Coronavirus pandemic

'Wrong' way suits Leclerc

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc meeting fans upon arrival at the Melbourne track last month. The Australian race was scrapped before practice even began. For now, the season will begin in late June at the earliest.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc meeting fans upon arrival at the Melbourne track last month. The Australian race was scrapped before practice even began. For now, the season will begin in late June at the earliest.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ferrari driver happy to race in two directions but Silverstone chief says that is not feasible

LONDON • Ferrari's Charles Leclerc likes the idea of racing in the "wrong" direction once Formula One emerges from the coronavirus shutdown.

The motor sport is considering various options to get its stalled season started, with grands prix likely to be held without fans and some European circuits possibly hosting more than one race.

There have been strong rumours that Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix, could stage back-to-back races - clockwise and anti-clockwise on the same or consecutive weekends. Seven of the 10 F1 teams are based in the south-west of England.

Leclerc, who has been holed up in his Monaco apartment, playing the guitar and piano, winning e-sports races and cooking amid a lockdown in the principality, is up for that.

"I've seen something about doing races the other way around, that would be very, very cool," he told reporters in a video conference call. "This could be an interesting idea.

"We would definitely have to re-learn the track completely from scratch. I've done this in karting, to do one track in one way and then do it the other way.

"It would be very exciting to do a track like Silverstone the other way around, to arrive so quick in Becketts and then Maggotts (Turns 10 to 13) would be very exciting."

However, the circuit's managing director, Stuart Pringle, has poured cold water on the idea, saying there were too many obstacles to overcome, especially with such a short lead-up period.

"Very few circuits are built for use in both directions and Silverstone is no exception," he said.

"All of the important safety aspects are designed and installed for clockwise racing.

"Whilst we have the space to be able to extend the run-off areas, realistically, we don't have the time, or in the current climate, the ability to do so."

Asked whether it would be fair to hold multiple races at the same track as some cars are better suited to certain circuits, Leclerc said that it was a reflection of special circumstances.

This was supposed to have been a ground-breaking year for F1 with a record 22 races on the calendar.

That plan has been shredded with nine races already pushed back or cancelled. At least two other grands prix - the French and Belgian races - are in doubt, leading to questions over whether the championship, if it does goes ahead, will be devalued.

Leclerc is still hopeful at least 12 races can be conducted, but even if the organisers can manage only eight, which is the minimum for a title to be valid, he believes fans will not feel shortchanged.

"We might have some surprises and it might be actually quite exciting to watch," the 22-year-old said. "Probably we will risk a bit more on track with risky strategies, risky overtakes and maybe it will pay or maybe not."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2020, with the headline ''Wrong' way suits Leclerc'. Print Edition | Subscribe