In an interview with CNN’s Amanda Davies, the Racing Point Team Principal believes the race at Albert Park could have gone ahead last month, despite a McLaren employee testing positive for the coronavirus in Australia.
Szafnauer said: “It was difficult to predict the future there in Melbourne, but when I look back at it now, had we raced, I think we would have raced safely.
The risk was very low, and I think we could have put the race on. The Australian government gave us the go-ahead to do so.
However, there was a big unknown at the time, and because of the unknown, I think we made a cautious decision not to race.”
He added that a majority of teams wanted to race after a vote on Thursday night and expected to go racing on the Sunday. Confusion reigned before the Grand Prix was eventually called off.
“On Thursday night at 1:30, 2 in the morning, we left the meeting, and at that point, the majority voted to race.
We went to bed, got up four hours later, and by the time I got to the paddock, everyone said: ‘We’re not racing’. I said: ‘Yes we are, it was only four hours ago we voted to race.’
The thing you have to remember is there are 10 independent teams, the FIA (motorsport's governing body), there's F1, and then there's the Australian government so there's 13 or so independent decision makers that unless you're all together you really don't know what the other is doing.
We took a risk-averse stance, and that was probably the right thing to do. However, looking back, had we raced, I think we would have done so safely.”
Like Helmut Marko, Szafnauer is hopeful that the season will begin behind closed doors in Austria in July.
‘’Austria as a country is starting to come out of their lockdowns slowly but surely, and that's in April.
"So, if you can look forward and say that's happening in April, the barber shops and the beauty salons and the libraries are opening now and perhaps children go back to school in May, I can see a race without fans happening in July. If that happens... we can get 12-15 races in.’’
While he admits the financial impact of the current crisis will be ‘’significant,’’ the Romanian born CEO of Racing Point expects things to be okay if there’s a full season in 2021.
"I think our financial impact won't be that bad this year. It will still be significant, so we still have to save some cost; then, if we can have a full season next year, before we know it – although this has taken a hit on us – we'll be in better shape."
"We're definitely [in better shape] through cost caps and maybe capping some of the expenditures, also maybe capping some of the development we do, especially the expensive development." he added.
"But [it must] not [be] at the cost of the DNA of Formula One.’’