Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Formula One remains confident it can deliver a 15-to-18-race calendar in 2020, starting at some point during the summer.
In a statement to fans, F1 CEO Chase Carey said the sport would tear up its existing calendar and start again once it becomes clear when it will be possible to resume racing. Carey said F1 had made space for postponed races in August by moving the traditional mid-season break to March and April, and by taking a decision to extend the season beyond the original finale on Nov. 29.
Carey's statement followed decisions taken in the last week to postpone or cancel all races up until the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on June 7 and push the planned 2021 regulation changes back a year to 2022. The Azerbaijan GP was then also postponed Monday on the wish of the race promoters, casting further doubt on a start date for the season.
"Over the past week, Formula One, the ten F1 teams and the FIA have come together and taken rapid, decisive action as part of our initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic," Carey said. "While at present no-one can be certain of exactly when the situation will improve, it will improve and when it does, we will be ready to go racing again. We are all committed to bringing our fans a 2020 Championship Season.
"We recognise there is significant potential for additional postponements in currently scheduled events, nonetheless we and our partners fully expect the season to start at some point this summer, with a revised calendar of between 15-18 races.
"As previously announced we will utilise the summer break being brought forward to March/April, to race during the normal summer break period and anticipate the season end date will extend beyond our original end date of 27-29th November, with the actual sequence and schedule dates for races differing significantly from our original 2020 calendar."
However, with governments around the world taking action to limit the spread of the coronavirus, F1 may not have the luxury of planning its own calendar and will have to adapt to events. Carey said the sport was aware of that fact but, following the success of an esports-based Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, added that F1 would continue to explore new ways to entertain fans.
"It is not possible to provide a more specific calendar now due to the fluidity of the current situation but we expect to gain clearer insights to the situation in each of our host countries, as well as the issues related to travel to these countries, in the coming month," he said.
"With the benefit of the FIA's announcement and agreement in principle to freeze technical regulations throughout 2021, no summer break and factory shut downs being moved forward to March and April, the sport now intends to race through the period normally set aside for the summer break and fulfil lost events from the first part of this year.
"This flexibility offers an opportunity to evolve the sport, experiment and try new things. That may include initiatives such as expanding our esports platform, developing more innovative content like Netflix and other creative ways to drive ongoing value for the sport's sponsor partners, broadcast partners, race promoters, teams and fans -- the ecosystem of our fantastic sport.
"Between Formula One, the teams and the FIA, working with our key stakeholders, we are planning and fully committed to returning to the track at the earliest opportunity to commence the 2020 season and will continue to take advice from health officials and experts, as our first priority continues to be the safety and health of our fans, the communities we visit and those within the Formula One family. We're confident we'll all get through this and see better days, ahead, and, when we do, we will ensure that everyone invested in this sport at every level feels rewarded."