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Disrupted Formula One 70th edition could end in tears

By People Daily
Friday, April 17th, 2020
Lewis Hamilton pops the champagne after winning his sixth Formula One title last season. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary

Paris, Thursday

Formula One’s 70th anniversary season, stalled by the coronavirus pandemic, could end in tears for teams facing financial ruin unless the sport cuts costs and achieves sustainable spending.

Alarm bells have been ringing for weeks about whether the sport can survive in its current format ahead of key talks Thursday between motor racing’s governing body FIA, Formula One bosses and the 10 teams who take part in the circuit.

“The crisis is the final wake-up call for a sport which was unhealthy and not sustainable and had reached a point where we need drastic changes,” McLaren’s team principal Andreas Seidl told journalists on the eve of the conference.

Formula One, the most expensive luxury brand of motorsport, has weathered financial storms before. Following the 2007-8 crisis manufacturers BMW, Honda, Toyota and Renault quit. In 2009, the French Grand Prix was cancelled and the Fuji circuit in Japan, owned by Toyota, dropped out.

But Formula One cut costs and recovered.

This time the blow to the sport and the global economy is harder and the sport may be less well equipped to deal with it.

Two races (Australia, Monaco) have been cancelled, seven (Bahrain, China, Vietnam, Netherlands, Spain, Azerbaijan, Canada) have been postponed and the later rounds, starting with the French Grand Prix on June 28, are in doubt.

Ratings agency Moody’s downgraded Formula One, owned by the American group Liberty Media, early in April but said it felt the sport could survive a lost season.

“Formula One has strong liquidity and a sufficiently flexible cost base to manage through a severely curtailed 2020 season,” wrote Moody’s, adding that F1 “would likely be able to support a full cancellation.”

The sport’s leadership is not ready to write this season off.

“If we were able to start at the beginning of July we could do a 19-race season,” Ross Brawn, a F1 managing director, said on April 8. Brawn said under FIA rules “eight races is the minimum we can have a world championship.”    -AFP