A few interesting events this week with Belgium extending its lockdown and ban on mass gatherings placing the Belgian Grand Prix at risk. Austria announced they would be amenable to a closed-gate race and former FIA president Max Mosely suggesting Formula 1 should just pack it in for 2020.
Belgium announced an extension to the ban on mass gatherings and to that point, the 24 Hours of Spa announced the following:
“SRO Belgium fully respects the decision announced today by the Belgian government to prohibit large gatherings in the country until 31 August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the 2020 Total 24 Hours of Spa was originally scheduled to take place on 23-26 July, the race will now move to a revised date later in the year in compliance with these guidelines.”
The circuit itself stated:
“On Wednesday, April 15, the Belgian National Security Council took the decision to extend the lockdown on Belgian territory, until 3 May included, as part of the fight against the of-19. pandemic.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps will therefore be closed until May 3th included.
The National Security Council has also decided on a ban on mass events until 31 August included. The Circuit remains attentive to the next communication of the National Security Council. We will not fail to inform you, as soon as possible, of any new developments.
We would like to warmly thank all our organizers, teams and fans for their understanding and support.
The priority is and must remain, for each of us, to respect the instructions laid down for all of us.
Be careful, respect official recommendations, avoid unnecessary contacts and stay at home as much as possible. Take good care of your loved ones as well.”
Austrian sports minister, Werner Kogler, said the following:
“We don’t want to stand in the way,” Kogler said.
“This is a completely different situation than games in a stadium. Several people are affected. The minimum distance rules would have to be observed in the same way, of course. But that seems possible.
“I don’t want to hide the fact that I’m in contact with the Styrian governor in this regard. This would be in the existing calendar in July.
“Ultimately, the sports federations must decide that for themselves. And that I was also in contact with Helmut Marko, who for his part plays a corresponding role at Red Bull and has acted as a mediator.
“I told him I would like to honour this, that we will forward all the applicable guidelines to the relevant motorsport associations as a service, so that they can see what is possible or not.”
As you can see, it is a delicate conversation with the federal and local governments as well as promoters and Formula 1 itself. There’s nothing easy about this situation but per F1’s Ross Brawn, a closed-gate race is certainly something they are looking at.
Mosley says to put 2020 out of its misery:
The article over at Autosport says, “With no end to the coronavirus in sight” and I find that an heavy statement to be fair. We are seeing reduced numbers and there are numerous articles that would suggest something opposite. However, for every study, even from world renowned facilities such as John Hopkins University, there are other articles opining about an opposite view and it is difficult to make measured decisions with wavering data and projection models.
Despite that, and perhaps the language was needed to couch former FIA president Max Mosley’s statement, the French Grand Prix is also on the chopping block and this prompted the former leader to say:
“Then the teams and the race organisers would have certainty so they can plan and take measures. At the moment they are in limbo and many are losing money.
“By waiting, you risk making things worse without having the certainty of winning anything. There’s no guarantee that the races can start again in July and it actually seems increasingly unlikely.”
With F1 looking to do races behind locked gates, the question was put to Mosely about that concept.
“That would be a financial disaster for most race organisers,” the 80-year-old warned.
“Until we know what will happen globally with the pandemic, it is not possible to make rational plans for F1.”
Mosely was a proponent of the cost-cap concept and feels that F1 isn’t going far enough with the reduction of the team budgets. I assume he feels this current situation is a catalyst to go even further with the reduction of the budget.
As I have argued many times, I would be very interested to see how a budget like $75M, recently suggested by Formula E president Alejandro Agag, could be achieved with the current hybrid power units.