Start, Indianapolis, 2005

F1 could hold races with fewer than 12 cars – Brawn

2020 F1 season

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Formula 1 motorsport director Ross Brawn has admitted the sport could run championship races with significantly smaller grids if needed because of the Coronavirus.

Earlier this month Brawn said the sport would not hold “a Formula 1 world championship race” if some teams were prevented from entering a country due to the Coronavirus, “because that would be unfair”.

Brawn’s original comments appeared to leave open the possibility of F1 reducing races to non-championship status if some teams could not attend. However speaking after the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, he admitted the rules allow points-scoring races to be run with much smaller fields than the current 20 cars if needed.

“We need 12 cars or more to hold a championship race although that, actually, is at the discretion of the FIA,” Brawn told Sky.

“They could choose, in unusual circumstances, to allow less than that. But 12 cars is what’s written there.”

The F1 sporting regulations state that an event “may be cancelled if fewer than 12 cars are available for it”, not that it has to be, meaning races could be held with 11 or fewer cars.

F1 grids dipped as low as 18 cars as recently as 2014. The 2005 United States Grand Prix famously saw only six cars take the start, though 20 had qualified. The smallest entry for an F1 race was at the season-opening Argentinian Grand Prix in 1958, which attracted just 10 cars.

How is Formula 1 planning to reorganise its calendar as it faces the unprecedented disruption caused by the Coronavirus? Read Dieter Rencken’s RacingLines column later today on RaceFans for the inside story.

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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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41 comments on “F1 could hold races with fewer than 12 cars – Brawn”

  1. On the back of my earlier comment where I said:

    [Liberty are] 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”.

    I’ll now add this – this is another way of coercing teams into racing. “You have some genuine concerns about participating? Fine, we’ll just race without you, and call it an official championship.”

    1. Cash is King

      1. It’s popular to say ‘cash is king’ and normally valid in F1, but don’t forget the bigger impact.

        I run a business and we’ve lost 100% of our revenue due to the Coronavirus. Notwithstanding this, we decided to continue with certain expenses/investments/activities to make sure that the economy doesn’t collapse around us. Not sure how long we can survive without income, but I know that some of our suppliers are in a much worse situation and they actually need us to give them some work. Especially since we can provide work in a safe environment (minimum interaction with others).

        You might or might not agree, and I’m not even looking for support, but please stop these simplistic ‘cash is king’ comments.

        1. TIL: @coldfly owns a US airline ;)

    2. I’m hoping that this came out of the same interview that sky had with Ross after the cancellation of Melbourne and isn’t yet another case of Ross just firing out verbal hand grenades.

      Hopefully it’s the former and they will all now take a deep breath, think, discuss with all stakeholders, and then make a properly constructed public statement. Even if it is “at this stage we can make no plans until the global virus situation stabilises”

      1. You know when I first saw this headline my very initial thought within a few seconds was uh oh, bad idea, not going to be able to defend Brawn on this one, let’s see how he defends such a concept.

        Of course upon reading the very short article, and then reading the predictable comments, it is obvious that I do not have to defend Brawn whatsoever.

        Yes, according to the article, this comment was made while they were still in Australia, so much has changed since then. Here Brawn is simply speculating on the technicalities of the rules, in saying that the rules do allow for a smaller grid than 12, and a points race at that, at the FIA’s discretion. So that is something I didn’t know…thought it had to be 12 or more. Key point being at the FIA’s discretion. Not at Ross Brawn’s discretion.

        So…nowhere is he saying he thinks this is a good idea and something he would encourage. It was early days and I’m sure if asked today Brawn would likely say everything is just on pause, as is the world, so who knows. He has offered nothing that implies he is trying to position teams or set them up to just go ahead and run a points race and ‘screw them’ if any team doesn’t want to go, or any other such nonsensical thoughts and ideas and verbiage that is being attributed to Brawn in a wholly unfounded manner.

        Brawn was speaking to a mere fact, when asked, about what can happen under extreme circumstances under the discretion of the FIA. When someone criticizes a driver for something he said, his defenders will happily pipe in here and say he was just answering a question asked if him. I suggest that is all Brawn was doing back in Australia, well before we all knew what we now know…for today.

        Brawn is not the enemy. He is something closer to a best friend when it comes to rectifying our beloved F1 for us post-BE. I remain unmoved from my stance that nobody could do a better job than Brawn has in overseeing a very complex task of righting the ship post-BE. What Brawn is not doing is sitting there wringing his hands in glee at the prospect of screwing teams over or coercing them to do this or that. Gimme a break. That would be a BE thing.

  2. That’s great Ross, but I probably wouldn’t watch (unless all three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull) were not taking part, in which case there may be a bit of a novelty factor about it for one or two races maximum.

    1. unless all three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull were not taking part

      @eurobrun – you mean we’ll finally get to see Sainz?!

      1. @phylyp I still wouldn’t be sure :)

  3. The addage “Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should” comes to mind with this one

  4. With a 12 car grid, how many circuits, TV channels and physical attendees will be attracted to pay to hold and watch a Grand Prix.

    Race to the bottom is a 12 car grid. Does F1 really think any state from Australia to Russia will front up with taxpayer funding for a diminishing sporting spectacular with fewer watchers either physically, on TV or streamed live over the interwebby?

    Been watching Red Bull winter X games and there is more excitement, action, thrills and spills, in those games then in F1.

    So if the choice is F1 with a 12 car grid or X games. No competion at all, X games the whole way.

  5. Liberty are desperate to keep their sponsors and shareholders happy, I get that it’s a business. But this seems like a bit of a veiled threat to the teams to get on board or be left behind. What assistance are liberty offering the smaller teams to help them get through this?
    Now for a little good news, as reported on the ABC news tonight it seems much of the food destined for the crowds at the F1 last weekend has not gone to waste. It has been distributed to the homeless and low income families of Melbourne via organisations such as the Salvation Army.
    Great move by all of the vendors who donated.

    1. it seems much of the food destined for the crowds at the F1 last weekend has not gone to waste. It has been distributed to the homeless and low income families of Melbourne via organisations such as the Salvation Army.
      Great move by all of the vendors who donated.

      @johnrkh – fantastic news, and a real class act. Let’s hope there’s some manner of financial recompense for them having footed the bill in the first place.

      1. Great news, @johnrkh

        Good point, @phylyp.

        If it does become a 12 car race season, perhaps Liberty could donate the unused 2020 Williams, Haas, Alpha Tauri and Sauber Romeo race cars to the carless and low income fans here. As well as compensating the donating teams.

  6. Stephen Higgins
    18th March 2020, 9:01

    What happened to you Ross??

    1. Agreed.

      I used to have so much respect for this man.

      1. He’s now just a Liberty shill. Whatever’s good for Liberty is good.

      2. Same here. He sold out big time.

    2. Nothing. He has always been this way. Only one concern for Brawn and that is filling his wallet. Always was and always will be.

      1. What a bunch of misinformed rubbish. Brawn answers a question posed to him and you people jump to conclusions. Have you people always been this way? Careless with what you are reading? Wanting to read into things whatever you want? I guess you buy tabloid papers too?

  7. Craig Simons
    18th March 2020, 9:03

    I’m probably going to get hunted down and crucified for this opinion, but…just cancel the season. Please. Freeze everything, roll this years regulations, teams, cars, drivers (unless some want to leave), and anything else into next year; and bring the new regulations into play in 2022. Realistically, this epidemic is probably going to last until the end of the year – and forcing F1 or any other sport to go on as normal, will only hinder progress. I’ll miss the racing, but health and safety comes first.

    1. @Craig Simons I’ve seen worse ideas (and think Ross just expressed one of them). However, I think it will be under control in time to, at minimum, have the post-summer-break part of the season as usual (in which case, there will be more than the minimum of 8 rounds even if none of the cancelled races are rescheduled). Once we know when the COVID-19 is under control, then the season can be resumed or canned.

      1. Getting the epidemic under control is one thing – but ending it is another. Jumping the gun and resuming everything once numbers start to fall, could give the outbreak a second lease of life. Although I agree the numbers will most likely have stabilized by July (it took China four months to do so), reducing them significantly enough to longer be a threat, could take several more months still. Personally, I think it’s better to not risk it.

      2. @alianora-la-canta Please enlighten us as to what the ‘worse idea’ is that Brawn has ‘just’ expressed?

        1. @robbie Running races with fewer than 12 cars if COVID-19 means the others are unavailable. It’s the title of the article.

          1. @alianora-la-canta The title of the article, once one reads the body of the article, implies that unlike what has been popularly thought to be a 12 car minimum for a race ‘by law,’ it turns out that would be up to the discretion of the FIA. Nothing more, nothing less. No commentary is being made by Brawn as to whether there would ever be such a race.

            It would seem the globe is in this together, no? Brawn is not going to hang any one team or more out to dry when obviously we are all in a circumstance beyond our control at this point. At some point global conditions will be such that racing will be a go, for all. The only reason one or more teams would not attend the first race we have this season, will be voluntary, as once they have a green flag to race, they’ll all be there. As Brawn did say several weeks ago, if a team couldn’t make a race because their country wouldn’t release them to fly, for example, then it would be unfair to run a points race, so there would either be a non-points race or none at all. If a team however volunteers to not go to a race which has the go-ahead to occur, then different story and they could run a points race and the missing team(s) would lose out. That’s how he phrased it well before Australia.

            Given that they didn’t even run a non-points 9-team race in Oz, I think it is safe to say when we do have a race they’ll all be there. And remember Brawn said this ‘way back when.’

    2. Agree entirely. Except for a shade of doubt about next year too. We can hope and pray that 2021 will indeed be possible, fingers crossed, but no guarantees.

      There are many here hoping for F1 to rise again THIS year!! The same voices that insisted the Oz GP should go ahead willy nilly poor dears!

    3. I’m probably going to get hunted down and crucified for this opinion

      I don’t think any fan of racing is going to take such strenuous objection to your opinion, Craig, even if they disagree. And if they are, it is they who are being unreasonable.

      I personally hope you’re wrong in terms of the impact and its duration, but it would be fair and sensible to plan for that contingency as well.

      I can only hope that Liberty are focused on other possibilities (like not being able to resume racing in 2020, or worse, not being able to even start 2021 on time), and are now not succumbing to “target fixation” of getting 2020 back on track as soon as possible.

      Focusing too much on 2020 runs the risk that they fail to address problems associated with sustaining the sport (and its teams) in case we are forced into a much longer pause of several months instead of several weeks.

    4. Quite so. There isn’t a hope in hell of F1 putting on a race this side of Monza, and probably not for the rest of the season.

      The problem for F1 and Liberty is that if they admit this, then they’ll have to pay back a lot of money to viewers and promoters. They need governments to shut it down in order to get insurance payout. In the meantime, they make noises about putting on races…

  8. Just like Indianapolis 2005. That killed the sport in the US for a decade.

    1. The picture above the article actually shows the Indy 2005 GP starting grid.

      Whatever the case, the remaining teams need to be competitive.
      A race with just the top 3 teams may still be exciting while 1988, 2002, 2004, 2014 and 2015 (among many other years) showed that even a full grid is no guarantee for a competitive season.

      1. Indeed, if we have a 12 cars grid we need ferrari, red bull and mercedes, if one of them isn’t there, none of the 3 should.

  9. Let’s think why there would likely be an entire team missing from the paddock for a race in this situation:

    1) Teams are locked down due to a government’s (their own, or a nation in which they were travelling at the time) responses to COVID-19, despite them being in a fit state to compete. This is force majuere Continuing effectively punishes those teams (and given F1’s global nature, this one is likely to affect multiple teams simultaneously if it happens) for attempting to comply with their contracts, and could lead to the commercial rights holder getting sued if it continues.

    I suspect Ross is thinking in case the UK’s COVID-19 strategy backfires and all the British teams are locked down – that would give the choice of running with three teams (Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and Ferrari) or not at all. Given how things went last time there was a three-team race, I think any such race would have to be non-championship. However, I am happy for there to be a non-championship race, potentially with Liberty- or sponsor-funded prize pot, for any team that does, in fact, manage to arrive in a fit state to compete. This would also preserve value for broadcasters, journalists and spectators. (All this assumes that holding a mass event in that location at that time is a sensible idea in the first place. Otherwise, amend plan as appropriate to the location).

    2) Someone infected in the factory prior to teams leaving for the race, obliging staff needed for the race to go into quarantine. This can be managed for by separating factory and race teams – perhaps have them work in a different building, or even a different site, for the duration. Have a “backup” race team in the factory in case there are quarantine-related problems for the “main” race team.

    3) Someone infected in the race team while it is transiting to the venue. This would a) require quarantine from everyone who travelled with them (potentially hitting multiple teams if they are sharing a flight – due to the waiting room that uses air conditioning, and for some flights, the plane’s chemical toilet) and b) likely still leave time for replacements to be sent across, if the team followed my idea of having strict segregation between main and backup race teams. Provided there was no paddock mingling before quarantining kicked in, this one might – repeat might – be manageable. However, this would be unlikely to result in the withdrawal of any teams if the workaround presented in 2) is done, and in a worst-case scenario, would not take out enough teams for Ross’s scenario to occur. I would still question the wisdom of continuing a championship race minus any teams, if the reason for those teams being “minus” is something they couldn’t possibly have avoided. Use a non-championship format with a cash reward instead.

    4) Someone is infected within the paddock after the paddock starts mingling. There is only one option here, no matter how many or how few cars are available – can the event entirely. It goes back to my new favourite adage (and thank you, Lewis, for providing the first half): cash is king, but necessity is emperor.

  10. There is a virus spreading. Whats more important – business or life?
    Let the situation be controlled first.

  11. I’ll be honest I’d hate to see Hamilton lose his best chance of getting a 7th championship because of all this

    I know Schumacher lost a chance at one more because of injury but that’s different than circumstances beyond a driver’s control

    1. @philipgb
      Don’t worry Ham will be 8 times champion going into 2022 as they will freeze the regulations for another year so it will work out

    2. A brake issue is beyond a driver’s control! And schumacher would’ve won 2007 and 2008 too if he hadn’t prematurely retired.

  12. Depending 12 cars or more I doubt f1 will race without mercedes or ferrari. Or red bull if they are in the championship fight (unlikely). But if one of the mid field or backmarker teams can’t race but there are no legal obstacles to racing then I’m sure f1 will race.

  13. Disappointed with Brawn. Pig-headedness would be the cause of grids of less than 12 cars. Time to accept the reality of the situation, there may not be any racing this year. Is he really happy to propose continuing importing/exporting covid19 just to appease shareholders by having a farcical rerun of Indy 2005 at every race they can get away with?

    This is why the relentless logic of the engineers mind isn’t often given a political role.

    1. Except that you have it wrong and Brawn is not proposing anything wrt 12 car or less races, let alone happily.

  14. No, just no. It cheapens the sport. Take the hit and recover later. Why did we invent money again? Absolute chaos!

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