COVID-19 is Putting Some Formula 1 Races in Jeopardy

The Chinese Grand Prix has been postponed, the Bahrain Grand Prix will take place without spectators, and Italian teams might not make it to the Australian Grand Prix.
Marcia Wendorf

On March 8, 2020, it was announced that Formula 1’s second race of the season, the Bahrain Grand Prix, will take place without spectators due to the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The Chinese Grand Prix, set to take place on April 17 - 19, 2020, has been postponed, however, the season-opening Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne will go ahead as planned on March 13, 2020.

Ferrari, AlphaTauri and tire supplier Pirelli are all based in Italy, which has been hard hit by the virus. Italian staff arriving in Australia will be screened by Australian authorities.

What is Formula 1?

The Netflix series "Formula 1: Drive to Survive," which just completed its second season, has introduced many who weren't racing fans to the sport. For sheer speed and glamor, nothing can top "F1".

Formula 1 is the highest class of single-seater automobile racing, and it is sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The word "formula" refers to the set of rules that all participants must adhere to.


Formula 1 cars are the fastest racing cars in the world, with speeds in excess of 215 miles per hour (350 km/h). Formula 1 cars are able to remain on the track and corner at those speeds due to their aerodynamic design, which creates large amounts of downforce. That force can reach 6.5 g of lateral force.

On January 23, 2017, Liberty Media acquired the company that controls Formula 1, Delta Topco, for $8 billion. Liberty also owns satellite radio company SiriusXM and the Atlanta Braves baseball team.

Formula 1 2020 race locations
Formula 1 2020 race locations, Source: Cherkash/Wikimedia Commons

A Formula 1 season is comprised of a series of races that take place all over the world, and are called Grand Prix, which is French for "grand prizes". Two prizes are awarded annually, one for drivers, and one for the cars' builders.

Formula 1 drivers must hold a special "Super License", and all F1 tracks must be designated "1" which is the highest grade possible.

The history of Formula 1

Formula 1 really got its start after World War II, and it featured the road car manufacturers Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Maserati.

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1951 Alfa-Romeo 159
1951 Alfa-Romeo 159, Source: Lennart Coopmans/Wikimedia Commons

In the late 1950s, British drivers such as Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, and John Surtees became household names, and British cars dominated the sport. One such car was the British Racing Green Lotus.

The 1960s was a period of great change in the sport. Engines moved from the front of the cars to between the front and rear axles, and chassis changed from frame designs to aluminum-sheet monocoque designs. Monocoque is French for "single shell", and in that design, loads are supported by an object's external skin.

It was during the 1960s that the importance of downforce was recognized, and the first aerofoils made their appearance. The downforce allowed cornering speeds of up to five times the car's weight.

Ferrari 1976 German Grand Prix
Ferrari 1976 German Grand Prix, Source: Lothar Spurzem/Wikimedia Commons

This downforce necessitated the use of solid suspensions in order to maintain constant ride height. By 1982, Lotus developed an active suspension system that controlled the vertical movement of the wheels relative to the chassis.

That year, Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna drove a Lotus 91 to victory at the Monaco Grand Prix. Senna went on to win the Formula 1 World Drivers' Championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991. Tragically, Senna died in an accident while leading at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger also died at that race, and their deaths led to increased safety standards. No Formula 1 driver died during the next 20 years.

Michael Schumacher driving Ferrari
Michael Schumacher driving Ferrari, Source: Paul Lannuier/Wikimedia Commons

The early 2000s were dominated by Ferrari and their German driver Michael Schumacher. Schumacher is the only driver to win seven Formula 1 World Championships, five consecutively, win the most Grand Prix at 91, have the fastest laps at 77, and win the most races in a single season at 13.

Schumacher retired from Ferrari in 2006 but returned to Formula 1 in 2010 to drive for Mercedes. He retired at the end of the 2012 season. Having survived unscathed during his Formula 1 career, on December 29, 2013, Schumacher suffered a traumatic brain injury in a skiing accident and has not been seen in public since.

Formula 1 2020 season

The 2020 Formula 1 season kicks off on March 13, 2020, with the Australia Grand Prix, and lasts until November 29, 2020, when the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix concludes.

Renault 2016
Renault 2016, Source: lmankram7/Wikimedia Commons

The cost of deploying a racing team — designing, building and maintaining the cars, meeting payroll, and transportation to the various races — can easily exceed $120 million a year. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Formula 1 racing is that "the paddock", is constructed, taken down, and trucked to each new city in just a matter of days, a truly remarkable achievement.

The 2020 Formula 1 season is comprised of these teams and drivers:

  • Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
  • Haas F1 Team - Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen
  • McLaren - Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris
  • Alfa Romeo Racing - Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi
  • Red Bull Racing - Max Verstappen, Alexander Albon
  • Renault - Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon
  • Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel, Charles LeClerc
  • AlphaTauri - Pierre Gasly, Daniil Kvyat
  • Williams - George Russell, Nicholas Latifi
  • Racing Point - Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll