Formula One teams have jumped into panic mode as the 2020 season has been postponed in the face of the coronavirus threat. In a telephone conference this week, team bosses have reportedly called for a continuation of the 2020 regulations into 2021, as well as a mandatory freeze of chassis and gearbox development, among others. According to Motorsport, nine of the ten teams agreed to this, while Ferrari asked for more time to consider the proposal.
The 2021 regulations were intended to create a prettier looking race car that would allow closer racing, reduce team operating costs, showcase driver talent above engineering talent, and develop young drivers quicker.
With the 2020 season uncertain, teams are wary about spending money developing a new car. Each race that doesn’t run cuts into the team budget, as they are largely paid by the hosting fees that countries pay to host Grands Prix. Not only that, but there is always the worry in an economic downturn that automobile manufacturers and other sponsors could pull their funding of the team outright if costs run too high.
The teams have already spent the millions developing their 2020 chassis, and want to get as much mileage out of them as they can. As the current season has already been (likely) shortened by four events, and with more cancellations and postponements surely coming, the only way to maximise this investment is to stretch it out into the next season.
The teams will be meeting with Chase Carey, Ross Brawn, and Jean Todt to discuss the feasibility of instituting such a plan on Thursday, and it would ultimately be up to the FIA to put something like this in place. If the sanctioning body does keep the 2020 cars around for another calendar year, perhaps the original 2021 budget limitations could stick around, as well as the provision for shortening the Grand Prix weekend by a day to just Fri-Sat-Sun.
For now, Formula One has proved non-essential to a post-COVID-19 life. The hope is that it won’t stay that way.