Formula 1 is struggling with its calendars because of the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in multiple countries. It is far more difficult this year than last because of the constantly-shifting rules and the paperwork involved in moving the F1 circus from country to country.
“We thought that this year would be tough at the start of the season and then get easier as the situation improved,” said F1’s sporting director Steve Nielsen, “but the reality is that it is getting more and more difficult.”
This is because of the different variants that mean that countries are protecting their borders from foreign visitors. Most of the races now and being run only thanks to government exemptions.
The one place where restrictions are more limited is the United States, where things are returning to normal more rapidly than elsewhere, even if deaths are still running at more than 500 a day. In Australia, for example, the whole state of Victoria (where Melbourne is located) was locked down last week because of 60 cases. You can all it over-reaction if you like but Australia’s death total in the last 15 months has been only 910 people.
However it means that the rescheduled Australian Grand Prix and several other races probably won’t happen. Singapore has just cancelled and F1 is worried about Brazil and Japan. And there are also question about Mexico. There are races in China and Turkey waiting in the wings to step in if gaps appear, but that still will not get the sport to 23 races.
In Baku there were rumours that we might see two races this year in the United States, as a result of the ongoing problems. One suggestion is that F1 could go to Indianapolis and use the road course, while another idea is to have two races back-to-back in Austin.
Stefano Domenicali would not confirm nor deny the stories.
“We’ll see what happens,” he says. “Things are changing all the time.”
The appetite to go to Indy is not great in F1 circles. It is not a destination city in the same way as Miami or Las Vegas, but if there is the possibility to have a race and there is money to pay for it – there are no free races this year – then F1 will certainly look at it.
The sport is keen to embrace those who have had their interest in F1 sparked by the Netflix Series “F1 Drive to Survive” and want to know more about F1. This new interest is being seen in F1 viewing figures in the US, which are on the rise.
It could that the best answer is back-to-back races in Austin…