File picture: Luca Bruno / AP Photo.
File picture: Luca Bruno / AP Photo.

FAQ: How Formula One is coping with the crisis

By Christian Hollmann Time of article published Apr 9, 2020

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Berlin - Formula One is fighting collapse amid the coronavirus crisis as many teams battle for their very survival. Savings and a potentially revised calendar offer hope but a return to racing remains some time away.

How is the situation with the teams?

The mid-season break was brought forward to the enforced coronavirus shutdown and has now been extended to five weeks. All teams are prohibited from working until the end of May. 

McLaren, Williams and Racing Point, all based in England, are using the UK government's scheme to furlough workers and save wages. Haas, in the United States, will likely take a similar path. All UK based teams are working on measures to combat the coronavirus and world champions Mercedes published their design for a device to assist breathing.

What are the drivers doing?

Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes is using the unexpected free time to work on himself "physically and emotionally," he said while his Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel published a video from his house. 

Red Bull's Max Verstappen is training on his own simulator at home while several drivers take part in virtual races organized by F1.

What is the plan to start the season?

F1 boss Chase Carey still hopes to fit in 15 to 18 of the 22 races originally planned for 2022. 

The calendar must be heavily reworked, however, and options such as racing without fans are being considered - that would at least fulfil contracts worth millions of dollars with television and sponsors. 

With the postponement of the Canadian Grand Prix on Tuesday, the earliest possible start would be the French Grand Prix late June. But France is badly hit by the coronavirus and another potential season-opener, the mid-July British Grand Prix, hangs in the balance. 

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff believes autumn is a more realistic start time.

How big is the financial damage?

F1 is a business of billions. Owners Liberty Media reported 2.02 billion dollars of turnover last year but without races money from TV and sponsors will be lost. 

High race fees, paid by tracks to host grands prix, will also vanish. Marketing is also altered dramatically with no images of the glamorous globetrotting sport available.

How threatening is the situation?

McLaren chief Zak Brown warned in a BBC interview F1 was in a "very fragile state" and that up to four teams could vanish. Small private teams such as Williams must scramble for cash but the bigger works teams must also justify their costs to executives and shareholders in an uncertain time.

F1 itself must pay out prize money for the 2019 season - desperately needed by some teams - while having lost significant income of its own.

Which measures should help?

Along with support from British taxpayers for the three teams using the UK furlough scheme, several drivers and top managers have agreed pay cuts. 

New sporting regulations have been delayed a year to 2022 to save development costs and the budget cap for 2021 will be reduced from 175 million dollars with German magazine Auto, Motor und Sport reporting the new figure could be as low as 110 million dollars (R1.98bn). Further talks among the teams are scheduled over Easter.


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