F1 chief Ross Brawn says the 2020 season must start in July if there’s to be 19 races this year. Three Grands Prix have been wiped off the original 22-race schedule entirely, with a further six postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Canadian Grand Prix this week became the latest meet to fall victim, with the French Grand Prix on June 28 in danger of being axed too.
The Austrian Grand Prix on July 5 has emerged as the most likely starting point for Lewis Hamilton’s sixth World Drivers’ Championship title defence.
And Brawn says a 19-race season – the shortest since 2015 – could start that month with racing taking place behind closed doors to start with.
“Travel for the teams and travel for everyone involved is going to be one of the big issues,” Brawn told Sky Sports F1. “You could argue once we get there we could become fairly self-contained.
“Our view is probably a European start will be favourable and that could even be a closed event. We could have a very enclosed environment, where teams come in on charters, we channel them into the circuit, we make sure everyone is tested, cleared and that there is no risk to anyone.
“We have a race with no spectators. That’s not great, but it’s better than no racing at all. We have to remember there are millions of people who follow the sport sat at home. A lot of them are isolating and to be able to keep the sport alive and put on a sport and entertain people would be a huge bonus in this crisis we have. But we can’t put anyone at risk.
“We’re looking at the organisational structure which would give us the earliest start. But also the ability to maintain that start. There’s no point having a start and then stopping again for a while. It’s most likely to be in Europe. It’s conceivable that it could be a closed event.”
“Eight races is the minimum we can have a world championship, [according to] the FIA Statutes. We could achieve eight races by starting in October. So if you wanted a drop dead point it would be October.
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“But then there is always the possibility we could run into next year. That’s being explored. Can we stray into January to finish the season? There are all sorts of complications, as you can imagine, with that.
“If we were able to start at the beginning of July we could do a 19-race season. [It would be] tough – three races on, one weekend off, three races on, one weekend off. We have looked at all the logistics, and we think we can hold an 18-19 race season if we can get started at the beginning of July. The choice is between those two numbers.”
At this stage, the Chinese Grand Prix is on the list of cancelled races along with the meets in Australia and Monaco.
Brawn is holding out hope of breathing life into the Shanghai meet, which could be hold over two days as part of a revamped schedule.
“We may have some two-day races in order to meet the logistical needs,” says Brawn. “For instance China looks like it will probably be a two-day race if we go ahead with it because to get there and get away to the next event we are planning, it could easily be a two-day race.”
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