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F1 planning for possibility it may not be able to hold races in 2020

2020 F1 season

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The possibility no Formula 1 races may go ahead this year is among the scenarios commercial rights holder Liberty Media is planning for.

They have already given advanced payments to some teams to help them weather the financial impact of the delayed start to the 2020 F1 season.

The first nine races have been cancelled or postponed, meaning the sport has suffered a reduction in income from race hosting fees. It has also cast doubt on the extent of F1’s earnings from television broadcasting rights.

That income is usually distributed to teams throughout the year. Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams is among those who have expressed concern over the impact the reduction in income will have on their operations, saying it is “critical” some races are held this year.

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said the company has already stepped in to help some teams.

“We have advanced money in advance of team payments for certain teams already,” he said in a conference call yesterday, adding “there are cases where we may do more of that”.

“There are other things that we might do to bridge teams that need help. We’re certainly not viewing this as an open chequebook.”

Maffei said Liberty recognised the need to help keep teams “solvent” for the future health of the sport. “They’re a part of what we need to race successfully in 2020, 2021 and beyond.”

The sport is considering whether it could hold some races behind closed doors in order to get the 2020 F1 season started. But Maffei admitted there is a possibility no races may happen this year.

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“We have scenarios for zero races, anywhere from 15 to 18 races, races that begin with no fans at present and only for teams,” he said. “We really have a host of opportunities or challenges on all fronts and Chase [Carey, F1 CEO] and his team are presented with multiple options.”

He said there are “no guarantees yet” when the season may be able to begin.

“We are watching how the opening of certain events is happening in Western Europe and certain countries, and looking at options around that. That may be the start of the calendar. No guarantees yet, but that would certainly be something that would be attempted.”

Holding races behind closed doors would bring an added cost, Maffei admitted, as race promoters would have to be compensated for the loss of income from ticket sales. He indicated Liberty is prepared to bear that cost.

However, he noted, teams will still need to receive revenue from the sport, particularly the smaller ones which do not receive large bonus payments and are largely dependent on F1 for their income.

“If you run races with no live audience we’ll obviously have lower profitability and that may be even no profitability,” he said. “We may be capitalised sufficiently to handle that for 2020.

“But there are teams which will incur costs, particularly those that don’t have minimum guarantees from F1 and really their revenue, one of their major – if not their major – revenue source, is their share of the profits of F1.”

While F1 may run “marginally profitable or not particularly profitable races” some teams “still need to recover all their costs of running their teams”, said Maffei.

“That’s a challenge and that’s one of the reasons why we need to be thoughtful about how we begin in a way that is not only good for us, but is good for the ecosystem.

“Chase and his team has run multiple scenarios. [What does] it take to get going? It’s not only when we are allowed by authorities and in what format with a TV-race only or a fan race.

“But also, how does it work for the teams? How do we do something that is beneficial to fans but also doesn’t have the teams bankrupting themselves by conducting ‘no profit’ or loss races?”

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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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28 comments on “F1 planning for possibility it may not be able to hold races in 2020”

  1. I mean, of course they are, they’d be a pretty terrible management team if they didn’t consider all possible scenario’s. Doesn’t mean it’ll come to pass, but they’d be remiss to not consider all options.

    1. If running races this year could be the cause just one additional Covid-19 death then the season should be scrapped.

  2. Enough of this. Make a decision, F1!

    1. Why the rush?

    2. Naturally they’re going to hold out as long as they can to make such a huge decision. Desperately hoping we see both F1 and IndyCar partial seasons this year!

    3. Again, why don’t you tell the 100,000’s of staff they won’t be paid after 3 months for the rest of the year. It’s not like they will be able to find employment for the rest of the year, then merrily leave to go back to F1

      It’s obvious if races will start they will be no spectators for possibly any of them. So that just leaves the teams and circuits to get ready. That can happen within a month according to Zak Brown’s preferred notice time.

      That does leave time for races to happen. If it doesn’t happen then fine, but it doesn’t need to be called yet.

  3. Very good to see they’re covering off this eventuality, and even better to hear they’re making advance payments to teams.

    1. @phylyp, do you know when they will start making advance payments to fans?

      If Liberty won’t cover our F1 withdrawal therapy costs, then we must consider other e-sports spectator options like speed needlepoint and virtual paint-drying.

      1. Hey Jimmi, I’m painting a door today, get down here.

  4. How does that jive with a report by some Austrian radio, that apparently a deal is almost in place to have two races there in June?

    1. @matthias-wlkp They would happen in July.

    2. @matthias-wlkp The 2 races in Austria deal is more something that Helmut Marko has said Red Bull would be open to organizing rather than been something anybody has agreed to do. They have pitched the idea to F1, The FIA & other teams but as of yet that’s as far as it has gone.

      And at present it’s my understanding that an Austrian Gp happening in July won’t necessarily be a decision any of those parties could even make as the biggest hurdle will be what travel restrictions are in place & that will be a matter made by individual governments rather than anybody involved in F1.

      And maybe i’m wrong with this but the last thing I heard was that the British government (Which is where most the teams/personnel are based remember) are likely to have very tight restrictions on ‘non essential’ travel to/from the UK for most of (If not the rest of) this year & may even keep those restrictions in place until a vaccine is available.

      And even if those involved in F1 do who need to travel from the UK end up been allowed to do so, It is very likely that everyone subsequently returning to the UK from overseas races will end up been placed into mandatory 14 day self isolation. And if that is the case it will be that which limits F1’s options in terms of putting together a schedule & why the talked about ‘3 weeks on, 1 week off’ schedule may well wind up been impossible to run. Even more so when you factor in how other countries may have similar restrictions/guidelines.

      1. Something which will open up possibilities is testing. However you then have the argument that with test kits in high demand & short supply is it really correct to be using them on people traveling to drive cars around racetracks when they could be used on hospital staff & others who actually need them more?

  5. I suppose there’s also a scenario planned for eight races since eight is the minimum number of races required for a season to qualify for the world championship?

    1. @jerejj 8 Races is the minimum required by the FIA to be classified as a world championship but i’ve heard that some of the other commercial deals in place require more than that.

      1. @gt-racer I’ve seen the mention of 15 races concerning TV-deals.

  6. Craig Simons
    24th April 2020, 18:08

    And the last horse FINALLY crosses the finish line. Well done FIA for finally coming to your senses; but a lot of us have been saying this for over a month now.

    1. March 13th. actually.

      1. Craig Simons
        25th April 2020, 16:54

        Oh dang.

  7. As long as F1 can hold eight races this year there will be a world champion

  8. It’s April 24. The normal schedule runs into December. There is plenty of time to ,wait and see , AND make a timely decision.

    1. @Ram What ‘normal’ schedule?

      1. Hi @jerejj , Just meaning last year for example. So I was hoping for some races by Dec. this year. If not, hey at least they tried. :) historic and virtual racing and it will be.

  9. Maybe it’s time to consider the Silverstone option as non-championship series with only the british based teams competing, but all teams getting equal share of the TV income (engine adjusted).

  10. You can bet that if the modelling shows that the potential loss for Liberty will be far smaller if they cancel all 2020 races than it will be if they try having some compressed races with no fans, then there will be no races.

    The entire decision making process will be based on the best financial outcome for Liberty, not the teams, not the promoters, not the fans. Until they can get some guarantees that they won’t risk losing large sums attempting to hold a race, it’s unlikely there will be any races.

    There’s time yet, but with more and more countries realising that they need to apply extreme caution to lifting restrictions, that window is looking more and more narrow, which is probably skewing the financial side more towards no racing.

  11. I don’t know why they didn’t say this earlier rather than their corporate mumbo “we’ll still have 18 races” jumbo. This is the sort of communication they would have benefited from rather than the denialistic optimism that we were bombarded with. I’m glad they got to this point of openness, it’s just concerning that they took so long. I guess they are only know conceding that races may not be possible and seek to lessen the blow if that announcement comes.

    It also sounds like they realise that it may be better to not run races than expose team members to the risks associated with non-profitable events – running with minimal teams requires just 1 infection to knock a whole team out. I’d imagine they would want to avoid a repeat of Melbourne and ensure that all teams are present when F1 does return. I expect that until certain criteria around safety are met, several of the more established drivers will simply refuse to attend. With the numerous unknowns, it may not be possible to make those guarantees this year.

  12. Step up Formula One and set the example for all motorsports to follow in these times of such despair.

    Racing again this year?

    The only racing that should be done is too establish that 2020 is a write off to all humans. There is a need for all types of Motorsport to accept the fact that humans and Racing must adapt or disappear.

    The right decision needs to be made so the pyramid of racing below F1 follows the new way of racing in 2021. Everything on Earth needs examples of Leadership. Ask Americans…

    So how about it F1? Take the time, figure it out and prepare for the next generation of world wide racing.

    I want to wait for what I miss, until it’s safe for humans.

  13. On the bright site, not another boring Mercedes WCC & DWC.

Comments are closed.