The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world on its head, changing the way we live, with all sort of mass gatherings cancelled and that includes Formula 1. The situation is constantly changing, so here’s a resume of what is happening, the latest news in the world of Formula 1.
The first effects on our sport could be seen even before winter testing. On 12 February, the day after the World Health Organisation had upped the threat level, the decision was taken to postpone the Chinese GP, which was due to be held on 19 April. China was experiencing a major health crisis and this was the only possible decision to ensure the safety of everyone in the sport and its fans.
Winter testing went ahead as normal in Spain, from 19 to 21 and 26 to 28 February, although Coronavirus was the top topic in the paddock, although at this stage it had not reached pandemic status.
Things were about to get worse and the first round of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, had to be cancelled after a McLaren mechanic tested positive for Covid-19. He was quarantined and the team officially withdrew from the event. Discussions between the teams, the sport’s governing body and commercial rights holder and the local authorities led to the painful but only possible decision to cancel the event.
It would be impossible to find another date to race Down Under this year, even if the pandemic subsides. The race in Monaco is also cancelled, the first time the Grand Prix won’t be held on the streets there since 1954. Same for the French GP, called off on the 27th of April.
However, plans are afoot to try and reschedule those races that are currently postponed. Those are Bahrain, the aforementioned China, the new venue in Vietnam, the Azerbaijan GP in Baku and the Canadian GP in Montreal.
The FIA, the commercial rights holder and the race promoters are monitoring the Covid 19 situation, the idea being to squeeze in as many races as possible this year, as long as it is safe to do so. Currently, the first GP could be the Austrian Grand Prix, at the Red Bull Ring , scheduled for the 5th of July.
It starts in July
Formula 1 has announced the first dates on the new 2020 championship calendar, featuring eight races that will run between July and September. Proceedings get underway with a triple header, as Austria will host the opening round for the first time in F1 history.
The Austrian Grand Prix takes place on 5 July and on the 12 July, the Red Bull Ring will also host the Styrian Grand Prix. The teams then move to Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix on 19 July.
August will also be incredibly busy, with yet another triple header. This time, Silverstone hosts the British Grand Prix on 2 August, followed a week later by the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix on 9 August, before the circus decamps to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix on 16 August. The European part of the season will conclude with two classic events, the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on 30 August and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on 6 September.
Virtual Grand Prix Series
To feed the need for racing among the fans and to give everyone something to smile about, with what is a terrible and complex situation globally, Formula 1 has set up the Virtual Grand Prix Series, a series of Esport events run on the official “F1 2019” Codemasters platform. Some F1 drivers are expected to take part, up against celebrities and influencers, on weekends when a real GP should have taken place.
New regulations postponed until 2022
The teams, FI and the FIA have unanimously agreed to defer the introduction of the revolutionary new technical regulations due to be introduced in 2021 until 2022. The details will be thrashed out in the coming weeks, possibly freezing other components as well as the chassis itself. Once agreed on, the proposals will have to be ratified by the FIA World Motor Sport Council.
Those new regulations feature less complicated aerodynamics than the current cars, with the aim of cleaning up the air flow. It will result in a loss of around half the current amount of downforce, but the clean air behind the car should allow cars to run closer together, even in fast corners, thus producing more overtaking opportunities. Another big change for ’22 is the move to 18 inch wheel rims.
Overall, the new rules are aimed at bunching up the field from front to back in terms of performance levels, at least in theory, thus creating closer racing with more uncertainty about the final result.