Ross Brawn has outlined how Formula 1 could kickstart its season with a behind-closed-doors grand prix in Europe, in the hope of still achieving 19 races in 2020.
The opening nine rounds of the season have been cancelled or postponed because of the global health crisis, with the first scheduled race still in plane the end-of-June French Grand Prix.
Before the majority of the affected grands prix had been forced to abandon their planned dates, Bahrain had announced its intention to host the first spectator-free race in F1 history.
As F1 is trying to establish the most sensible point to start its season, races without fans have emerged as a serious possibility.
Brawn said that the season’s “most likely” starting point would be in Europe and that it is “conceivable that it could be a closed event”.
While this could only be achieved once the coronavirus pandemic has settled to the point that travel can done responsibly, Brawn said that once F1 establishes a viable way for teams and personnel to get to races then “we could become fairly self-contained”.
“Our view is probably a European start will be favourable and that could even be a closed event,” Brawn told Sky.
“We could have a very enclosed environment, where teams come in on charters, we channel them into the circuit, we make sure everyone is tested, cleared and that there is no risk to anyone.
“We have a race with no spectators. That’s not great, but it’s better than no racing at all.
“We have to remember there are millions of people who follow the sport sat at home.
“A lot of them are isolating and to be able to keep the sport alive and put on a sport and entertain people would be a huge bonus in this crisis we have. But we can’t put anyone at risk.”
Brawn said that F1’s priority is to start the season when it is able to maintain it, rather than having to stop again and face intermittent disruption.
Various options are available to F1 and the FIA as they bid to reschedule the calendar, and teams have waived their right to interfere with that in order to expedite the process.
These options include two-day weekends to facilitate a compressed schedule.
The sporting regulations stipulate eight races for the season to count as a world championship, and Brawn said the “drop dead point” to fit that many grands prix is in October.
However, if F1 is successful in starting in July as hoped, Brawn reckons a 19-race season is achievable.
“There is always the possibility we could run into next year,” he said. “That’s being explored.
“Can we stray into January to finish the season? There are all sorts of complications, as you can imagine, with that.
“If we were able to start at the beginning of July we could do a 19-race season. Three races on, one weekend off, three races on, one weekend off.
“We have looked at all the logistics, and we think we can hold an 18-19 race season if we can get started at the beginning of July.”