Formula One teams must close for three weeks by the end of next month in a move that would allow races to be rescheduled during the European summer and help limit the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What would have been a record 22-round calendar is already suspended, with last weekend’s season opener in Melbourne canceled and no racing expected until at least the end of May.
The FIA on Wednesday said in a statement that its World Motor Sport Council approved the change to this season’s regulations to allow the cancelation of a scheduled August break.
The 10 teams must instead shut their factories for three weeks between now and the end of next month.
“The change was supported unanimously by both the F1 strategy group and F1 commission,” the FIA said.
The switch would also help smaller, privately owned teams survive what threatens to be an existential crisis as their revenues shrink without any reduction in costs.
Multiple sources told reporters that the teams, FIA and senior Formula One management were yesterday to discuss further measures in a conference call.
That looks likely to involve delaying by a year the introduction of radical new technical regulations planned for next season.
Teams would otherwise have to devote considerable resources to designing their cars for next season, while also seeking to remain competitive this year.
By bringing forward the lockdown, teams can turn off costly wind tunnels and freeze development.
Some European countries are in lockdown as they seek to contain the spread of the virus and many team staff are already working from home or in self-isolation after flying back from Australia.
However, the lack of an August break would be another blow for employees, with family vacations having to be canceled and the prospect of a packed second half of the year, with races running into December.
British-based Red Bull said that they planned to close their Milton Keynes factory on Friday next week for three weeks, subject to developments.
“Whilst we would all love to return to racing, the severity of this global pandemic is changing by the hour and the impact transcends our sport,” the team said in a statement. “We therefore agree with the measures being taken to reduce the risk of transmission and will support any further race postponements that are deemed necessary.”
The Spanish, Dutch and Monaco grands prix in May all look uncertain, but have yet to be postponed or canceled.
Monaco is likely to be canceled if not held in late May, due to the logistical challenges of organizing the race in the Mediterranean principality, but the Dutch round — a home race for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen — could move to August.
The sport is also keen to reschedule lucrative races in China, Vietnam and Bahrain.
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