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Closed-door races possible as Brawn targets 19-race season

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Closed-door races possible as Brawn targets 19-race season
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Apr 8, 2020, 9:48 PM

Formula 1 boss Ross Brawn has confirmed that grands prix could be run behind closed doors when the 2020 season finally restarts – and that consideration is being given to running into next year.

The Bahrain GP was due to run without spectators before it was postponed, and the strategy is likely to be employed as part of the effort to encourage an early resumption in 2020.

Although the French GP on June 28 is currently the first scheduled race, Brawn conceded that July is a more likely time to start the season, and that it would probably be in Europe rather than a rescheduled flyaway event. 

He believes that there is still a chance to run as many as 19 races – and that even a start as late October could allow for the eight races required to qualify for an official F1 World Championship.

“Obviously travel for the teams and travel for everyone involved is going to be one of the big issues,” said Brawn in a Sky Sports F1 Vodcast. “You could argue that once we get there we could become fairly self-contained.

“Our view is that probably a European start will be favourable, and that could even be a closed event – we could have a very enclosed environment, where teams come in on charters, we channel them into the circuit, we make sure everyone is tested, cleared, there is no risk to anyone and we have a race with no spectators.

“That’s not great, but it’s better than no racing at all. I think we have to remember there are millions of people who follow the sport, sat at home. A lot of them are isolating, and to be able to put on a sport, and keep the sport alive and entertain people would be a huge bonus with this crisis we have. But we can’t put anyone at risk.

“We’re looking at the organisational structure that would give us the earliest start, but also the ability to maintain that start. There’s no point having a start and then stopping again for a while and having another start. I think it’s most likely to be in Europe, and it’s conceivable that it could be a closed event.”

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Asked by interviewer Martin Brundle why Formula 1 has not been able to announce new dates while other series have, Brawn pointed out that F1 is more complex than others.

“Our season is longer than most of the other racing series,” he replied. “Canada has just been cancelled, if we included Canada we’d have to revise the calendar again. So we felt it was better to wait until the situation stabilised before we present the calendar. There’s been an awful lot of work done.

“Eight races is actually the minimum we can have a world championship, within the FIA statutes. We could achieve eight races by starting in October. So if you wanted a drop-dead point, it would be October.

“But then there is always the possibility we could run into next year. That’s assuming we finish this year. And that’s being explored. Can we stray into January to finish the season? There are all sorts of complications, you can imagine, with that.

“If we were able to start in the beginning of July, we could do a 19-race season. Tough – three races on, one weekend off, three races on, one weekend off – but we have looked at all the logistics, and we think we can hold an 18 to 19 race season if we can are able to get started in July. So the choice is anything in between those two numbers.”

Some tracks have more issues than others

Brawn conceded that some races are less flexible on dates than others, due to the nature of the venue.

He said: “There are some races – for instance Singapore is difficult to move because it’s a street circuit. Street circuits are very difficult to move because of the logistics involved in putting it all together and moving it to a different weekend is very difficult.

“Whereas tracks are easier. Where a race track exists probably within a month even you could hold a race, even less, particularly with a closed race, because with a closed race you’re not talking about the marketing and the selling of tickets etc, you’re talking about what’s needed to get everyone there and structured and organised.

“It does depend on the type of race it is. But looking around those schedules, there are some races at some slightly odd times, but they would still be OK from a weather perspective.”

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Brawn confirmed that two-day weekends are possible in order to ease travel congestion during a run of back-to-backs. Shanghai, which is usually scheduled on its own due to customs issues, could be one example.

“We may have some two-day races in order to meet the logistical needs. For instance, China looks like it will probably be a two-day race if we go ahead with it, because to get there and get away from it to the next race we are planning, it could easily be a two-day race.

“But our guys along with the FIA and consulting the teams have got every permutation covered. At the moment we’re looking at the logistics of a closed race, how would we get the people there, how would we protect them, how would we make it safe, who would we allow into the paddock. Every permutation is being discussed.”

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Series Formula 1
Author Adam Cooper