Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019

‘Every European GP’ could be held behind closed doors

RaceFans Round-up

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In the round-up: Formula 1 is considering whether every round in Europe this year will have to be held without fans, according to McLaren team principal Zak Brown.

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Comment of the day

HK wasn’t impressed with yesterday’s Virtual Grand Prix:

I found the event appalling to watch. They were cutting and extending corners all over the place – the better they’d cheat the better the lap time.

Also all assists allowed, ERS management turned to automatic, damage reduced. I would’ve expected something a bit more professional from this official series. It’s a (j)yoke.
HK (@Me4me)

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On this day in F1

Senna took his first Formula 1 pole position – then the weather took a turn for the worse
  • 35 years ago today Ayrton Senna put his Lotus on pole position for the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril

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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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32 comments on “‘Every European GP’ could be held behind closed doors”

  1. Re COTD
    am i really the only one who does NOT want them to be all boring and serious about this? this is such a Chance for a bonkers, silly, fun f1 and all everyone can Think about is realism.

    i want the f1 youtuber Championship but with the actual drivers!

    1. The banter is a big plus in these Egames races.

    2. @mrboerns The Virtual GP is the most serious-toned of the eSports series I’ve seen so far, despite having arguably the most relaxed ruleset (though I’ve not watched any of the iRacing rounds yet – I have enough trouble keeping track of all Charles Leclerc’s streams without branching out into other people’s…)

  2. I know they keep asking everyone involved “when is it going to start now?”, “are you racing behind closed doors?” and so on, but seriously, every day there’s a new “theory” on F1 2020…

    Why not just wait, see when goverments start to allow people to go outside, go to work, allowing travel, and then we’ll have a clearer idea on how F1, a non-essential business, is coming back…?

    1. @fer-no65, That’s fine as long as you realise you will be waiting till next year. People keep asking because the alternative is to do nothing and let teams die.

    2. Agreed – it seems every person has a new opinion on what will be happening every day.

      Does F1 and all the others with an opinion not get the fact that it’s not up to them. It’s up to the individual governments of the places they want to race as to whether or not they will allow a travelling circus entry over their borders.

      We had travel plans from Aus to the UK and at the moment, both countries are saying it’s unlikely there will be any international travel until round the end of the year, probably more likely 2021. Why would they be likely to allow F1 travel?

      F1 needs to wake up to the fact that it’s not “special” and is no different to every other business that has to cope with the inability to run.

    3. @fer-no65 @dbradock Firstly, there’s a contractual requirement for Liberty to keep asking. Otherwise it will be known as an entity that breaks contracts, will lose its agreements with teams, tracks etc. (note that the only team that has signed the replacement for the 2020 bilaterals yet is Renault, and that was so long ago the current management may not feel bound by it if they feel Liberty doesn’t treat its agreements with equal respect). That would prevent F1 from ever restarting, in any way, shape or form.

      If it tries, and through force majuere cannot restart, that’s completely different. Then it can survive long enough to get a season started – whenever that is. (I think a season can be done in 2020, and that some later rounds could even have an audience, but I can also understand why a 2021 restart may turn out to be compelled by changing viral landscape). However, trying to restart is no more up to Liberty and the FIA than denying the restart is up to them. Both the pushers and the stoppers are required to act as they do through prior commitments they have made.

      (Incidentally, Britain allows travel abroad, provided it’s on a “permitted excuse” and the receiving country is believed to share the same opinion. Work that cannot be done from home is deemed a “permitted excuse”. So if a different nation started allowing mass events, the British F1 teams could go today. They couldn’t actually run because I don’t think Italy has opened its borders for that sort of thing yet, and F1 cars don’t go very far without tyres, but the principle is there…)

    4. It’s honestly ridiculous to start talking of that now, when it was completely off-topic before. The spread is higher now than it ever was, and suddenly it’s fine? Even suggesting having a race like the Australian behind closed doors and you were totally irresponsible and the worst person in the world.

  3. I disagree with COTD I watched the F1 virtual go, I watched it & really enjoyed it as I have the previous ones.

    I don’t want a super serious or realistic take on it as indycar & others are doing as I know I’m not watching a real life race & don’t want it to be presented as such. I just haven’t enjoyed the indycar/I racing stuff because of them trying to make it look like something it isn’t.

    I want to watch these for a bit of fun (same reason I play these games) & that is exactly what I’m getting from them & I’m really enjoying them a lot more because of that.

    1. I want to watch these for a bit of fun (same reason I play these games) & that is exactly what I’m getting from them & I’m really enjoying them a lot more because of that.

      Yes, you’re right, fun is an important part of this, but I also agreed with the race commentators (and some of those who mentioned this after the race) there’s too much leniency towards those who go off the track.
      As I said elsewhere, hopefully F1 will raise the bar a bit higher at the next virtual GP.
      One of the things I like with real races is where they replay some incident. Is it possible to do that with the simulated race? Also, when a car goes off the track and causes a Yellow Flag, is it possible to show which car or cars did that on the Leaderboard? The reason being is often you see a Yellow Flag come up, but often you don’t know who went off the track, and there’s no replay of the event. These sorts of things are what makes a real race interesting. Since there’s obviously a computer running the whole race, is it possible to program it so it “zooms” to the part of the race track and replay’s the incident?
      F1 needs to get some advice from the Sky F1 team on how to present these, maybe even get them to do some of their “magic” with the virtual GP, so they do replays and such like. Also, why not use the 2020 cars?

      1. @drycrust Yes, replays are definitely possible. Though the one in-race method I can think of from the top of my head my break visual immersion. It would involve recording a screen with the requisite view and then splicing it into the live coverage – unless it was possible to get a bank of identically-specificationed “spectators” in the race viewing the different perspectives on offer (I believe they already use one to get the “world feed”), that were guaranteed to have the same lag pattern (e.g. by being in the same location), there’d be a visible change of appearance between live and replay. (Also note that an alternative to putting in spectators would be to splice in drivers’ Twitch streams. I’m not sure having the screen recorder directly on drivers’ computers and auto-transmitting would work due to security and lag issues).

        If I recall correctly, F1 2019 has some sort of post-race replay function, so that’s an alternative for post-race analysis. It just wouldn’t help dissect anything in the race.

        The server can’t zoom into anything – it just runs the race (and is pretty flat-out doing that) so it has no visual output beyond what goes onto “client” computers.

        2020 cars aren’t used because of licensing. Don’t be surprised if July and beyond features F1 2020 instead of F1 2019.

        1. Thanks for the update.

    2. I don’t want a super serious or realistic take on it as indycar

      I cannot get myself to take oval racing seriously and much less so when doing it on a computer, @stefmeister.

    3. @stefmeister While I agree with you that ‘fun’ is an important part of these virtual-races, I still prefer a more serious take on them.

  4. Big question, is anyone talking to governments about these races going ahead? So far Austria seems to be the only country that has the government supporting a race going ahead. With the information available, the rest seem to be wild dreams at best..

    1. If they (teams, employees and organisers) can organise to take it seriously then government’s shouldn’t have an objection. A football league was talking about taking over an island.
      F1 could race in three weeks if they can organise flights and took it to the nth degree:
      Mobilise personnel with spares for each position (inc drivers), test everyone, quarantine them separately at first and then in larger and larger groups for 14 days, test again, go racing with no restriction inside the gates. Ancillary services (transport, accomm & bus) have to be no-contact/sterilised or by personnel parsed under the same conditions. Also ban bats & cats from the menus.
      I’d have thought Austria might be a the easiest sell to govt.
      F1 is essentially English & Boris would likely give it a tick (although maybe he’s taking actual advice now).
      France, Monaco, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy are all going to be tough sells unless they have exceptionally good runs from here with cases and fatality rates. I don’t think the CD will let Germany do it.
      I’d think both Canada and US need to agree to host to bother going. Other than that 4 back to back races in Dubai + Bahrain then finish off the season with a Friday and Saturday races at Albert Park with a Sunday race on Phillip Island.

    2. @antznz Yes, MSA UK is in conversation with the British government, as much to protect national racing as the Grand Prix (at the moment, there’s a suspension of all licenced motorsport in Britain, no matter how minor, until June 30).

      1. @alianora-la-canta thanks for the info. That’s the bit that I hadn’t noticed in reports. Looks like it will be another month or two before know if dates change and what is then feasible.

  5. Races in Europe certainly can be possible due to relative closeness to factories and use of roads to transport parts. But still given how bad situation is in Europe dont see how even in Aug races will take place as the countries will have to prepare for upcoming winters.

  6. And who’s going to pay for those races?

    1. The TV Broadcasters.

      1. Exactly @hohum. They need races to fill airtime. And F1 needs to help them fill airtime to get money for the contracts so they don’t go out of business @pironitheprovocateur

        1. Do you think that payments from the broadcasters cover the entire hosting fee for the venue?

          1. Do you think that payments from the broadcasters cover the entire hosting fee for the venue?

            Broadcasters don’t ‘cover the hosting fee’ but pay a separate fee (which is even bigger than the hosting fee).

      2. Plus the official sponsors (Heineken, etc), and even some of the local promoters might be able to pay part of the fee.

    2. @pironitheprovocateur Liberty, who are hoping to string 15 together so they get TV money for the season. (I think if it manages 15 races, it gets as much money from TV as if it had 25, though I may be wrong on this – but 14 is as much use for getting TV income as 0. Hence talk of multiple races per venue – clearly useless for getting extra venue money but potentially an answer for securing TV monies for the season).

    3. Pironi since when do the spectators pay for the event? Some attendances are not trivial.

  7. I wouldn’t really be in favor of having another Austrian GP on the Wednesday after the original race-day, even though it’d be later in the day. Furthermore, the last suitable starting time (hour) would be 17:10 or 18:10 at the very latest due to the sunset time of that day (July 8) being 20:57. Having two races on the same weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) would be more ideal or having the 2nd race on the following weekend, which would require pushing the British GP back by seven days, though.

    1. If without public it doesn’t really matter too much when they organise the race.
      It might even help to get people to stay at home during the hot summer days/evenings.

      I want the races to be significantly different though. And when alternative layouts are not possible, and weather changes unpredictable, I propose to provide different tyre compounds for each race. One race on softs or Mediums, and the next on a harder compound.
      This will create some variation between the races, without making it artificial. I’d even argue that a single compound race (no mandatory pitstops) is purer than a race with a mandatory pitstop and compound change.

      1. @coldfly Yes, under these current circumstances, if ever, there’d be a valid reason to try and do at least one race without the rule of having to use at least two different compounds when the race is dry throughout, i.e., without any mandatory pit stops.

    2. @jerejj 18:10 would be viable for securing the audience of essential workers. It might even experiment with a shorter race-format (e.g. 1 hour maximum, with a 2-hour-with-stoppages outer boundary, instead of standard F1 races having double these amounts) to secure the slot .

  8. Yeah CotD and other comments both fair enough. I’m not a super serious gamer but also not one of the buzzkill boomers that are on here. I play F1 2019 a lot, just with my PS4 controller. I do it seriously, lots of hours and practice sessions and stuff but ultimately its me playing an arcade game rather than having a wheel and being a simmer or anything.

    I get the valid ‘bonkers fun’ vs ‘fake serious’ argument. Ultimately I’m enjoying Indycar and Supercars far more than F1 but I think thats not simply because they happen to be more serious. I think its just the professionalism of the broadcast and the approach. Like, lots of people commented at the time that the Supercars has outdone all these because of every element and I agree, and thats despite it being ABSOLUTELY bonkers. There was the ridiculousness at Monza, some crazy incidents at Philip Island that first week and at Silverstone this time.

    Indycar has actually been very clean and serious and like ‘real’ racing except not real and its starting to bore me, though its still good.

    I think the balance you need is to have good entertaining racing, that displays their skills, while also having some crazy crashes and stuff. In short, this gaming allows us to be more childish ‘omg yay cool crashes’ race fans which real life doesn’t quite so much if you’re worried about someone being hurt.

    That doesn’t mean its ‘serious’ in the sense of ‘realistic’. None of us want a real F1 style procession but on a game (as some of the commenters here are implying I think). But its ‘serious’ in the involvement of the real commentators and drivers and the access. That’s why the Supercars is so good. It’s EVERY DRIVER. There’s a clear hierarchy of better and worse drivers like real life which makes it easy to follow, but its a DIFFERENT hierarchy to real life which is fun. It has the real commentators. It is quite realistic in graphics and race strategy. BUT its Supercars on epic European tracks they don’t race on usually! And they can race much harder without safety or car damage concerns and you get crazy stuff! And we can see them all on camera and often talk to them! It’s a perfect balance.

    Indycar similar and its also been good, I just think its a bit harder to follow with a less consistent and growing driver field and the broadcasters sound annoying and clipped from their homes and just in general, while Indycar is great, the things that make the real life championship a bit annoying remain which is the very American nature of the broadcast and how annoying Leigh Diffey is. Basically Indycar is fine its just that the oval races actually turned out very clean and realistic and processional which is boring in a game.

    F1 has been OK. I’m not that bothered by it being on Codemasters coz I play that too and it makes it accessible and thats fine and the last two races have been clean enough (but also the first was stupid and crazy but therefore fun and more memorable and I kind of enjoyed that more!) So I get both ‘crazy’ vs ‘serious’ cases. It’s whatever you prefer. But I’m somewhere in the middle. For me the issue is NOT that its crazy but NOT because I want serious. I think its got nothing to do with that dichotomy (or rather, the extent to which it is is BECAUSE it doesn’t know which it wants to be).

    The problem is the entire operation just makes F1’s historic lack of…young hipness, stand out like a sore thumb. Not being on iRacing can’t be helped because of the commercial reality. They recognise they need some real drivers for clout. But they don’t have enough so I’m not invested in it and find it recognisable the way the Supercars is THE SAME DRIVERS IN THE SAME CARS. So I’m like ‘oh…ok so its silly fun’, except that its not because the last two races have been boring and processional.

    But F1/Liberty, anyone involved in this just don’t seem to get who their audience is or why. They know that its not the ‘traditional’ F1 audience of old white people. So they’re trying to cater to other demographics. The problem is, just like every other awful element of how Liberty run F1 (its social media, its attempts at ‘engagement’ in the broadcasts), this is old white people trying to cater to people it doesn’t understand. So they’re like ‘LETS GET HIP YOUNG PEOPLE!’ but like, NODODY watching in any demographic cares about seeing how Footballers go. Why is IAN POULTER there for goodness sake. That’s just another middle aged white man.

    This represents a great opportunity, IF you are going to be fun, IF you are going to FINALLY have that freedom F1 hasn’t had for ages to ‘do anything’ to really go crazy. Get women involved! Get ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE REAL celebrities with clout if you want to go the celebrity route (not Ian Poulter jesus christ). Get ‘influencers’. I know lots of people don’t know them or care but if they filled the non-racing driver grid with people who are pros at this then they’d at least do it competently instead of getting someone who has no more relevance or relative fame to a young race fan like an Ian Poulter to just do the same thing very poorly.

    Go to Bathurst! Go to an oval! Have fun with it the way Supercars and Indy are. The sky is the limit. And what are we doing? Processionally driving around in circles on boring Tilkedromes like China…having the same real life issues of penalty farces, track limits etc, instead of (as Bahrain got closer to) us at least having an entertaining laugh about drunk Johnny Herbert passing everyone by cheating. That’s funny. That’s entertaining. It’s not that they are going serious OR silly, either (or the correct well thought out balance like Supercars as mostly serious but more entertaining coz of the lower stakes and fantasy tracks) could work. Its that they look like they’re constantly flip-flopping about what they want and committing to both then half-assing/coming up short.

    I’m ranting I know but to get back to the core issue. Like in every other element of their business, F1 just don’t ‘get it’. Why are there people in a studio? Stay home my god. Why is it still 20 men? Why are the only guests obscenely rich celebrity sportspeople with varying degrees of cultural relevance? Do you want REAL celebrity guests or do you want all racers/sim-racers? You can’t say you’re being ‘serious’ then have driver aids and that abuse of track limits and all these silly guests. You can’t say you’re being ‘fun’ if you only feature boring racing in the same formats on the same tracks. If you want to be fun, look at Supercars. Do a 4 race weekend, 1 reverse grid. Go to random other tracks. Add rain. Change the gameplay parameters, etc. I know to some extent they’re limited by commercial factors but its just that combination of boring and stupid. They’re too serious where they could be fun (formats, broadcast style etc) and too silly on the only bits that actually need to be serious to not make this be a waste of time and give it some clout (broadcast quality, driver legitimacy etc).

    Also petty but I’ve saved this point for last.

    …Who the absolute hell is the main host guy on the broadcast? Is he a twitch guy which is why his TV manner is so stuttery and unprofessional or is that just another example of how bad young modern day TV journalism is? I don’t know him, some might. Is he a racing guy or an eSports guy? I’ve never seen him involved in F1 media before, and I understand why…he is AWWWWWWFUL. He stutters about, I have no idea what he’s saying. he seems like he’s losing his mind with nerves? hH doesn’t seem to know how to speak English like a native speaker with any coherent sense of sentence intonation? He gives no indication he has a clue what he’s talking about on EITHER e-Sports OR F1? Like how can he be that bad on EITHER field? Surely he’s come from one? I don’t want to attack him needlessly I’m sure he’s trying his best and I couldn’t do better (and I’m the one who was calling out petty Boomers before) but god he’s bad. Might seem dramatic but I do honestly think this F1 eSports thing would be maybe 10% better alone JUST by getting rid him. Like why do they have two studios? You don’t need to mimic the usual TV structure of hosts AND commentators totally separately. Just have Alex and Jack host the thing, they’re great, and if you want to still include that panel-show style of having ‘extras’ then talk to the eSports Matt guy (he’s really good actually, I like him!) and involve Natalie in ‘virtual pit reporter’ way the way Indycar and Supercars have, talking to drivers or something, she’s suited to that and it would create more access. Natalie and that guy were HORRENDOUS together. It’s not Nat’s strength and she’s trying to carry that idiot. The end of the race was, and this is another thing that’s indicative of exactly what I’m saying, just them spending 10 minutes going ‘OMG THAT WAS SO COOL I LOVED THAT WASN’T IT COOL?”. And its like, yeah…it was kinda cool, its good we have this compared to nothing and it was OK racing and good to see some real drivers. But it wasn’t THAT cool, and can you let us decide please? Like its so F1. They’re so desperate for fan approval and so clueless as to want fans actually want that they just give us something random then as loud as they can go ‘LOOK AT THIS COOL SEE ITS COOL RIGHT ISN’T THIS COOL PLEASE VALIDATE MEEEE? :( :( :(‘. It simultaneously shows how out of touch, desperate and sensitive to be loved, and kind of comic book PR evil they are. Its almost Trumpian. The way F1 can somehow at every turn simultaneously make itself seem like a frightening scary root of all evil AND a lost loveless 4 year old child desperate for approval. F1 really is the Trump of sports when you think about it. Rich and white and out of touch and completely politically amoral and shameless but also so obviously transparently vulnerable and sensitive to anyone paying attention and that lust for power is just a manifestation of not being loved as a child. I mean it does make sense, F1 still does mirror Bernie in its fundamental identity and he is exactly that as a man.

    …Oops anyway. Yeah, anything! Just get rid of that guy! I think the reason I’m so up in arms about him is he seems to personify Liberty/F1’s, ‘oh no we need young people to watch…lets get a young guy who talks like young people to come on and act all hip and look kind of like ‘one of those gays’ we disapprove of but lots of young people like to be! etc’ awful uneducated efforts. No. Just use proven TV professionals + an e-Sports expert to help us understand those new elements (and they found that, it’s what Matt’s for, he’s perfect!)

    TL;DR – Isn’t really bad, its just that almost nothing is truly ‘good’. Doesn’t know what its trying to be. Is silly where it should be serious, serious where it should be silly. Wrong drivers, wrong PR approach, wrong broadcast style, wrong broadcast team, in every sense just reflective of just how far wide of the mark F1 still is at actually having a clue how to put together a decent product. But we knew this already. Their real product shows us this every week aswell.

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