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First F1 races of 2020 will be held without fans, predicts Coulthard

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In the round-up: David Coulthard predicts F1 races will take place behind closed doors when the championship finally begins.

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Comment of the day

Shortening race weekends to fit more grands prix into the calendar brings a downside, says Realwitan:

If Formula 1 goes to a two-day format that surely will have have a knock-on to the ticket prices as the bedrock is the three-day ticket to cover practice, qualifying and race. Extra support races probably won’t make a difference to the punters’ expectations.

If promoters keep the prices the same (or rising) will they lose audience and risk a loss maker. If they don’t will they make a loss anyway if they reduce prices for a two day ticket?

It will be a very tricky marketing decision even for those races where local governments are subsidising the event.

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48 comments on “First F1 races of 2020 will be held without fans, predicts Coulthard”

  1. I would love for mr. Ecclestone to shup up for a while. My god.

    1. Liberty must regret not getting him to sign a gagging clause when they sacked him.

    2. GtisBetter (@)
      30th March 2020, 9:57

      Blaim the people who interview him. Anyway, don’t just ignore the argument because you don’t like the person who says it. I know Ecclestone says a lot and I haven’t checked out the article, but I can imagine Liberty needs to have a good think about everything with this pandemic.

      1. @passingisoverrated – His idea about delaying the new regs is ridiculous. Many teams will have already spent time and money on the new car. Having it sit on the shelf isn’t saving a lot. In fact, it may very well require rework/redesign because ideas will be overtaken by events in the year that they are unused.

        And sticking with the current design would just lead to spending to update the current design. No rules change will be cheap short-term.

  2. If Norris shaves his hair, then hopefully he will look less like Simon Barlow.

  3. Everytime there something good or bad, Ecclestone start talking about how he would do thing his way. We saw what he did in last 10 years and almost killed the sport.

    1. @idmjungle In what way did he almost kill the sport?

      He grew the sport to be the most popular it had ever been with it in general becoming the biggest it had ever been. More fans were able to watch F1 & actually become fans of F1 than at any other period in it’s history.

      1. @roger-ayles Of course you are right about what BE did do for F1, and those within F1 who have gotten very very rich during their tenure in BE’s F1 will always acknowledge the many positives. But let’s not pretend there hasn’t been negatives, and to say he almost killed the sport is not unfair nor inaccurate. By all accounts F1 had become unsustainable, which is why Liberty has had to make the drastic changes we all knew were badly needed. Left alone to remain in charge it is very plausible that BE would have brought F1 down to 4 ‘have’ teams only, or he would have had no choice but to do things similar to what Liberty and Brawn have done.

        We are all familiar with sayings such as ‘he’s only as good as his last race,’ so if BE is only as good as his last decade, his last chapter, then it is unfortunate that after all the building up he did for F1 over the years, he spent his last decade in courts and in a money grab with CVC that has forced F1 to reverse his damaging trend.

        BE undeniably did great things for F1 in his day, but it wasn’t perfect and he had lost the plot in his last decade.

        1. @robbie

          I think BE did what he set out to do. Build up F1 to the point he could cash out on it. He did exactly what he planned.

          If he cared about the sport he would have reinvested in the teams and made sure the sport was financially viable rather than vacuuming the profits for himself and the vultures. Recall, Judas was an apostle for a long time before he sold his stake in the business. (yep, made that comparison)

      2. “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Bernie should have seen the Dark Knight.

  4. In current climate, even racing behind closed doors would be a big event.

    1. Very true, to even get to that stage, borders would have to be opened in many cases as F1, even without spectators, still requires movement of a large number of people between countries. Its not like you can just go “lets hold a race without spectators” because the equipment and the personnel still needs to be able to transit to the track and I can’t see any country suddenly deciding that F1 people are “special exceptions” to the rules they currently have in place.

      Local Racing events “might” be able to be held that way at some point earlier, but any international events are still a long way away at present.

      1. @dbradock Especially since the majority of teams are in the UK and it’s further behind the curve than either Italy or France (Switzerland’s a bit early to tell). The state of the circuit’s health isn’t particularly relevant to F1 running there if most of F1 is stuck at home.

  5. I really really don’t care what Bernie has to say.

  6. John Toad (@)
    30th March 2020, 5:29

    How is racing behind closed doors going to work for the circuits financially?
    They pay a hosting fee to stage a race and then have to rely on ticket sales to make money.
    The circuits are going to go bust, if there are no circuits willing or able to put on a GP then there is no F1.

    1. I’m sure circuits like Zandvoort, Spa or Monza (or actually 90% of grand prix in calendar) can’t wait to hold races without spectators.

      1. Really? And how are they going to pay the fee? Ticket sales are their sole source of income. So unless FOM is going to pay the circuits for having a race, I do not see it happen.

        1. @mosquito Do I really have to point out obvious sarcasm? Other than Bahrain or Abu Dhabi, as @jerejj mentioned, almost every circuit heavily relies on ticket sales. Doctors, marshalls, other staff, fans? Good luck getting them back, when people will lose jobs, their families and friends. I’m sure people will be in right mood to goooo raaaacing. In 2019 we may have seen last bit of racing for quite a few years, societal and economic collapse are no joke.

          1. Do I really have to point out obvious sarcasm?

            Then I suggest you don’t switch carreers from @armchairexpert to stand-up comedian.

          2. No you shouldn’t have to, that was perfectly obvious sarcasm.

    2. @ceevee @armchairexpert At least, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi would survive as they don’t have to rely on ticket sales.

    3. FOM could waive the hosting fees for a start…

    4. @ceevee It won’t, but Liberty gets a little more money from TV than the circuits, so even if it waives all affected races’ hosting fees, it’s still better off than not running at all.

  7. Mercedes have got a breathing aid made and in use according to the BBC.

    1. Yes, wonder why they’ve won the last 6 years F1 championships, curious, reading the detractors on here you’d think it was just luck..

  8. With F1 having their own planes and staying at the same place in quarantine conditions, the risk factor will be minimal, especially with frequent testing.

    1. Most staff flies commercial (F1 leased planes are used for material).
      At least 14 different factories plus FIA.
      Large part of race day staff is local.

  9. I can’t wait to see Lando entirely hairless, although Gio would be a fitting candidate for the same, LOL.

    I don’t agree with Bernie on the three-year delay suggestion. One is enough.

    I share the same views as the COTD, though.

    1. I don’t agree with Bernie on the three-year delay suggestion.

      I still believe Bernie is on a mission to talk down the value of F1 and buy it back, @jerejj.

      1. @coldfly I think he’d settle quite happily for losing Liberty a lot of money and making it wish it had sold back. He won’t get the latter, but he’ll think he has managed it, which is enough for Bernie.

  10. Good point in the CotD. I’m sure promoters will be looking for a reduction in the race hosting fees if the weekend is shortened, because that’s the only way they can in turn pass on (likely, only some) of those savings onto the ticket costs.

    1. Typically the Friday ticket prices are very low, and a full weekend pass (in Melbourne it includes Thursday) is the same price as the combined Saturday and Sunday single-day passes, @phylyp.
      I know you can create more value by reducing the offer: we did the same a few times in my business (reduced SKU’s) and we actually increased overall Revenue.
      Please check out my TED talk on how simplification can create value and boost revenue ;)

      1. a full weekend pass (in Melbourne it includes Thursday) is the same price as the combined Saturday and Sunday single-day passes

        @coldfly – that’s interesting, so the Friday effectively zeroes out, especially if viewers are like you where you share a ticket with friends (i.e. you on Friday and they on the weekend).

  11. Well F1 wouldn’t be the same withouth Bernie. You could argue what he have done to this sport is more than any other person have done. He was in charge way longer than he should have been. He didn’t keep up with the modern world but would F1 be still here what it is like now without Bernie even though he might say things that are out of context.

  12. antony obrien
    30th March 2020, 13:07

    F1 was on this current crisis fairly early. For years the cars haven’t been able to get within 2 metres of each other.

    1. And despite popular belief even when they could run closer you weren’t getting that much more overtaking.

      One of the biggest myths is that there was all this fantastic close racing, Overtaking & competitive racing in the past before aerodynamics & turbulent air ruined it. That simply wasn’t the case on a regular basis, Like today you had moments of great racing which are the things people remember (Dijon 1979 been the obvious example) but for the most part things weren’t that different to what they are today even when the cars had no wings & later ground effects.

      Most of the passing was created by mistakes or by drivers been in different phases of there race (One driver managing his car more than the other) & most of the unpredictability came from unreliability.

      Just like races like Hockenheim 2019 are the exception rather than the norm today, Races like Dijon 1979 were back then. Problem is that the exceptions are the only thing people talk about & the only clips that get replayed a lot which creates the narrative that that is just what it was like all the time back then which really wasn’t the case.

      1. antony obrien
        30th March 2020, 15:27

        Wasn’t quite my point ( thanks Phylps) Roger but I actually 100% agree. It was pretty much a myth. But the cars did look a handful even going back to 2004, they certainly don’t now.

      2. “One of the biggest myths is that there was all this fantastic close racing, Overtaking & competitive racing in the past aerodynamics & turbulent air ruined it. That simply wasn’t the case on a regular basis”

        Exactly. I’ve been following F1 since de 90’s and we all remember the Hakkinen-Schumacher-Zonta overtake in Spa, but in the refueling year almost all the overtaking was in the pit stops.
        Altough there could be good racing without overtaking: Alonso-Schumacher in Imola 2005 or Leclerc in Monza last year

      3. Yes Roger, most of the passing was because of mistakes, mistakes made because another car was swarming all over them, inside, outside, alongside, brake early and they are alongside, brake late and they are on the inside forcing you wide. Doesn’t happen from 1-2 seconds back.

    2. LOL, nice one, Antony O’Brien :)

  13. In relation to COTD as i’ve said before i’m vehemently against 2 day weekends as I just don’t see them offering good value for fans. 2 day weekends for me would just decrease the value of attending a race weekend. Why pay hundreds of dollars to travel to a race just for 2 days with potentially 3 hours less F1 track action. Just doesn’t offer good value as far as i’m concerned, Especially if you plan to travel to another country & as such i’d be far less willing to do so.

    When I pay to goto a race weekend i’m there to watch F1 drivers in F1 cars & want to see as much of that as possible. We already have significantly less opportunities to go & watch the cars in action compared to what we used to thanks to the testing ban & I hate the idea of seeing those opportunities reduced further.

    I also dislike the idea of cutting practice in general because i’ve always found been at a track during Friday practice to be a far more enjoyable experience than qualifying or the race as it’s a more relaxed atmosphere & since you don’t have to worry about paying attention to lap times, race order & stuff as you do for qualifying/race it gives the opportunity to just walk the circuit & watch the cars from different places. For qualifying/races you tend to want to stay in your seats, watch the big screens & pay attention to things more closely to keep up with whats going on & while that is still fun it’s not as enjoyable an overall experience as what you can do during the practice sessions.

    The sport seems like it just wants people to actually be able to go & watch it less & less. I said recently about how we used to be able to go & watch the cars all the time when testing was allowed & now we seem to be heading to a point where you’ll be lucky to go & watch them once a year for 3-4 hours over 2 days. It’s frustrating as a fan who actually really loves been able to go & watch the cars & would like to have more opportunities to do this rather than less.

  14. Re: comment of the day.

    Honestly, I think the “knock-on” will have the opposite affect. If practice sessions move to Saturday, before qualifying, I think more fans will be more inclined to buy tickets and attend. How many people actually buy tickets for Friday practice? The stands are always empty. Promoters probably see friday as a loss anyway. Think about it. If FP1+2 moved to Saturday, combined with a reduced ticket price that means one less night’s stay in a hotel, one less day of work missed, and you get an all-day FP1-3 build-up to Quali all in one day. That’s waymore bang for your buck. Not to mention the track will probably attract bigger one day crowds because of the increased constant on-track action.

    The format might have to change, like making the whole morning one open track session. But if it means teams have more time to get to and from tracks, promoters get more butts in seats over a weekend, and the fans get a steady stream of action, doesn’t that make more sense? I’m sure there are more intricacies I’m not aware of that factor in, but a condensed race weekend seems to make more and more sense… It could also just be that I’m couped up in my apartment with nothing but Esports and F1 archives to hold me over and anything that gets the 2020 season going sounds good.

    1. @btcamp For me like I said above i’d just see a 2 day weekend as been less value & would therefore be far less likely to attend & I know most of those I know who also attend races feel the same.

      And the issue with holding Qualifying on a Sunday morning is what happens if somebody has a problem in qualifying, An accident or technical issue? We already see drivers missing qualifying at times after having issues in FP3 so would we then have drivers been unable to start races if they have problems in Sunday morning qualifying?
      Additionally getting fans into the circuits on a Sunday morning for qualifying could be a problem as transportation can be a problem early Sunday morning in many places, Especially where public transport runs a reduced timetable. The old Sunday warm-up, The Sunday qualifying they tried in 2005 & the early morning support races now all run with reduced crowds as fans are still trying to get in.

      I also remember back in 2005 hardly any broadcasters carried the Sunday qualifying because they had other program blocks to run that drew a higher audience. And on the occasions since where qualifying has had to be delayed to Sunday a lot of broadcasters again opted not to carry it for the same reason & those that did saw significantly reduced viewing figures compared to Saturday afternoon quali.

      And then there is the support races. If Saturday is full of F1 practice & Sunday is F1 qualifying in the morning & race in the afternoon when do you get the support event practice/qualifying/races in?

    2. @btcamp

      ow many people actually buy tickets for Friday practice? The stands are always empty.

      Just on that point.

      As I have said in a comment above on Friday people tend to use the opportunity to walk around the circuit, Watched the cars from different places & look at some of the other things going on such as buying merchandise from the stall’s or looking at any fan activities going on in the in-field.
      For Saturday/Sunday & Qualifying/Races you need to pay more attention to what’s going on in terms of lap times, race order, pit strategy etc.. So will want to stay in your seats & watch the big screens, listen to the PA or using timing app’s on phones & stuff.

      Friday has always been a more relaxed atmosphere where you walk around & just watch the cars from different places & just sort of enjoy the experience & take it all in. I will always say that those going to a race weekend for the first time should goto Friday practice rather than aiming straight for the race because the Friday is & always has been the thing that provides you a better, more enjoyable overall experience. Not that been at Qualifying/Races isn’t also fun as clearly it is but it’s not quite as enjoyable an overall experience.

    3. antony obrien
      31st March 2020, 12:02

      Me, I want more days. I get there on a Wednesday as it is, to max the fun/beer time as well as being able to be more relaxed about attending the sessions. I don’t want it all in on e day, if anything i’d like a whole week, kind of festival style, which I believe was the direction of travel before covid 19 and hopefully will again.

      I do get annoyed when TV viewers start positing at what track fans want. And I can assure you places like Spa & Silverstone are very much busy on the Friday.

    4. @btcamp In many countries, fans don’t buy tickets for Saturday either. But in some places, they are all-or-nothing except where they can’t arrive earlier than a particular day. Friday is usually the only day when you can get a different perspective from your assigned grandstand (general admission has less of a problem with this but they don’t sit in the grandstands on any day in F1). The picture is different in different places.

      I’d also add that support programmes help alleviate Liberty’s costs, so it’s unlikely they will voluntarily switch to a schedule that has no space for support series in places where such is offered. Even Porsche Supercup helps them a bit (apparently it helps a lot of the audience too… …it’s amazing how thick the lunch and toilet queues get when that’s on, and sometimes the audience misses exciting stuff because of this).

  15. Looking at what Races could be held and the Season possibly going into January, I looked at the average Temperatures in each location to see which races could be even held.
    Let’s say, the season starts in September and goes until the end of January.
    The month I have a Race in doesn’t mean it will happen, it’s the latest it could happen temperature wise before it could get too cold.
    September: Montreal, Spa, Silverstone, Baku, Austria
    October: Monza, Paul Ricard, Hungary, Zandvoort
    November: Suzuka, Spain, Austin, Shanghai, Sochi
    December: (all remaining tracks can be raced during any of these months)
    January: Abu Dhabi, Sao Paulo, Bahrain, Singapore, Mexico, Vietnam

    Looking at it I Don’t see several Races happening.
    Plus, will the entire Paddock be able to make 4 races per month happen? I don’t think so. The most is three.
    Maybe make September and October the European Season and then have all Fly away races from there.

    Now how many of these could race without fans? For places like Baku, Singapore and Vietnam, Since there is so much work and cost required to set the track up, The cost would be too high to race without fans.
    But with Singapore and Vietnam being in warm climates, They can be held in January if needed and by then can admit Fans again.

    Friday should be scrapped to allow teams an extra day for travel. But the remaining format and race distance needs to stay.
    Prices for Tickets should be locked in for this and next season (F1 should be able to negotiate a deal to make that happen by lowering the Fee for this and next season). Otherwise promoters will raise prices to a point where nobody can afford them.

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