Ecclestone calls on F1 to abandon 2020 season

Bernie Ecclestone (GBR). 28.04.2019.
© XPB 

Bernie Ecclestone says that F1 should give up on the idea of holding any Grand Prix races in 2020, after the postponement or cancellation of the first eight races of the season due to the spread of coronavirus.

Ecclestone was in charge of running the sport for nearly 40 years, until Liberty Media bought the commercial rights at the end of 2016 and replaced him as CEO with Chase Carey.

But just because he's now living on his farm in Brazil, it doesn't mean the 89-year-old isn't fully engaged with what's happening around the world - and he he has characteristically strident views on what should be done.

"What would I do? I think I'd have to say we're going to close down talk of having any races this year," he said in an exclusive interview this week with the Reuters news agency.

"It's the only thing you could do safely for everybody, so that nobody starts making silly arrangements which may not be able to happen," he said. "It's unfortunate but that's how it is."

Ecclestone pointed to the fate of other major sporting events including Euro 2020 and the Olympics in Japan, both of which have succumbed to the inevitable and been postponed by a year. But his successor in charge of F1 is still talking about a season of between 15 and 18 races getting underway in June, with races being scheduled to run through August which would formerly have been a full month of rest for the teams.

However Ecclestone really can't see this happening, and expects races currently scheduled for June - including Canada and France - to be the next dominos to fall to national lockdowns put in place to counter the spread of COVID-19.

"I'd be very, very, very surprised if they managed to achieve that [15-18 races]," he said. "I hope they do. I really hope they do.

Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) with Chase Carey (USA) Formula One Group Chairman.

"They could run three or four races at the beginning of next year and still count to the 2020 championship," he mused.

But while the teams, FIA and F1 itself might be up for the challenge, the question is whether local promoters would be able to take the financial risk involved in setting up a race only to be cancelled at the last minute, as happened in Melbourne.

"It's all very well making the calendar, which you can do while you wait," Ecclestone commented. "The big problem is getting the promoters to want to run the race.

“Even if the people now in charge want to put these races on, they have to keep the promoters happy to do it," he added. "The problem is where are you going to have them where the teams can go and the promoter wants to run a race.

“If you were the promoter and I was still in charge, I would say we want to stage your race in November.

"“Normally you would never have a race in November," he continued. "So the promoter will turn round and say: ‘How the hell am I going to make it work? Financially it's just not possible. The weather isn’t good at that time. People will not come to the circuit. It is not going to be easy.’

“That means Liberty has to be prepared to say whatever happens they will bankroll the race," Ecclestone explained.

"If it doesn’t go ahead because things get worse they will cover all of the expenses laid out and if it does go ahead, they will make up whatever losses the promoter might have incurred for moving their slot.

“But I think it will be difficult for Liberty to jump up and say they are going to do that. It depends how much money they want to put behind it.

“It could be a good opportunity for Liberty to really get control of everything, take over from all of the promoters and cut the costs immediately to teams," he mused.

Ecclestone conceded that what he was seeing today was unprecedented, and said that he had been stunned to see the 'crown jewel' event in Monaco dropped from this year's schedule for the first time since 1954.

“It is the sort of thing that we thought would never happen,” he admitted. “I had all sorts of different issues with them. They wouldn’t give us the TV rights, there were strikes, they were not going to pay us. But in the end, we managed to get through all of them.

"It's a great shame that there will not be a Monaco Grand Prix because it is such a lovely, traditional event. I couldn’t see Formula 1 without Monaco or Ferrari. Those two things are Formula 1.”

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter