I think it’s easy to cast a few stones at Formula 1, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC), Australian government and the FIA. I’ve refrained from finger-pointing because I think the decisions are steeped in numerous elements that make all decisions difficult to reach and adds time to the decision tree or matrix.
Scale is important to understand in this situation as well as fluid nature, rate of change and the rapidity at which the situation evolves. I am certainly concerned about individual health and the impact the COVID-19 virus has and I can assure you that the FIA, Formula 1, AGPC and the Australian government is as well. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise.
What I am also concerned about is the economic impact this has on all markets, nations, industries and this includes Formula 1. Withstanding something like this from a global perspective is serious business and requires incredible elasticity and resources. It is no different for Formula 1 and the teams who participate.
Teams that rely on prize money will no doubt be sensitive to each race that is canceled as that is additive to the prize fund they share with other championship points-winning teams. This leaves me worried for smaller teams with limited resources and sources of revenue.
Formula 1 has a fiduciary responsibility as well as health and safety responsibility. Nothing about any of those responsibilities is easy. People and the economy are inexorably linked regardless of what your ideological view is.
The amount of virtue-signaling from backbench players and seemingly instant virology experts that have joined the cacophony of voices in critique of Formula 1 is a bit mind-numbing if I am honest. Most of the criticism I have read are comments completely devoid of a clear understanding of the multitude of elements and issues that F1, the FIA and the AGPC faced over the past month or more.
Some of the critiques have been accurate, I might add, and the critical nature of their comments or reporting have been well deserved. These are areas in which F1, the FIA and others can learn but in this unprecedented situation, I am not sure anyone would have foreseen this level of warranted caution fueled by some panic-driven media coverage or misinformation.
I have never been a fan of pragmatism as I have always favored prudence. Formula 1 is a pragmatic beast and it has a long history of collateral damage from being enslaved to that mentality. I’ve argued many times that prudence is a much better, albeit sometimes slower, methodology but I have always understood that the 18-month technology innovation cycle makes prudence less desirable to pragmatism and rapid prototyping in F1. I get it.
However, the virus has created a situation where prudence is now king and pragmatism is taking a backseat in F1. In a recent video with Ross Brawn, the idea of being pragmatic and still racing in Australia due to the impact they have on the economy, the desire to continue their racing program and the logistics of ocean freight with the circus in place and ready to run was trumped by the prudence of not exposing fans and personnel to a potentially life-threatening virus.
Like other motorsports, Formula 1 made the right decision in the end and it now remains to be seen, from all forms of motorsport entertainment, as to when they will resume. I think they can plan but in the end, monitoring a fluid situation is the best anyone can do.
There are lots of suggestions about how to change the calendar, which races will be canceled versus reschedule etc. What we do know now is the following from both F1 and the FIA.
Chase Carey, Formula 1 Chairman and CEO, said the safety of the fans and people working in the sport was paramount.
“The global situation regarding COVID-19 is fluid and very difficult to predict and it’s right we take time to assess the situation and make the right decisions,” he said. “We are taking this decision with the FIA and our promoters to ensure the safety of everyone involved in Formula 1 and our fans. The Bahrain Grand Prix is an exciting race in our schedule, and we look forward to being back there as soon as we can. We are also looking forward to Vietnam’s inaugural race and bringing the spectacle of F1 to one of the most exciting cities in the world.”
FIA President Jean Todt added: “Protecting people first. Together with Formula 1, the Bahrain Motor Federation, the Vietnamese Motorsports Association, and the local promoters, postponing both the Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix, as with the Australian Grand Prix, was the only possible decision given all of the information currently available to us.
“We continue to rely on the input and advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments and will work with them throughout this unpredictable period to safeguard the fans, competitors and all of the motor sport community.”
Hat Tip: F1.com