With the opening two races of the 2020 MotoGP season called off thanks to the coronavirus outbreak and no sign of the championship kicking off just yet, there are a number of permutations for how the year might play out.
It’s all still far from certain as series bosses deal with an ever-changing situation, but here are some of the possibilities.
Austin becomes the opening round
Right now, this looks like the most likely option, with the championship’s freight heading to the Circuit of the Americas for the first weekend in April and what is scheduled to be the first round of the championship.
Coronavirus still isn’t a widespread issue in the United States, and with the administration there keen to downplay the economic risk, it’s possible that America will be one of the last places to try to impose travel restrictions on Europeans.
However, that could all change in a flash if the situation worsens. The event is still a month away, and it’s likely that it’ll take two more weeks before a decision is made about the race.
There’ll be a knock-on effect too, though, with round four in Argentina likely to also be a casualty if Texas doesn’t go ahead, thanks to the logistical nightmare of shipping four jumbo jets of cargo and 2500 people to rural Argentina for what would be the only race of 2020 in the Americas.
The season starts in Europe
Should the Texan round become another casualty of the outbreak, step two will probably be to delay the start of the year until the series is scheduled to hit Europe.
With the EU unlikely to impose travel restrictions or quarantines between member countries, it should be possible to move team personnel to southern Europe to prepare for the Jerez race at the start of May without too many difficulties.
There could even be potential to have a second race in the southern corner of the Iberian peninsula if coronavirus is under control by then, with the beloved Algarve circuit in theory the championship’s reserve race should a round be cancelled.
The Portimao track is aiming for a calendar spot in the future, but it’s not guaranteed just yet that the Portuguese circuit is ready to host a MotoGP race. Still it would be the perfect alternative should one be needed.
Races go ahead at empty circuits
A real option, especially when the championship heads to Europe, is that the field could end up riding in front of TV cameras but empty grandstands.
This is only an option if the quarantine on Italian citizens is lifted but bans on large-scale public gatherings (already in place in countries like France) remains in place.
It would be a devastating hit for circuits, though, as it remains unclear if event insurance would pay out for lost ticket sales when the races themselves are going ahead.
We go into permanent limbo
By far the most worrying possibility for the year is that we enter a semi-permanent state of limbo with the entire 2020 season put on hiatus.
With coronavirus rapidly spreading at the minute, it’s a fluid situation, but summer could change everything if warmer weather helps curtail the spread.
Could that mean that we go into the European leg of the season just playing everything by ear and seeing when it’s going to be possible to race? It’s unlikely, but unfortunately it remains a possibility.
What Dorna’s saying
MotoGP boss Carmelo Ezpeleta has insisted that there will be a 2020 MotoGP season in some form, despite the cancellations so far.
Speaking in a statement just hours after Thailand joined Qatar in postponing its race, the Dorna CEO said his organisation is doing everything it can despite the fluid nature of the situation.
Dorna was adamant earlier last week that it was going to do its best to make the opening round happen this weekend in Qatar, but the decision not to run the race was in the end taken out of its hands by the government.
With a third of the paddock Italian and the race simply not possible without them, Ezpeleta conceded that the race was doomed the minute the Qatari authorities decided not to allow Italian citizens into the country.
“We have been in close contact with the authorities in Qatar to understand exactly what we could do,” said Ezpeleta.
“Then during the weekend, the situation changed a lot. On Saturday and Sunday it wasn’t a specific problem for anyone, but later on on Sunday we received indication from the authorities in Qatar that due to the situation in Italy and around the world, everyone of Italian nationality or residents of Italy arriving from there needs to be sure they haven’t been in Italy during the last 14 days.
“In those cases, it’s not that entrance to Qatar is forbidden, but anyone who has been in Italy in the last 14 days is advised that they will be quarantined for 14 days in Qatar.
“Obviously that’s not possible for our people, and this was what led us to cancel the MotoGP category at the Grand Prix of Qatar.
“Because Moto2 and Moto3 have been testing this week in Qatar, it’s possible to continue with the championship but only with Moto2 and Moto3, as well as the Asia Talent Cup.”
The decision to delay the Thai race was also taken out of Dorna’s hands, with authorities there putting a ban on large-scale sporting events in place in an attempt to limit the disease’s spread.
“We have been speaking to the authorities in Thailand all weekend and they advised us that early on Monday, Thailand time, there would be a meeting to decide which events can happen in Thailand,” Ezpeleta added.
“It’s not related to Italians or anyone of any other nationality going to Thailand, it’s that they have decided to cancel big events with large numbers of spectators.
“It’s different to the situation with Qatar, so we decided to postpone the Thailand Grand Prix and try to locate a date at the end of the year to make the GP possible.”
Ezpeleta remains adamant that a 2020 season will happen – even if no one is sure yet when exactly that will be.
“There will absolutely be a 2020 MotoGP season,” he said.
“We will try to continue with everything and stay aware of the situation because it’s changing day by day, but our wish is to do all the races in the 2020 season.”