Albert Park, Melbourne, 2020

Coronavirus not the only obstacle to rescheduling Australian GP in 2020

2020 Australian Grand Prix

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The Australian Grand Prix promoters want to explore options to hold this weekend’s cancelled race later in the year.

When the race was called off on Friday, the promoters deliberately avoided referring to it as a “postponement”, as they did not want to give the false impression it was only a short-term delay.

However Australian Grand Prix chairman Paul Little said they are hoping to reschedule the event later in the year if possible.

“We look forward to hopefully being able to run this event at some later stage,” he said after the race’s cancellation was announced on Friday. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

The race was called off due to concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus, which one McLaren team member tested positive for. The threat from the virus must first recede before F1 can return.

But there is another significant obstacle to the race being held later in 2020. The logistics of bringing F1 back to Albert Park later in the year would also be very difficult.

The parkland circuit uses temporary facilities within a public space. The infrastructure has to be built up and taken down for the race every year. Leaving the current construction in place would tie up the park for months, while reassembling and disassembling it a second time this year would be costly.

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“We can’t leave it here for months” Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Andrew Westacott confirmed.

Albert Park, Melbourne, 2020
Albert Park is a temporary racing circuit
“One of the things we respect here is that there are men and women’s football teams, there’s sporting activities here. And we recognise that one of the privileges we have is to occupy a beautiful park in the [central business district] of Melbourne. And so we want to minimise the impact of the build and the dismantle.

“Clearly, this changes the way we dismantle the circuit and return it back, but we can’t be leaving it for days or weeks. And we would expect to be dismantling and removing infrastructure and returning back to the sporting clubs of Albert Park and Melbourne.”

However Westacott did not want to dismiss the possibility of F1 returning later this year.

“I’ve learned in the world of Formula 1 you never say never,” he said. “We clearly had been working on the here and now with Chase Carey in Formula 1.

“We’ll work through matters, but we haven’t started to think about future staging or anything like that. But it’s clearly a normal topic of discussion, which would happen in the fullness of time.”

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47 comments on “Coronavirus not the only obstacle to rescheduling Australian GP in 2020”

  1. In other words, no Australian GP for this year due to infrastructural-reasons; hence, the contradicting words are weird. Not an option to keep everything in place for a few months nor take everything down and put them back up twice separately within the same year equals no race within this year. Permanent venues are a different matter, though.

    1. Impossible to save all the affected ones (Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam, China, and potentially NL, Spain, as well as, Monaco) for this year, maybe one or two, but not really more than that, so I’d focus on saving either NL and Vietnam, or NL and Bahrain – NL on August 9 seven days after Hungary, and Vietnam on the original Abu Dhabi GP-slot postponing the Abu Dhabi GP by seven days as a result, or Bahrain-Abu Dhabi double-header as a curtain-closer.

      1. True out of these Monaco doesnt pay hosting fees financially very little motivation to reschedule the race if its cancelled.
        With regards to Dutch Gp, talked with my friends and they said for health reasons cancellation of event would be understandable(apparently tickets are being sold via lottery system and most arent getting tickets) rather than have a race behind closed doors.

  2. Looking at series of events that transpired this cancellation was a sham and another joke on FOM/FIA/Organisers. I hope fans sue all these parties involved for the mess.

  3. Right now I am off the opinion that they shouldn’t reschedule races. My opinion might change, but for now it would appear this virus is only getting started. It’s going to be a messed up year there is no doubt. Rather than trying to reschedule races I think we first need to get to the point that we get some races. Rather than trying to force things, my current thinking is that we should accept that the race is gone and enjoy what we get. Give people a break, I have a feeling we’re going to need it this year.

  4. They can move it to Bathurst – JB successfully got around with his floor intact once.
    It’s busy a couple of days in October, other than that just need the roo shooters out for a week or so.

    1. Can you imagine the amount of carnage? There wouldn’t be a car left at the end of FP1 :) Very little run off, high speed and very nasty armco fencing. It would be awesome just the same. Phillip Island is the logical choice for F1. I don’t think it’s up to standard but can’t be too far off it.

      1. @glennb I agree Phillip Island being a logical choice, in fact it’s probably the only choice. Even then it could do with some extra length. But it doesn’t match the ‘glamour’ of a st circuit in a major city.

    2. This (Bathurst) was a story of a rumour that the NSW gov. wanted to wrest the AGP from Victoria mentioned on an ABC (public broadcaster) Fri. afternoon, neither the host nor guest were F1 afficianado’s, but they thought it would be a great idea for the district of Bathurst.
      I know there are safety problems with Mount Panorama circuit, but surely these can be addressed for less than one F1 hosting fee*, a couple of Helipads and some of that concrete** replaced with something a little more shock absorbent should do most of it.
      * And this NSW gov. decided to demolish and rebuild a football stadium that was built as a showpiece for the 2000 Olympics, cost $750 million and rising.
      ** Should only need replacing on the downhill section, after all it is stone and concrete at the edge of Monaco, Baku etc.

      1. @hohum Bathurst would be great but how would the F1 cars fair across the top, it would be a bit processional I think as it would be too narrow to overtake. But I agree if the NSW gov can waste what is likely to end up over a billion $ on ripping down and rebuilding what was basically a new stadium. I can’t see why they couldn’t throw some money at our most famous race track.
        But alas it won’t happen as Liberty has a similar mindset as Ecclestone as far as the hosting city must be a ‘destination’ city. I’m pretty sure Ecclestone offered Sydney the GP several times if they would run it over the Harbour Bridge. Bob Carr was not a big fan of Motor Racing, national Parks was his love which is also good, we have had could have both.

      2. I heard a rumour that there is a second track being built beside Bathurst. Would be interested to know if anyone else has heard this too (I heard it from some locals, apparently it is approved by council there too).

        1. @travis, probably something like karts or rallycross, like many tracks have on the infield.

          1. No I heard a fully fledged race track, another hotel beside it (like the Rydges currently) etc. Makes no sense to me, but that’s what I heard.

  5. What will the teams and drivers be doing until the season starts, if it even does?

    1. Pure speculation, but here’s what I’d see them doing:

      Firstly, they’ll be screened and tested. Possibly family members as well.

      Given the amount of breathing room they now have to the start of the season (presumably end of May at the earliest) and the general social mood, I think all teams’ leadership will give them a fortnight off so they can spend it at home, and sitting out a bit of a self-quarantine.

      The ones who’re clear will be let back into the factory to get back to work for 2020/2021, with regular screenings thereafter.

      I think Williams is the only team without any significant corporate sponsor/backer, so they’re the ones likely to be hurting the most in terms of cash.

      1. I think the self-isolation comes before the actual testing, as there is surely a limited amount of tests out there at the moment. Otherwise I’m sure work will go on, and teams will probably want to start (or continue) focusing on 2021 as well.

    2. Would cost less to upgrade Phillip Island and do it the week after or before the motogp if there was a space for it.

      1. Even the same weekend as the motogp! The circuit is pretty much 90% Grade 1 anyways and mugello like. It just needs to be signed off.

      2. There is really no reason looking at this video why an F1 race could not be run at Phillip Island.

        All it really needs is the barriers to be upgraded to Mugello standard.

  6. How many circuits are currently fit and certified to run an F1 race in Europe? I know that would be easier than trying to re-setup street circuits. Even so some rather drastic measures would need to be taken such as isolating the entire F1 circus for the duration and obviously no spectators. And would the teams even agree with such steps.
    Whatever Liberty decides to do they need to do it quickly, no more procrastinating.

    1. @johnrkh In addition to tracks already in F1 calendar there’s also Imola, Estoril, Magny-Cours, Ricardo Tormo, Jerez, Aragón, Fiorano (not gonna happen), Istanbul Park, Kymi Ring, Mugello and Nürburgring. There are options out there.

      1. Oh and Hockenheim of course.

      2. I would love to see F1 in Finland. That’s a country F1 has needed to be in since the early ‘80s. Mugello is one of the best tracks in Europe (definitely the best permanent circuit to drive in Italy) as is Imola. I honestly would not mind the Italian GP being held at either of those two tracks.

    2. As a fail-safe they might consider a series of “closed door” races at Silverstone for the TV audiences. Silverstone because most teams are already there or thereabouts, the Italian teams could rent or borrow some local facilities for the equipment but it would be difficult for team members with family in Italy, maybe the could travel to/from in quarantined coaches and not mix with local teams. There is a lot of money to be lost/spent on F1 2020 for a solution.

      1. @hohum I really hope that’s not how they will solve the situation. Zero GP’s is the right number for this ruined Silverstone circuit.

  7. I am thinking they could hold it as the last race of the 2020 season in March 2021. And then the next weekend after that switch to 2021 cars and run on the Albert Park circuit again. I am not entirely joking ;)

    1. Extending that slightly, why not make it a 2 year season – 2020 & 2021? Do whatever races they can manage this year and continue the season up to December 2021. The way this is going there could be only a handful of races this year and the effects will go on for a while after that. 20 races in the next 20 months may be realistic.

  8. Latest comments from Ross are that they could cancel the summer break and shoe horn in 2 day events.

    Wouldn’t it be typical if the erratic nature of this season gave him carte blanche to try his stupid experiments!

  9. I still wonder why people think there will be any races this season. The same conditions that resulted in the first round of cancellations will be still present, if not stronger, the rest of the year. Closed door races seemed to be an option but apparently not good enough to save Australia even after all the teams were already there.

    1. Because humanity is incredibly resilient and adaptible. That’s why we’re the #1 species on the planet. Also, life goes on.

      This is not some crazily unseen disease like what’s been seen in disaster movies, it is a variant of the flu. Hospitals have protocols to manage the symptoms, isolate the infected, prevent it’s spread, etc.. Yeah, there’s no cure, no vaccine, but that’s par for the course for most viral infections.

      It also seems to be killing mainly the old, people with significant respiratory issues, or otherwise immuno-compromised. Most importantly, it is not affecting children the way most such diseases do (which target both ends of the age spectrum). That in itself will help assuage the fears and emotions of many people.

      The only problem* we have is in ensuring that there are adequate medical facilities to quickly detect and provide treatment to vulnerable people. That’s why the focus is on ensuring we don’t have a rapid spread that overwhelms medical facilities since that will spike fatalities, but to instead “flatten the curve” so the inevitable infections are spread out over time (yep, most of us are going to be exposed to it, most of us will catch it, and many of us will survive it pretty easily).

      *Well, that and a shocking lack of toilet paper in the US (guys, c’mon, time to switch to bidets or health faucets).

      1. Never mind finding toilet paper in the US. You should try getting hold of a roll in Sydney! Youtube is full of clips of idiots fighting (literally) over it. Police had to tazer one fool.

      2. @phylyp

        Well, that and a shocking lack of toilet paper in the US

        So it’s going on over there as well, in Aus the large supermarkets are now limiting the sale of goods that may be targeted by panic shoppers.
        Stupid is a universal problem.

      3. The only problem* we have is in ensuring that there are adequate medical facilities to quickly detect and provide treatment to vulnerable people.

        …that’s a really big problem. I currently live in China, a country which is able to socially mobilize in a way no other country can, and one which went through the SARS epidemic and so had certain procedures already put in place, and even then it wasn’t pulled off flawlessly.

        Since I went back to a quarantined Shanghai (a city with just under 350 confirmed cases out of a population of >20 million) the end of January from the US, I almost certainly did not get exposed to the virus. People in some high-rise apartments even in Shanghai are not allowed out of their compounds for two weeks, and in hard-hit cities the elevators have literally been turned off to discourage people from even leaving their apartments. Only last week have restaurants and bars begin to open up, and even then crowding is restricted and most indoor places require us to fill in our information and get our temperatures taken.

        Meanwhile I’m seeing on Twitter people back home crowding into bars and restaurants and airports jamming people together in delayed lines. Sporting events that people may be traveling to from disparate starting points are still occurring.

        You literally can’t flatten the curve while that is occurring.

        Most importantly, it is not affecting children the way most such diseases do (which target both ends of the age spectrum)

        Exactly, which is why populations aren’t taking the decisive actions they should be taking. If we all self-quarantined/self-isolated for two weeks, it would make clearer by orders of magnitude who actually is infected by the virus (and thus needs treatment) and who doesn’t. The hoped-for flattening then occurs and then in the long term things could return to something approaching normalcy.

        most of us are going to be exposed to it, most of us will catch it, and many of us will survive it pretty easily)

        Part of that sentence is correct! But I’m unclear why it’s a meaningful statement in any context :)

  10. What about doing double races at some permanent circuits, during the same weekend? Qualifying on Friday, a race on Saturday and one on Sunday.

    It saves a lot of time, cost and pollution of travel & building everything up and tearing it down. It gives TV and on demand viewers value for their money. It might also be the difference between a proper championship and one with insufficient races to crown a winner.

    Downside is that it may be hard to sell enough tickets, but Silverstone, Zandvoort and Austin should probably sell quite well.

    1. Electroball76
      14th March 2020, 19:27

      That sounds like a good idea. They could even use different names for the two races, such as the “European GP”

      1. Well, Australia were guests at Eurovision the other year, so…

  11. If they want to try to squeeze all the races in later in the season, they could always do a 2 day race weekend instead of three. Longer single practice Saturday morning, quali in the afternoon and Rach on Sunday. Or two practice sessions Saturday, quali Sunday morning and race Sunday afternoon.
    Heck, if they raced Sunday morning, they could have a lot of everything packed up by Sunday night already.

  12. I’m surprised that no one has discussed the changes for 2021. With all of the teams obviously losing a lot of money, I’d expect the new cars to be postponed by another year.

  13. Just thinking of a scenario where things only get better later in the year, and perhaps not at the same time in every region of the world… if only a handful of races happen (3-4-5?), would it still be a championship? Would a world champion still be crowned? Or could all the races that do get to happen just be non-chamionship races and then we start again in 2021?

  14. You could also legitimately rename this article to ‘Aus GP try desperately to avoid refunding customers’.

  15. The most logical time to attempt to reschedule the reface in Australia would be around the Singapore, but, it won’t happen. It’s already a busy time with races just about every other week, and short of having triple header race weekends again and shortening the summer break, it would need to be accepted that this season is going to be shortened…

  16. Most logical choice would be to close the season in Melbourne. Climate is good enough to have this in December of even January. And they can leave most of it for the season opener in March 2021.

    1. Just run it on Phillip island with MotoGP.

    2. Do you know that is a really very sensible idea…and I hope someone out there is reading it…and if any races are to be rescheduled it will be existing tracks first, as they have seniority over new promoters..

      1. I suppose most of the armco can then just be kept up over the summer. Just keep up enough to let runners and vehicle traffic to continue to use Albert Park.

  17. Is no one seriously thinking about the bend motorsport park? If F1 really badly wanted the race in Melbourne then the end of the season makes the most sense. But remembering that November/December is a busy time sport wise for Melbourne and maybe it’s a hassle that the local council would probably not want. Yes, the surrounding are bland at best but if it’s just a case to get an Australian Grand Prix for 2020 surely Tailem Bend is the logical choice, FIA Grade 2 and FIM Category A at 7.7km long. Its close enough to Adelaide so for a stopgap its probably the only real logical reason.

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