The Formula One season is on hold indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here is everything you need to know about which races have been postponed and called off, what has changed due to the coronavirus and what teams and drivers have been doing during the period of time without any racing.
The 2020 race schedule
This year was supposed to feature a record-breaking 22 races, but as it stands the first eight will not go ahead as scheduled.
March 15 – Australian GP (cancelled)
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March 22 – Bahrain GP (postponed)
April 3 – Vietnam GP (postponed)
April 19 – Chinese GP (postponed)
May 3 – Dutch GP (postponed)
May 10 – Spanish GP (postponed)
May 24 – Monaco GP (cancelled)
Monaco’s race was initially postponed, but race organisers took the decision to cancel the event outright. If F1’s season resumes, it will be the first world championship season not to feature a Monaco Grand Prix since 1954.
June 7 – Azerbaijan GP (postponed)
When will the season start?
Shortly after the Azerbaijan GP was postponed on Monday, F1 CEO Chase Carey said in a statement he still hopes F1 can achieve 15 to 18 races in 2020. The series will race « as soon as it is safe to do so. »
That seems an optimistic target given the current uncertainty about the coronavirus, but was based on a start date at some point in the summer.
Montreal’s Canadian Grand Prix is the next possible start point, but a decision needs to be made by April 12 to ensure the circuit will be ready in time. A number of factors must also be considered — with all 10 of F1’s teams based in Europe, travel restrictions will need to have been lifted for any race to go ahead.
The six races that follow Canada are all in Europe, which the World Health Organisation says is now the centre point of the pandemic. Despite Carey’s optimism, it seems unlikely these will all take place as scheduled.
Here’s the rest of F1’s 2020 calendar, although it is safe to assume every date below is subject to change if and when F1 manages to get the season running again.
June 14 – Canadian GP
June 28 – French GP
July 5 – Austrian GP
July 19 – British GP
Aug. 2 – Hungarian GP
Aug. 30 – Belgian GP
Sept. 6 – Italian GP
Sept. 20 – Singapore GP
Sept. 27 – Russian GP
Oct. 11 – Japanese GP
Oct. 25 – U.S. GP
Nov. 1 – Mexican GP
Nov. 15 – Brazilian GP
Nov. 29 – Abu Dhabi GP
If the 2020 season does happen, it is likely to be a busy few months for the teams. F1 has already talked about shifting the final race of the season back to the middle of the December to accommodate the Brazil-China-Abu Dhabi tripleheader over three weeks, and it will likely try to fit as many of the postponed races as possible into free weekends.
What else has changed?
F1 has delayed its 2021 rule change by a year
F1 was planning a radical overhaul of its technical rules package for 2021. The championship has been working on a new breed of race car that allows for closer racing and more overtaking, based on years of painstaking research.
With the coronavirus pandemic throwing the world’s economy into a tailspin, teams immediately voiced their concerns at remaining committed to something that under normal circumstances would have required an increase in development this year.
F1’s 10 teams voted unanimously to delay the change.
F1 also agreed to a freeze on 2020 chassis development for 2021, meaning next season’s cars will be very similar to the ones that rolled out for preseason testing earlier this year. While that’s hardly ideal from a competitive racing standpoint, the very survival of several F1 teams was at stake in these decisions.
McLaren has confirmed it will be allowed to make certain changes to accommodate its switch from Renault to Mercedes engines, which is still going ahead as planned.
What about the budget cap?
The curb on spending will still come into force for 2021 as planned, with teams restricted to £175 million to spend. While some teams do not come close to that figure in a year, it is hoped the limit will prevent a massive gap forming between the haves and have-nots.
What are teams doing during the pandemic?
A group of UK-based teams with applied technology divisions have been in discussions with local health authorities about supplying ventilators to help fight the coronavirus.
The Agnelli family, which owns Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari’s F1 and road operations and Italian football giants Juventus, has already donated €10m (£9.3m) for the Italian government to deal with the coronavirus emergency. The family has also purchased 150 ventilators and rolled out a fleet of vehicles to distribute food and medicine to a number of cities in the north of the country.
Are teams still operating as normal?
F1 has brought forward its factory shutdown period, usually reserved for two weeks of the August summer break. The break has been extended to three weeks to be taken at any point, consecutively, at some point in March/April.
Of course, government guidelines could force teams to keep their factories shut for much longer than that. For example, Racing Point is on its mandatory shutdown until April 16, but will only ask employees to return to work if the UK government has changed its extensive restrictions on movement by then.
Moving this break forward will make it easier for F1 to reschedule races later in the year. Assuming the situation in Europe has improved, it has been suggested the Dutch Grand Prix could be slotted into the second week of August.
What are drivers doing the pandemic?
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton immediately entered self-isolation after the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled. A week prior, Hamilton had attended a London event with British actor Idris Elba and Canadian TV presenter Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, who both since tested positive for COVID-19.
In an update on March 21, Hamilton confirmed he is symptom-free.
The following day, the F1 world champion hit out at those refusing to self-isolate. « There are people out there still going to clubs and bars and large gatherings, which I personally feel is totally irresponsible and selfish, » he said in a long statement on Instagram.
Drivers turn to virtual racing
Some F1 drivers have been getting their racing fix via online racing.
F1 got in on the act, launching its Virtual Racing Series, which will race on weekends that were supposed to feature an F1 race. Despite not taking part in qualifying or the first half of the race due to technical difficulties, McLaren driver Lando Norris stole the show on his Twitch stream.
The stream not only included a record-breaking 100,000 viewers at one point but also saw 2019’s rookie of the year call Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, teammate Carlos Sainz and old friends (and rivals) George Russell and Alex Albon for advice and feedback on his sim race.