Start, Monaco, 2019

Brawn “optimistic” F1 will hold at least 17 races in 2020

2020 F1 season

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Formula 1 motorsport director Ross Brawn says he is hopeful Formula 1 will be able to hold at least 17 races this year despite the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

A record 22 races were originally scheduled on the 2020 F1 calendar. However the first four race dates – Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam and China – have already been scrapped.

The fifth race at Zandvoort is also expected to be called off in the near future. F1 has indicated the season will not begin until late May at the earliest, suggesting the championship could begin in Monaco. That casts doubt on the Spanish Grand Prix, due to be held on May 10th.

The sport has indicated it hopes to reinstate cancelled races later in the season, but accommodating all of them is likely to prove impossible.

F1’s Sporting Regulations state the minimum number of races required to hold a championship is eight. But Brawn doubts the final calendar will be that short.

“We don’t anticipate it getting to that level,” he told Sky in an interview. “But we’re in uncharted territory.

“I’m pretty optimistic that we can have a good, 17, 18-race championship or more. So I think we can squeeze them in, but it depends when when the season can start.”

Brawn admitted the championship could consider the unprecedented step of holding double-header events to increase the number of races. It may also shorten race weekends to allow more races to be held in close succession.

“One thing we have been talking about was two-day weekends and therefore if we have a triple-header with two-day weekends, that could be an option.

“I think what we need from the teams this year is flexibility. They’ve got to give some scope to do these things because we are in very unusual circumstances and we’ve got to make sure we have a season that gives a good economic opportunity for the teams, we don’t put teams in too much hardship because we can’t have the races because somebody doesn’t want to do it three weekends on the trot.

“Because for sure we’re going to have a quiet start. I’m sure the teams will be flexible to allow us to fit those things in.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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36 comments on “Brawn “optimistic” F1 will hold at least 17 races in 2020”

  1. I wouldn’t mind a 8 race championship. The impact of a retirement would be much greater, thus decreasing the chance that Mercedes walks of with the championship with three races to spare.

    1. @paeschli if the impact of a retirement is much greater, then that’s even better news for Mercedes, don’t you think? they only stopped once last year due to reliability and Hamilton didn’t retire once!

      1. Yes, seems mercedes are as strong in reliability as they are in performance..

    2. I don’t think the teams wants that as their price money would be very low. Every event cancelled cost the teams money as the price pot is less.
      For the drivers it’s just a sprint race to the WDC.

  2. I think what we need from the teams this year is flexibility. They’ve got to give some scope to do these things because we are in very unusual circumstances and we’ve got to make sure we have a season that gives a good economic opportunity for the teams, we don’t put teams in too much hardship because we can’t have the races because somebody doesn’t want to do it three weekends on the trot.

    “Because for sure we’re going to have a quiet start. I’m sure the teams will be flexible to allow us to fit those things in.

    Well I suppose the teams may be amicable to this as a one off solution. But the possibility of these measures being used as a wedge to force it on teams later, on permanent basis is something that they would need to sort out.

    1. @johnrkh – agreed.

      I was opposed to the notion of a two-day race weekend because I like the current format. I didn’t event want it trailled for some weekends, as I felt that would give them a way to backdoor the new format into the entirety of a subsequent season.

      Despite those reservations, in this unusual season I realize that it calls for an unusual approach, and the consequence is that it might give Liberty the very opportunity they are looking for. Oh well, such is life :)

  3. Maybe they should slip the first race into Antarctica and see how the world has changed in 2 weeks time. Then again, maybe not Antarctica either.
    “It is unclear why the expeditioner needed specialist attention.”

    1. Yes!!!!!! You’re a genius: F1 on ice with emperor penguins as spectators.

    2. I believe there’s a “leave only your foot prints” policy in Antarctica.

      1. So leaving a carbon footprint is OK?

    3. ” it’s a real testament to the great spirit of cooperation between Antarctic nations “. My geography isn’t what it used to be, obviously. When did the USA become an Antarctic nation?

      1. 1947 – The Admiral Byrd expedition
        Pirelli skates are the best.

  4. Brawn is delusional.

    France and Spain are going to total lockdown today. In Italy, 1st aid is having to choose who gets to live and who will have to die. Those who will have to die lie in barracks and tents inside and in the parking lots outside the hospital. They lay there to die alone because nobody is allowed to come near them. Everywhere streets are empty, only allowed to get groceries 1 time per week and you need a permit to do so… Entire societies and economies are coming to a hard full stop and multiple dozens of people are dying every day. Meanwhile, experts are saying there is no chance we will get rid of the virus until we have a vaccine, which will take at least 18 to 24 months.

    And Brawn thinks we will be racing within a few months?!

    1. France, Spain were basically sleeping, UK has told it wont even try to contain infection and in Italy policy is not to spend resources on elderly and high risk people and health worker should only concentrate on those who can be saved. Seeing how things have escalated quickly in last couple of weeks, I think 2020 season is going to be a write off and most teams will start working on their 2021 cars in coming weeks and not spend any resources on this years cars.

    2. Well said. The peak of European infection is reckoned to come in May-June. That will be the worst time. Then there will be a few months of decline. There can’t possibly be a race before the summer break, and very possibly not at all this year.

    3. Agreed. Even if by some miracle most countries manage to reduce the replication rate so much that the number of infectoins drops to near zero, like in China now, I can’t see them risking a brand new outbreak.

  5. GtisBetter (@)
    15th March 2020, 9:23

    “Don’t worry people, we will overwork everybody to get as much cash, I mean racing this season.”

    1. Sad but true

  6. Well, sounds like a plan, provided the situation can be stabilized in the coming two months or so – which I at the moment do not really see happening; Even if it does for Italy, look at where Spain is atm, let’s hope other countries don’t end up there, but the likelihood seems more than remote that some will. And, even if Italy, Spain stabilize, look at China, how long until countries can move back towards a more normal situation, even before we think about how long they then will need to get to a situation that we will all feel safe to travel and pick up our lives?

    Flexibility will indeed be asked, but this schedule seems wishful thinking. Of course, starting with this plan and having several options for how to evolve/delay/thin it out as the situation develops might be a good strategy. Would be great to have read/had this ready to go at the start of the season, looking back, right? Live and learn, I suppose.

  7. If the season is too short the difficulties already facing smaller teams with the lack of income from the first 3 races will get worse. They need the money from a reasonably full season to compete let alone have any real prospects of being funded properly for the changes for next year. F1 needs a reasonably full season to fund itself and provide prize money.

    A poor financial year may trigger thoughts recognising the ‘dream’ is no longer realisable and selling up. Others, like Red Bull, may look at the bottom line and ask why they need a second team which is now bleeding money.

    So Brawn needs to be right. The economic costs of these antiviral precautions will effect F1 directly and indirectly through sponsors, suppliers, hosts willing to continue, recriminations and the very fabric of the sport and its finances.

    There are many things which seemed certainties in October last year, which now look fragile. F1 as we know it may be one of those things. I am not sure the world will be the same when finally we come out of it. And don’t even think about another virus appearing in a year or two where we do it all again.

    If there is much left untouched by this let alone a second virus ……….. the ‘green’ lobby will have a chance to kill it off.

    1. Yeah, I agree. This could well cause several teams to go into administration and it’s not inconceivable that Liberty Media itself will go under given that it’s stock price has dropped from $57 just a few weeks ago to now only $18 dollars.

      1. correction: from $47 to $25.

        Point being, Liberty either might not be able to keep F1 in its portfolio or might not survive all together if this drags on. This is true for a lot of companies as well of course.

        1. No worries, @jeffreyj, not only is Brawn a technical wizard, in less than a week he’s mutated into an infectious disease expert. And now an astute authority on global economics and logistics.

          No one could have predicted that.

  8. If you take a look at the calendar, there just isn’t the scope in a 22 race mush we have now to slot races in.

    The only scope you have left is to pump the summer break full of races, if Barcelona and Holland are postponed they could easily be dropped into that space. But to bring back the first 4 races logisticallyits a pig, bahrain is probably the least painful in that eventuality.

    I guess Abu dhabi could be moved backwards into december to squeeze another one in, most likely Bahrain as its next door. I don’t think China will happen this year given the mess they are in and its location and Australia definitely won’t because its a temporary track.

    If races numbers weekends are below 16, I’d run a double race at Monza and Silverstone on sat and Sun.

  9. Travelling expenses for the teams will be a killer (even if allowed) but with no spectators there will be no hosting fees to pay the teams. Closed doors at Silverstone is the only viable option, all alternatives face the same problem as the AGP and can’t be part of a “recovery plan”.

  10. It would be a big shame for a lot of the smaller teams that suddenly have very competitive looking cars, if the year goes to waste. Imagine all the effort RacingPoint put into scanning and 3D printing the Mercedes race car. Not to talk of AlphaTauri’s instant reprints and the Alpharrari.

  11. I guess the situation depends a lot about how the local goverments try to keep people healthy in their houses until the situation stabilizes. The latter they do something, the latter life will come to normality.

    Looking how the situation has evolved in China, then I should say that at least you need to wait ~3 months (since you started to try to control the situation) to be confident that the virus is not spreading anymore. Just thinking on cities where the cumulative number of sick people is around ~<500-1000. So I would not be surprised if there is not any race before mid June.

    Also I think that the main issue is not about guessing if there is a 2020 championship or not, but if the global economy will not be too damanged. In this case, companies may try to finish their sponsorships to save money.

    F1 should consider seriously to have some races during summer break if they want to have ~15 or more races during the year and show some stability.

    How many races Ferrari needs to start before the 1000 one?.

    1. Depends whether you are talking about Grand Prix or Formula 1 events, whether or not you are referring solely to the works team and whether or not you are talking about races entered, or races started. There are quite a few different variables that are in play there, depending on what you do or do not accept.

      There was their entry into the 1952 Indianapolis 500, which was part of the World Drivers Championship and of Grand Prix status, but obviously not to Formula 1 regulations.

      1952 and 1953 had no Formula 1 races – all of the official World Drivers Championship races were Formula 2 races, and those races which used Formula 1’s existing rules were designated as Formula Libre races.

      You then have the 1964 US and Mexican GPs, where the works team did not officially enter, but the North American Racing Team (NART), which was run by Luigi Chinetti – Ferrari’s main importer for the US market and a team which was heavily supported by Ferrari – ran cars which had all of Ferrari’s works drivers, mechanics and engineers working for them, making it effectively a works team in all but name (the politics of that decision are complex).

      The same process happened again in 1969, when NART entered a car for Pedro Rodríguez in the Canadian, United States and Mexican GPs, not the Ferrari works team (Amon was entered as well, but in the end only one car was supplied by the factory).

      You also have the 1950 French GP, the 1982 Belgian GP and the 1982 French GP, with Ferrari withdrawing from the first two, and in the third case their sole driver, Tambay, did not start the race due to injury. In 1982, they had qualified for the Belgian and French GPs, but withdrew after qualifying – in the 1950 French GP, however, they withdrew during the practise sessions.

      Now, Ferrari are counting the maximum possible number of entries, which is 993 – that would leave them requiring seven entries to reach the 1000 figure. However, depending on how you take into account the DNSs and the entries that were officially by NART and not Scuderia Ferrari, that number falls to 985-988 – if you are talking about solely Formula 1 races by the works team that they actually started, I believe that figure drops to 968.

  12. As much as I would enjoy double headers from a fan’s perspective, I have to worry about what having so many races in quick succession would do to the safety of the drivers. Overworking the teams to get more races in would surely lead to physical and mental exhaustion, which would lead to mistakes from both the teams and the drivers, which could lead to serious accidents. I think F1 management should pause for a moment, examine their risk matrices and make decisions based on sound thinking and not on knee-jerk reactions. That is what real leadership does in times of crisis: make tough decisions that may not please people, but is what is best for the people you are responsible for taking care of.

  13. NL (should it face the same as the four originally scheduled to take place before it), Vietnam, and Bahrain have the highest chance of getting saved for this year.

  14. Sometimes I wonder whether Ross should be speaking to the media in these sorts of interviews. He throws out some Bernie like verbal hand grenades that I suspect is more thinking solutions out loud rather than firm plan.

    He should have just stopped at “we’re in uncharted territory” and left it at that until things settle down a bit.

    There was absolutely no need to come out with a “number” and definitely no need to come out with “we should be able to have lots if the teams agree to shortened weekends and double or triple headers”.

    Yes it’s “possible” but at least allow the next week or so to play out and maybe start having some conversations (videoconference) with the teams and float some of these things by them before you start suggesting that 17 or 18 races are very much the target.

    1. @dbradock – hello, and welcome to the latest episode of “Games F1 Supremos Play!”

      Ross (and Liberty) put out some ideas like this for two reasons: One – as feelers, to see how those ideas are received, what criticisms are offered up, and to also shape public opinion. A sort of brainstorm-by-media approach. That’s why we’ve heard them put out various proposals in the past.

      Two – which is more likely in this instance: he’s not talking to fans through the media, he’s talking to the financial analysts who assess and grade F1’s stock. F1 has already tanked badly in 2020 due to coronavirus impacting global markets. The unfortunate thing for F1 is that it has wiped a lot of market cap off the stock (take a look at their 1-year trend here – they’ve gone from a high of $47 about 14 months ago to a low of $25-$27 this weekend).

      This is Liberty’s way of reassuring them that they intend to get the show back on the road. Managing a message that they’re going to lose only 4-5 races. With a CYA clause of “it depends when when the season can start”. It demonstrates they’re being dynamic by looking at two-day race weekends.

      They’re also setting up anyone (i.e. teams) who opposes or pushes back against these as the bad guy, by getting this statement out there “what we need from the teams this year is flexibility. They’ve got to give some scope to do these things”. And to that stick, they offer the carrot of “make sure we have a season that gives a good economic opportunity for the teams, we don’t put teams in too much hardship because we can’t have the races”.

      As you recommend, they will definitely initiate conversations with the teams now that they’ve set the rough outline of their goals for salvaging the year.

      1. Very good points @phylyp – Don’t see it giving them any immediate positive relief in terms of their share price given where the whole market is going at the moment bit it certainly may lessen the slide for them.

  15. Ross, it’s time to stop talking, because you’re saying a lot of stupid things lately. There’s no chance there will be 17 races. More chance of 0 than 17.

    1. Yes, I don’t think 17 either, maybe something around 10-13, but we’ll have to see.

  16. Typically F1 continues to live in a vacuum. With dozens of other sports all being in the same position, does he really expect to have races almost every weekend from the middle of the year? F1 will clash with other car and motorcycle events and I’ve my doubts that F1 will get their usual number of viewers/spectators, especially when many people will have delayed their holidays.

    This also Olympic year. Many sports had to leave a gap in their celendars to enable their competitors to compete in Japan, but no one knows for sure if the Olympics will keep the current date or move. Whatever Brawn thinks, the Olympics is always the biggest sporting event, even Bernie knew that.

    When F1 started pushing for more races every season, they were told the public would become fed up with the overkill. They need to bite the bullet and just run the races as per the agreed calendar and forget all the cancelled events.

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