive test could force drivers to miss part of a weekend
Formula One motorsport director motorsport and technical Ross Brawn says drivers could be forced to miss part of a weekend if one of his mechanics tested positive for coronavirus when the season resumes, Ross Brawn says.
However, says the chances of a positive test were “very low” because of the health and safety protocols that have been set up. Speaking to BBC News, he said, “If somebody comes down with the symptoms, you’d have to deal with it straight away. We would have to isolate that group until they could all be tested.”
In a wide-ranging interview about how the season would begin while minimising the risk of spreading the coronavirus by re-starting its season, including extensive testing for everyone involved, medical support with every team, and an on-site test facility for rapid response.
Part of this plan is to create what Brawn calls “families and sub-families within teams” to limit contact between people as much as possible.
He told BBC News, “If we do get a positive case then we can isolate that case and people who have been in contact with that person very quickly,” Brawn said.
He added: “A group of mechanics working on a car, while they will be wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), it will be very difficult to socially distance.”
If then one tested positive in one of the groups, then we would have to isolate that group until they could all be tested. This could mean that drivers may need to miss a session as anyone within a test group would have to isolate until the results come through.
Mercedes confirm test for both drivers
Mercedes have announced both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will step up their preparations for Formula One’s return when they get behind the wheel of a Mercedes during a two-day test at Silverstone next week.
Bottas will drive the 2018 Mercedes W09 on Tuesday next week, with six-time world champion Hamilton in the car on Wednesday “as the team practises protocols ahead of returning to racing in Austria next month”.
While the regulations ban the testing of 2020 and 2019 cars ‘in season’, teams are allowed to run as much as they want with a two-year-old car. Drivers will be in for a “real shock” when F1 returns next month, after such a long period away from the wheel of motorsport’s fastest cars.
Hamilton and Max Verstappen are set to get racing again on July 5 in Austria when the delayed 2020 season starts, four months after testing and 217 days after the last F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton says that drivers would be “rusty as hell” once the sport returns, while soon-to-be Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz recently stated it would take him at least ten laps to find the limit of the car again.
Different compound at double headers
In another interview, Ross Brawn says that tyre compounds could vary at different double header races to liven up the second race. The 2020 calendar so far has eight races at six circuits in Europe, with second races at the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone and any other future twin events via reverse grid qualifying races.
However, any rule changes at this stage must receive unanimous support from the teams, and after Mercedes F1 CEO and team principal Toto Wolff objected to the idea, it was dropped. Asked about the reverse grid plan, Brawn said, “We looked at it last year, and we didn’t get support.”
“We thought that this coming season with the necessity to have some of the Grands Prix as second weekends at the same track it would be a perfect idea for the second race. So in Austria, Silverstone, and if there are any in the second half of the season, then we could do the same.”
These plans were ultimately blocked by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. Mercedes objection was because they would be giving their competitive advantage as they chase a seventh consecutive title, which Brawn understands.
TV companies remain keen for the second race not to be a carbon copy of the previous weekend. Brawn wants to find a way to add interest while not specifically disadvantaging certain competitors, and varying the tyre choice between races is one idea.
The problems with that are how to mix up the grid without taking away the competitive status of teams and creating a different second race. Also Friday practice on the second weekend to ensure teams run, and engaging fans.
Brawn added “It will be very small if it is, it will be something like tyre compounds or something of that sort, we’ll see whether there’s any scope to do something with it. If they have a different range of compounds available, they’ll do some work.
Russia prepared to hold a double header
Russian Grand Prix organisers say they are open to holding a double header of Formula One races this year to help fill out the calendar. Several European and Western Asian countries have put themselves forwards to host races this season.
Liberty Media still working on finalising the second part of the season has announced the first eight races earlier this week, Sochi has emerged as a candidate to host two Grand Prix’s. So far Hockenheim has put itself forwards for the German Grand Prix, Imola and Mugello for the San Marino Grand Prix.
While Sochi is considered ideal for the race, because of its location, airport distance and easy ability to isolate F1 staff from the outside world, could be the ideal place for F1 to hold back-to-back races. It could possibly see F1 use accommodation from the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The format being used for the Austrian and British Grands Prix, with the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone both due to hold double-headers. However, the country has had the largest outbreak of Coronavirus with 449,834 cases. A statement from the Russian GP promoters Rosgonki confirmed that discussions were ongoing with F1 bosses about the exact format of its plans for this year.
The spokesman told Motorsport.com: “Currently, we are working with colleagues from Formula One on various options for holding the Russian Grand Prix. This applies to both the format of the weekend and the number of races.”
“If necessary, we do not exclude the possibility of holding two rounds. Sochi has an excellent modern infrastructure that our partners appreciate. In terms of organisation, the Rosgonki team is ready for several racing weekends in Sochi.
Williams can be successful again
Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams has insisted the search for investment for the Formula One team should only be viewed as a positive, saying there was “no reason why Williams can’t be successful again.”
Last week it was announced that its F1 team was up for sale after a £13m loss in revenue for the company last year, as part of a ‘strategic review’ following disappointing seasons on the track. The decision marks a major change in direction, having been under family control since Sir Frank Williams founded the team in 1977.
But Williams, Frank’s daughter and the deputy team principal, is adamant it is the right thing to do. She told Sky Sports, “It’s funny – I’ve been getting so many emails of condolence. It’s much appreciated, but I’m looking at this in a positive perspective as this will ensure the future sustainability of our team.”
Adding, “Williams, the Williams family, has always been about that. We put our team first, and we put its success first. The investment that we’re looking for is going to help us achieve that.” Ms Williams says that the sale of the team should not be seen as anything other than a positive.
The team hasn’t won a championship in 1997 with Jacques Villeneuve, and have not won a race since 2012. It remains her ambition to lead the team back to the front of the sport, saying “I’ve always had a very clear ambition for Williams as deputy team principal and as part of the family.”
She admits the last few years were awful where the team felt an enormous amount of pain. Williams sees no reason why the team can’t be successful in the future, her ambition remains to lead the team back to the top of the sport.