Formula 1 is in discussions with new venues that were not on the original 2020 calendar as it looks to put together a revised schedule of races this year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the motorsports world to go on hold, with the first 10 rounds of the F1 season either cancelled or postponed. The current target is to start the season with a pair of races in Austria in July, and F1 Chairman and CEO Chase Carey admits new venues are being spoken to in order to try and create the best schedule.
“We have been working tirelessly since (the cancelled season opener in) Australia and we are actively engaged with our promoters in putting together a potential 2020 race calendar,” Carey said on a Liberty Media Q1 results conference call. “We have two primary challenges: identifying locations where we can hold a race and determining how we can transport all necessary parties and their equipment to that location for a race. We are in discussions with all our promoters as well some tracks that are not currently on our 2020 calendar to ensure that we explore all options.
“Our goal is to launch our season on the weekend of July 4-5 in Austria, and it is likely that we race the weekend of July 11-12 in Austria as well. We are in advanced stages of putting together a schedule of additional races through early September, as well as during the August break, we will then plan to race in Eurasia, Asia and the Americas in September, October and November, before finishing in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in December.
“We hope to have a calendar with 15-18 races. We expect the early part of the calendar to be races without fans but we hope to be able to allow fans to attend in the later part of the year. We feel increasingly positive about the number of locations that will be able and want to hold a race this year. Work on the travel and other logistical issues related to each country are a work in progress. The economics of races, particular ones with fans, will clearly vary from existing agreements and we are actively engaged in this too.”
Discussions with new venues are possible because the logistics of putting on races without fans are very different to an event that would otherwise need to cater for tens or even hundreds of thousands of people.
“I think clearly races without fans have a much more significant impact on the promoter side than the broadcast and sponsorship side. In many ways racing without fans is first and foremost for the broadcast and digital sponsorship side, the fans will all connect through various platforms and in many ways when you’re at a live race people watch it on TV screens anyway.
“The promoter side, clearly it is very different event without fans. That will be reflected. We’ve talked about them being week-long spectacles, multi-day events, the city involved. Without fans it is clearly a very different opportunity, a very different event, and we recognize that.”
Carey also says he is aiming to finish the season in mid-December, even if there remains the possibility to stretch into January 2021 if required.
“I think right now our current targeted plan has us finishing later in December than the original plan, so more like December 13-14. But we are evaluating — certainly finishing in January is an option. We could do that.
“I think if we can we’d like to finish in December. We’d obviously have to take a fairly long break through the holidays — you’re not going to race in the holiday weeks — but it is an option we would have to work with our promoters, and with an array of parties, to get there. It is something considered, but I’d say our goal is to finish a couple of weeks later than our original date but to finish in mid-December ahead of the holidays.”