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F1 finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place

Should Formula One return - and how? (Hancock/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Roar Guru
11th May, 2020
8

For the past two months, I have been advocating the return of Formula One in whatever way possible, as long as it was safe to do so. This was to protect the long-term sustainability of the sport.

While I still believe that it is important to do everything possible to ensure the survival of all ten teams on the grid, recent developments have led me to change my stance slightly.

In the early hours of Monday morning (AEST), British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced, among other things, the introduction of a 14-day quarantine for passengers flying into the UK, excluding those arriving from Ireland and France. F1 doesn’t just operate in the UK, Ireland and France though.

There is no concrete date for when these measures will be introduced and we don’t know how long the measures will be in place for. However, it is yet another spanner in the works for F1.

In Hungary, events with more than 500 people are banned until mid-August while in Belgium, mass gatherings are banned until at least the end of August. With the European season set to be held from July to September, it’s hard to see how the Hungarian and Belgian races can take place.

Yes, these first few races in Europe will be held behind closed doors but, to hold an F1 race, you need up to 2,000 people involved. That includes all team personnel, marshals, doctors and a skeleton broadcast team.

Monaco racing

Should Formula One come back? (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Compare this to the numbers required to hold a football match, estimated at around 200. It’s far safer to hold these matches behind closed doors because there’s far fewer people involved. That’s why we’re seeing the return of the German Bundesliga this weekend.

And are we really going to ask a few doctors to step away from the frontline for a weekend to be on call at a race that isn’t important in the grand scheme of things? And are we really going to ask members of the public to volunteer to marshal this race?

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Carolyn Doyle is a volunteer marshal at Silverstone. She was interviewed by Giles Richards for the Observer last weekend and was thinking of the bigger picture.

“I would feel very uncomfortable if there was an incident and a driver was taken to a hospital,” she said. “Even a driver with a minor injury that requires medical attention is an unnecessary burden on the health system at the moment.”

There’s also the question of how to deal with the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). How can we justify the diversion of PPE away from public health services just so a motor race can be run?

One possible justification could be that, if this season is completely written off, there is a real possibility that we may be saying goodbye to at least one team on the grid. With all revenue streams suspended, teams that struggle to survive at the best of times now have a real fight on their hands.

F1 finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. Races cannot take place unless it is completely safe to do so but, at the same time, races need to take place to protect the livelihoods of everyone involved in the sport, especially the backroom staff.

I’d love F1 to be back as soon as possible but, when the coronavirus pandemic still has a stronghold, it doesn’t seem right to go racing just yet.

It leaves me torn. This isn’t going to be easy.