In the past week we have received official word from Formula One about what the first eight races will be of the truncated 2020 season. The Red Bull Ring, Silverstone, Hungaroring, Barcelona, Spa and Monza will all host the first eight races, with the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone hosting two races. All races currently set to be closed door races. However the rest of the schedule however remains in question as many countries F1 intends to visit after the European season are at different stages of the virus.
Need to bear in mind that most races will want to keep their original dates where possible and it would be easiest for all parties if as many races as possible stick to them. So we have to go by the original schedule. Lets start with Singapore, the next race on the original schedule. However I think we can assume that race is probably a goner. The reason for this is that its a street track that requires a lot of preparation, and for scheduling reasons related to preparing the track, its either the 20th September or nothing for them, and they have said no to running without fans. Even if it is possible to run with fans on the 20th September, then there is no way they will know if its possible until way after preparations would need to start. So we can likely assume this race will not happen.
An obvious candidate to replace Singapore is Azerbaijan. They postponed for the purpose of avoiding a similar fate to Melbourne, and as even with a closed door race they can still promote their tourism economy which is valuable to them, they will most likely be willing to host a closed door race. Holding a race back to back with a neighbouring Russia would make sense logistically. However it is still a street circuit that takes a lot of preparation, and with the fluidity of the current situation, will they bank on a race being possible in September and start preparation? The Russian GP promoters have stated their willingness to host two races so for me the logical thing to do would be to put Azerbaijan on the original schedule, and if that fails to fly, then a second race in Sochi could fill its place. This is the sort of stance F1 needs to take for any race that they schedule that has uncertainty, they ought to strike a deal in advance with another race promoter to take over if the scheduled race fails to fly.
Then two weeks after that we have Suzuka. There is currently a travel ban in place between there and Europe, which could be extended. This has caused the MotoGP race, which was due to be held a week later than F1’s originally scheduled date, to be cancelled. And there are indications that F1 could follow suit. However like with Baku, an option for F1 is they could schedule it and strike a deal with another track, such as China, to host a double header if it can’t happen. If neither this or Azerbaijan can happen, perhaps an extra European race at somewhere like Hockenheim or Mugello, as has been rumoured, could become an option.
Reports suggest F1 wants to reschedule the Chinese Grand Prix, as it is an important market for them, and if the Japanese Grand Prix gets cancelled, then an obvious thing to do would be for Shanghai to take its place. But if not, where does China get slotted in? This could be where some races may have to be moved, to allow a mid-late October date for China.
A logical thing to do with the schedule is to have an American triple header of USA-Mexico-Brazil in November, however the American leg presents the biggest hurdle for F1, due to the fluidity of the situation there. Out of the three, the most dodgy looking race is probably Brazil, due to how the COVID-19 situation has escalated there. The race promoters are adament the race will go ahead with fans, but you have to remember it is F1’s decision as well. As Brazil has become a COVID-19 hotspot and due to the nature of the densely populated poverty stricken areas, some of which are directly adjacent to the track, it will be harder to contain the virus there, combined with the fact that their government is dismissing the threat of the disease, and that they don’t pay a race fee, this would mean it could be irresponsible for F1 to travel there for the race and simply not worth the risk. So this race is probably not that high on the priority list. Another race that is unlikely to feature is the Canadian GP. This race’s cancellation looks like a formality due to the fact that it cannot be rescheduled after October due to weather conditions, something which will not be possible to accommodate.
Then we go to the other two. The Mexican Grand Prix promoters have stated they hope to run their race as normal with fans but are willing to host the race without fans or with limited capacity if they have to. There is a strong chance of this featuring on the new schedule, although they are holding firm on their November 1st date which could throw a spanner in the works, as it may be tough to fit everything in, a race in America back to back with a race in Asia is not ideal. But it may be possible to keep it on its original date. The United States Grand Prix however is a lot less certain. Reports suggest their promoters are not keen on funding a race without fans at the track. Even if the race is rescheduled to November, there is no way they can know if the race can be held with fans till quite a bit later. However Liberty want to maintain F1’s footprint in the US, so they could potentially be willing to pay the race promoters themselves. A safe bet here would be to reschedule the US GP to after Mexico, maybe with Mexico hosting a second race if the US race fails to fly.
One race that hasn’t been mentioned for reschedule yet is Vietnam. Leaked reports suggested it will be rescheduled to November. But with the 2021 race planned for April, this would mean assembling, then dismantling, then reassembling the street track in short notice. I would say it is likely they will take the same stance as the Dutch Grand Prix promoters and will decide to wait till next year and debut properly. From then on, the calendar is pretty clear cut as it seems pretty obvious that the schedule will end with a double header consisting of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi to complete the season. A second Bahrain GP could be put in to plug the gap left by a potential Brazil cancellation if they want to bump the number of races up to seventeen.
Bearing all this in mind, this is what I can see the intended final schedule looking like.
1. Austrian GP – 5th July
2. Styrian GP (Austria) – 12th July
3. Hungarian GP – 19th July
4. British GP – 2nd August
5. 70th Anniversary GP (Britain) 9th August
6. Spanish GP – 16th August
7. Belgian GP – 30th August
8. Italian GP – 6th September
9. Azerbaijan GP – 20th September (Replaced by a second race in Russia if it can’t happen, or possibly another European race on the 13th September if it is cancelled early)
10. Russian GP – 27th September
11. Japanese GP – 11th October (Replaced by a second race in China if it can’t happen)
12. Chinese GP – 18th October
13. Mexican GP – 1st November
14. United States GP – 15th November
15. Bahrain GP – 29th November
16. Bahrain GP 2 – 6th December
17. Abu Dhabi GP – 13th December