F1 hit by 84% drop in revenue from coronavirus pandemic

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Formula One's income between January and March plummeted from $246 million in 2019 to $39 million this year, a drop of 84%, figures released by championship owners Liberty Media revealed on Thursday.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has delayed the start of the 2020 season indefinitely. F1 was due to start at the Australian Grand Prix on March 14 but cancelled the event after McLaren was forced to withdraw when a staff member tested positive for the virus. The Bahrain Grand Prix of March 28 was subsequently postponed and other races followed suit.

The delay to the season has had a huge financial impact on the series. F1's primary revenue is based on race fees, broadcast contracts and sponsorship, all of which fell by 93 percent from $198 million to $13 million for the same period. Overall operating income fell from a loss of $47 million to a loss of $137 million.

Liberty's financial report noted: "Since there were no events held during the first quarter of 2020, primary F1 revenue consisted only of the elements of sponsorship contracts associated with non-race-related rights that were recognized during the period, and no race promotion fees nor broadcasting fees were recognized."

The next eight races on the schedule covered the next quarter, which runs through April, May and June, but each has either been postponed or cancelled outright. F1 hopes to start the season with a series of behind-closed-doors races in Europe, beginning with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring on July 5.

As of yet, F1 has made no payments to any of its 10 teams, as these have traditionally been given out on a race-by-race basis. In the opening three months of last year, the teams had $96 million shared between them.

A Liberty Media release said: "There was no team payment expense recorded since such payments are recognised on a pro-rata basis across races on the calendar. Other cost of F1 revenue is largely variable in nature and relates directly to revenue opportunities.

"These costs decreased primarily due to no races taking place and the deferral of non-critical expenses. Certain costs were incurred during the first quarter in anticipation of the start of the 2020 race season, including freight, travel and technical costs relating to the Australian Grand Prix, which was cancelled on the eve of the event."

F1 has responded to the financial challenges posed by coronavirus in a number of ways. It has pushed back a planned rule change for 2021, which would have involved big levels of spending by every team this year, back a year, and has also ensured the 2020 and 2021 season will have car development frozen completely.

A budget cap of $145 million has also been agreed upon to curb spending.