Coronavirus pandemic

Racing into 2021 among F1 options

Ferrari chief says teams are giving Carey and FIA free rein to rescue badly delayed season

LONDON • Formula One could shorten grands prix weekends and race into January if that helps salvage a season ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto.

The opening race in Australia on March 15 was cancelled with the showcase Monaco Grand Prix also scrapped, the first time since 1954 it will not feature on the championship calendar.

A further six rounds have been indefinitely shelved, and more look likely to follow with an increasing number of countries under lockdown and global air travel paralysed.

But F1 bosses are holding out hope the as-yet-started championship can get back on track some time in the summer with a reduced season of 15 to 18 races.

A campaign needs a minimum of eight races to proceed and the term is currently due to end in Abu Dhabi on Nov 29.

Binotto told Sky Sports Italia that the teams had given the F1 powers-that-be the authority to do what was necessary to stage a championship.

"We are in constant dialogue," he said. "I have felt, along with the other team principals, that these are decisive moments.

"We have decided to give complete freedom to (F1 chairman Chase) Carey and the (motor sports governing body) FIA to put together as soon as possible a timetable for us to get racing again. We are willing on our side.

"We're assessing various ideas; races closer together, maybe doing two or three races in January, considering also the option of cancelling (Friday) practice."

F1 normally has a break after the Abu Dhabi finale till new launches and pre-season testing in February but, with cars remaining the same next year - major rule changes have been deferred a year to save money - there would be little need for a hiatus.

"If this allows us to guarantee a more complete 2020 world championship, with the following season not starting until March, there is great availability for that," added Binotto.

The season was originally meant to have a record 22 races, with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton hoping to equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher's record seven titles and surpass his unprecedented 91 wins.

Hamilton so far has 84 wins and the Briton could be kept waiting on both counts if F1 is unable to put together enough races due to Covid-19.

The next race in the calendar, the June 14 Canadian Grand Prix, is in peril as the country has closed its borders and a decision is likely to be made over its staging in the next two weeks.

France, which is set a fortnight after the Montreal event, is also vulnerable, given that its government has placed its 60-million plus population under lockdown.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2020, with the headline 'Racing into 2021 among F1 options'. Print Edition | Subscribe