China has emerged as a contender to host a double-header event in the 2020 Formula 1 season, with the calendar beyond the first eight races in Europe still uncertain.
F1 confirmed a schedule for eight races in Europe at the start of the week, although additional races could be added if this phase of the season is extended.
Hockenheim and Imola are the leading contenders for additional European races, but Mugello has also been named as an option by the Automobile Club d’Italia.
The Race understands China has joined Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Sochi among the candidates to hold double-headers as F1 works to ensure it hits the 15-race minimum it has targeted to satisfy TV contracts and guarantee revenue.
To facilitate these possibilities, it is understood F1 is willing to offer a half-price race-hosting fee for a second event at venues.
It had been hoped that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and the Russian GP run back to back in late September, but the Baku street circuit location presents some significant challenges that could mean the race can’t happen.
This is on top of travel restrictions requiring a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals in the country. Should it not be staged, a second Sochi race would be the logical replacement.
The Singapore Grand Prix, originally scheduled for September 20, is also a major doubt with organisers having said it is “unfeasible” to run without fans.
That date falls into ‘Phase 2’ of Singapore’s easing of restrictions, which only allows public gatherings of up to five people – meaning a change will be needed for the race to be workable.
F1 is hoping to run the Vietnam Grand Prix in November, but organisers are understood not to be keen to run two races within six months – hence the inclusion of a potential extra Bahrain race in last month’s working calendar given the 2021 Hanoi race would likely be held in April.
There are also question marks over the Mexico City and Brazilian Grands Prix given concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, although organisers are committed to running the races.
Brazil’s current deal means it does not pay a hosting fee, meaning F1 is unlikely to risk going there if there are concerns about safety related to coronavirus.
Ticket sales for the Japanese Grand Prix have not re-opened after being suspended last month, meaning the Suzuka race also remains in doubt despite continuing to appear on working draft calendars.
It had a provisional date on the second weekend of October, following the Chinese GP, meaning a second Shanghai race could be a logical replacement if required.
Under current conditions, the United States Grand Prix at Austin cannot be held with spectators given the ban on gatherings of more 250 or more people, adding to the uncertainty clouding the second half of the possible F1 calendar.
As the race is dependent on government support predicated on the economic impact on the area of visitors to Austin to attend the grand prix, this potentially undermines the financial justification for holding it in 2020.
F1 could intervene by waiving the race-hosting fee and offering additional compensation for the costs of running the race if it decides a race in the United States in 2020 is essential given its longstanding desire to expand F1’s footprints in the country.
With F1 working on a calendar of 18 races but with the expectation a number of those cannot take place, the possibility of more double-headers should ensure that the 15-race target is achievable even though the calendar remains amorphous as the global situation evolves.