It remains to be seen whether Formula One manages to arrange a championship season in 2020 once the world starts to return to normality after the coronavirus pandemic.
F1 CEO Chase Carey is optimistic the series can still achieve 15 to 18 races. It seems an ambitious target, but clearly Carey and Liberty Media are determined to salvage as much of the year as possible. If that is the case, the championship has the perfect opportunity to use the season as a test bed for some ideas that could revolutionise the championship in this new decade.
Different races, different formats
The usual F1 calendar is bloated and, worst of all, features absolutely no variation throughout. The only change of note is that the traditional Friday practice takes place on Thursday in Monaco, owing to a national holiday the following day, but the actual substance of the schedule is exactly the same at any other weekend. Considering Monaco is such a special race on the calendar, it doesn't seem right that it is almost identical in format to a race in Sochi.
Given that 2020 would be unlike any other season in F1 history, there is a chance to play around with things beyond simply shortening some events to two days, as is already being discussed in order to achieve as many races as possible this year. Here's a few ideas.
Bring back one-shot qualifying for street circuits
The current qualifying format suits some circuits, but not others. The Q1-Q2-Q3 process can be entertaining, but the top teams usually get safe passage to the top-10 shootout for pole position, barring some unforeseen circumstances. The jeopardy is lessened by the fact there are several opportunities to make it through each session.
A street circuit seems the perfect opportunity to revive the popular one-shot qualifying used for the 2003 season. While we won't get a Monaco Grand Prix in 2020, it could be trialed at the Singapore Grand Prix. Let the drivers practice as normal, but give them just one lap to set their grid position. It's all or nothing with a razor thin line between glory and a wheel slamming into the wall. This would further separate a street circuit form your traditional road course.
Multiple races per weekend
F1 can also lean into having multiple championship races on a single weekend. Last year's Japanese Grand Prix proved you can hold qualifying and a race on the same day, something F1 had to do in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis.
Plenty of circuits offer variations in terms of layout. The famous Monza circuit can be run with no chicanes, for example, while France's Paul Ricard circuit offers a remarkable 167 different configurations. There's no reason F1 couldn't have a race on one layout on Sunday morning and one on the "traditional" configuration in the afternoon. Considering how bad the racing is on the layout Paul Ricard currently uses for the French Grand Prix, shaking things up like this is an appealing idea.
There's an added bonus to doing this: It would help make up for the events F1 is inevitably going to lose from what was supposed to be a mammoth 22-race championship.
Lean into local markets
F1 can also lean into its localised audiences in a lot of key regions. The U.S. market is different than the Chinese market, for example, so why not cater the formats to what the local fan wants? F1 has done plenty of data-driven research in recent seasons on its next set of regulations, so there's no reason it can't do it to understand the fan base.
A sprint race might work better at one place than another. Why not let race promoters suggest what takes place on their race weekend? It would help give each event its own mystique as opposed to being just another event following the tried (or should that be tired?) and tested approach of every other race on the calendar. It might not work, but 2020 seems like the perfect time to find out, given how people are unlikely to be too picky about what they're watching in a few months' time.
Regular livery changes
Another consequence of such a long race calendar is that the look of the cars loses novelty quite quickly. Look at any other sports and there are subtle differences: Most soccer teams have upward of three or four kits for matches; NFL teams will have throwbacks or Colour Rush jerseys; and the NBA has mastered the art of letting its teams explore various designs throughout its seasons. If nothing else, this allows cool designs to go viral, it generates debate and puts NBA kits in front of people who might never have otherwise have been exposed to the series that week.
The NBA, especially, is great at remembering that sport should be fun. F1 is guilty of taking itself too seriously a lot of the time, but could easily remedy this each weekend by letting teams experiment with their liveries on certain occasions. It doesn't have to be every weekend: In fact, rules could stipulate it has to be done at one event of a team's choosing every year to ensure it wasn't overdone.
You just have to see how F1 fans react to helmet design tweaks to understand how livery changes would be popular. The possibilities are endless. Get fans to submit or vote on different designs. Copy American sports in doing Colour Rush or retro liveries at various points in the year.
Or, why not go completely left field for certain events. Here's one random suggestion to show how wide you can go with this: Why not get a Japanese artist to reimagine the grid's liveries in their own style for the Japanese Grand Prix?
It might have backfired in terms of being done at its worst race of 2019, but Mercedes' homage to its 125th anniversary in motorsport at last year's German Grand Prix -- with a throwback livery and every mechanic decked out in old-school garb -- was exactly the sort of thing teams should do more often.
Everyone is trying to go viral in the social media age, and the NBA has shown just how big one championship can get globally by embracing this at every opportunity.
Run an esports championship alongside the real thing
Esports is thriving at the moment, as people have grasped at whatever racing they can during this period of having no actual motor racing. Over the past few weeks there have been F1, IndyCar and NASCAR events, featuring racers from each series, while there's a host of other events.
Admittedly, I'm still not 100% on the esports hype train -- it's like international cricket in that it already feels like overkill given the volume of events taking place -- but it's impossible to deny the incredible reach it has beyond your casual racing fan. Lando Norris' Twitch numbers in recent weeks have been record-breaking, and that's just when he has sat in a gaming rig at his house.
There's potential for esports to be huge, and instead of treating it like it is a separate entity to the F1 world championship and an event that takes place at a different time and in a different venue, F1 should incorporate it into a weekend as if it were a feeder series like Formula 2 or 3. As with the livery idea outlined above, the different possibilities here are endless. For example, McLaren has a gaming rig in their hospitality centre and Norris spends a fair amount of time on it between his usual commitments; why not have an F1 guest entrant at each event?
Make use of the extra day
The main problem with F1 switching to two-day race weekends is the knock-on effect it has on race promoters, who sell tickets for Friday practice and expect three days of entertainment on their circuits. One option to plug the gap would be F1's support series (perhaps Formula 2's weekend could run Friday to Saturday), but to really bring in the crowds F1 could up the entertainment and star power with a team principals' race.
The idea has been floated before -- not least because Toto Wolff, Christian Horner, Zak Brown and Franz Tost are all former/failed racing drivers -- but an agreement was never reached to make it happen in reality. If the team bosses were all in equal machinery -- or even road cars linked to their manufacturers -- the racing would be hugely entertaining, while still allowing the rest of the F1 teams to run on a two-day schedule to ease the burden of travelling. The team bosses would have to turn up a day early, but teams will already be setting up at the circuit by Friday if they plan to start the official race weekend on Saturday, so it shouldn't be a major burden. Practice, qualifying and the race could all be run in a single day.
A balance of performance could be applied if it turns out one team boss is better than the rest, but ideally the competition would be run in the spirit of it not being the winning that counts but the taking part. A separate championship could be formed for the team bosses and the races would almost certainly become a major talking point in the buildup to each weekend.
Capitalise on the mixed-up calendar
If F1 does manage to cobble a season together, it could be revolutionary. The current schedule has been largely unchanged for years -- start in Australia in March, get to Europe in May, summer break in August, Asia in September/October, followed by the Americas and Abu Dhabi to finish in November.
Getting a 2020 season together will require a great deal of improvisation and flexibility; F1 will shoehorn as many of the postponed races into the second half of the year as feasibly possible. If this is the case, why not make something of it? Ask some circuits to commit to which dates they can do and make at least part of the process interactive. Imagine Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen locked in a championship fight and one of them drawing the order of the next five before the Abu Dhabi finale out of a hat.
It keeps things different and means F1 would lean into the improvised nature of the upcoming race season. Circuits are already having to make plans on the fly and those with permanent facilities have a bit more flexibility to do this than those that need to be constructed from scratch every year.