The world of Formula 1 was given hope for a 2020 F1 season yesterday following the announcement from Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey that “We're targeting a start to racing in Europe through July, August and beginning of September, with the first race taking place in Austria on 3-5 July weekend.” However, due to Silverstone Circuit boss Stuart Pringle declaring that “we are unable to stage this year’s British Grand Prix in front of the fans at Silverstone”, with less people in attendance how likely is it that racing in Silverstone could be…just around the corner?
Quite simply, as much as Formula 1 and Liberty Media has a desire to race, as well as a desire to start recouping costs for their mounting bills, nothing can happen without the government’s approval. Therefore, yesterday’s news that the British government plans to set up the first of a series of regular meetings, which would involve senior medical directors of major sports, can only be a positive for F1.
The Chief Medical Officer's staff would also be involved in the weekly meetings, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, now returning to full time work following his own experience combatting COVID-19, has been briefed on the plan. An extensive plan it is too: Testing, social distancing, hygiene standards and strict limits on the numbers of people allowed – hence Silverstone making clear no fans will be in attendance in 2020.
This news has prompted many memes online of how Lewis Hamilton will not be able to pay tribute to ‘the best fans’ in 2020 but one can’t help but imagine what a British Grand Prix would feel like within an atmosphere of empty grandstands. However, for this to come to pass the event would still need team personnel and race marshalls so one can predict a total of three or four thousand people to facilitate the event effectively – not such a small crowd after all. It is also safe to assume that there would not be a large media presence and who knows, maybe drones could be used for coverage and maybe then - Carlos Sainz could get some screen time.
F1 TV Commentator Will Buxton tweeted his response to a predicted lack of media presence at races:
“So we're not essential, you can (and should if needed) hold races without reporters on the ground. Coverage for the sport will be lacking a little as a result – can't work from home with the same quality at all - but it's still better to have some racing to report on.”
Some racing would indeed be better than no racing but was has prompted this latest update?
Due to COVID-19 claiming the lives of over 21,000 people in the UK, all levels of any sport is on hold in the country and if reports are to be believed, the British government sees sport returning as a way to raise the morale of a country expected to continue social distancing, in some form, throughout 2020. Herein lies the problem, the government calling on sports stars to rejuvenate the nation, is the same one that was quick to attack the millionaire footballers saying that they should take paycuts during the crisis. You can be sure the irony of this has not been lost on the athletes being asked to possibly put themselves in harm’s way.
It is a fair assumption that all sports will monitor the blueprint outlined by the English Football League which is hopeful of a potential June 8th restart to then finish the season at the end of July due to UEFA’s European competition plans. Therefore, this would require full training to begin by May 18th which means we should know a lot more about the future of sport in three weeks’ time.
Sport though is not the only thing close to getting the green light as the British government is also keen on British soap operas returning to production and returning back to the screen but the million dollar question remains – will it be too soon?
Some people say false hope is worse than no hope at all but at some point, regular daily life will have to return and for this to happen, an organisation will have to be the first to take the gamble. Liberty Media’s ambitious 2020 F1 Calendar is viewed as a considerable gamble by many and numerous journalists predict it to be delayed again.
For now, we must hope that racing returns to the track when it is safe to do so because for so long motorsport has put safety ahead of everything else. The implementation of the halo device, the eradication of refuelling at pitstops and so many measures made under the direction of the much-missed Professor Sid Watkins emphasise the need for keeping a driver and all who attend a Grand Prix safe. Therefore, it is crucial that this remains to be the case and if after all the meetings and calculations a further delay to racing is needed – then so be it.