Formula 1’s drivers have been using the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association to discuss the challenges the sport faces in trying to restart racing.
The first nine races of the 2020 season have so far been postponed or cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with fresh doubts surrounding the races in France and Belgium following increased restrictions announced this week. With F1 managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn admitting the sport could look to hold races behind closed doors, Sebastian Vettel says the question of how F1 approaches a restart has been talked about among the drivers.
“We have spoken about that a fair amount inside the GPDA,” Vettel said. “I think it’s a very, very difficult one. It’s a tough decision. On the one hand you have the health of the sport if you look at it from a business aspect, on another hand you have the responsibility of the people in the paddock – the working people inside the paddock – and of course most importantly, the fans.
“It’s a sport that is carried out in the open, but we have a lot of people that normally come to watch our races. We need to make sure that as much as we are taking care of ourselves, we are also taking care of the public.
“Now, there’s a lot of options at the moment you can think of in terms of how to get going again, what’s the best format to start racing again. Whether it’s without fans, whether it’s with fans, ghost races or no-ghost races and other things, I don’t know. Nobody likes to race in front of empty grandstands, it feels a bit odd, but on the other hand the question is when is the right time to say ‘let’s start racing again’, and whether a ghost race can be held much sooner than a race in a way that we’re used to it.
“It depends on a lot of things, there’s a lot of things on the business side involved as well. What we would all like is to get back to normal – not just for Formula 1, but for everybody’s sake and the whole world – but in this regard the best prescription will be to be patient. It is painful, because I want to get back in the car, and if I’m selfish I want to race, but there’s a lot of people that would like a lot of things compared to the situation they’re in now.
“So I don’t have a perfect answer. Probably at the very beginning the first couple of races will be compromised compared to what we’re used to, but hopefully not too much, because obviously we want to race in a way that we are all familiar with, meaning in front of crowds, in front of fans, with great atmosphere and so on. So we will see.”
F1 has also stated any calendar will look very different to the original schedule, with the prospect of triple-headers and two-day race weekends having been suggested. Vettel said the drivers appreciate what might be required to help the sport recover from the current crisis, but wants the impact on certain team members to be considered when planning races.
“I think for us drivers, we are on the lucky end,” he said. “Races can be tough, race weekends can be tough. Whether they will change the format as well, losing a day, I don’t know whether we have that option. I think the limit will be the team, the staff in terms of mechanics, so not just whether we can get the cars from one place to another – that can be done quite quickly – but obviously you need to give enough rest to the people and the logistics behind. I think that will be the limit.
“I am also not aware of how easily you can just add in races or how the tracks will be and how busy they will be with other races as well; other categories that want to race, such as MotoGP and so on. There are a lot of questions that still need to be asked and then have an answer to.
“I think that we will probably have more races and it will be more packed, but the limit should be the people and that should be respected as well. Every now and then they also need a break, so it is not realistic to have 10 back-to-back weekends.”