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Formula One: Little hope for racing this year, says Bernie Ecclestone

With first 8 races called off, former chief Ecclestone says he would have closed down championship

Bernie Ecclestone says creating a calendar for F1 this year is complicated as it needs the support of both race promoters and the teams.
Bernie Ecclestone says creating a calendar for F1 this year is complicated as it needs the support of both race promoters and the teams. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • With the opening eight grands prix of the campaign called off owing to the global coronavirus pandemic, Bernie Ecclestone holds little hope of Formula One racing this season and said he would have declared it game over already.

The 89-year-old former F1 supremo, speaking to Reuters from the seclusion of his locked-down farm in Brazil, also saw no chance of the British Grand Prix going ahead at Silverstone on July 19.

"I think I'd have to say we're going to close down talk of having any races this year," he said.

"That's the only thing you could do safely for everybody, so nobody starts making silly arrangements which may not be able to happen."

Asked whether that meant effectively wiping out the season and saying there would not be any races and focus on 2021, he agreed.

"Which is what they had to do for the Olympics of course. It's unfortunate but that's how it is," he added.

The Tokyo Olympics scheduled for July 24 to Aug 9 were last week postponed to next year, with the dates to be determined.

F1 needs a minimum of eight races for the campaign to be considered a proper championship.

The sport is hoping to run a reduced season of 15-18 races, starting in the summer, but Ecclestone - who drew up the calendar for decades until he was ousted in 2017 - was pessimistic about the chances of that happening.

"I'd be very, very, very surprised if they managed to achieve that," said the Briton, the sound of a chicken clucking loudly in the background.

"I hope they do. They could run three or four races at the beginning of next year and still count to the 2020 championship.

"The problem is where are you going to have them where the teams can go and the promoter wants to run a race.

"It's all very well making the calendar, which you can do while you wait. The big problem is getting the promoters to want to run the race."

Monaco GP organisers have already axed their race, the first year since 1954 without the glamour highlight, while the season-opener in Australia was also cancelled.

F1 started the year with a record 22-race calendar but now has six rounds to reschedule - Bahrain, Vietnam, China, the Netherlands, Spain and Azerbaijan.

More races look sure to be postponed, with all motor sports in Britain suspended to the end of June and races in Canada, France and Austria due before Silverstone and waging their own battles with the disease.

"Silverstone can't run, for sure," said Ecclestone. "That had to go. For the same reason. Who's going to go there?"

Fans could find out as soon as next week as officials are trying to draw up a revised calendar.

A further complication for British GP organisers is that the All England Club are set to hold an emergency summit in the next few days regarding whether this year's Wimbledon will take place.

The tennis Grand Slam is meant to finish a week earlier, on July 12. Moving the two-week grass-court event is an option and that could have a knock-on effect on the race.

Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle has said a decision on whether the grand prix goes ahead must be taken 12 weeks before the scheduled July 19 race date - effectively end of next month - to get things prepared.

"But it is not our decision alone," he added. "We wouldn't do anything without an agreement with Formula One."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 29, 2020, with the headline Formula One: Little hope for racing this year, says Bernie Ecclestone. Subscribe