No Monaco GP in 2020 as F1 replaces postponed races with Virtual Grands Prix
Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix, one of the most high-profile motoring racing events on the international calendar, will not take place at all in 2020 amid further fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic.
Formula 1 stated yesterday that the round in Monte Carlo, plus those in the Netherlands and Spain, had joined the list of postponements in the first part of the season.
However, the Automobile Club de Monaco, which organises the event, subsequently went further in announcing the cancellation.
It will be the first time since 1954 that Monaco has not staged a Formula 1 round. There are particular logistical challenges for the race in the Principality given that it is staged on public roads.
The announcement came on the same day that it was revealed that Prince Albert II, Monaco’s reigning monarch, had tested positive for coronavirus.
In a statement, the ACM said: “The current situation concerning the worldwide pandemic and its unknown path of evolution, the lack of understanding as to the impact on the FIA F1 World Championship 2020, the uncertainty with regards to the participation of the teams, the consequences with regards to the different measures of confinement as taken by various governments worldwide, the multi-border restrictions for accessing the Principality of Monaco, the pressure on all implicated businesses, their dedicated staff who are unable to undertake the necessary installations, the availability of the indispensable workforce and volunteers (more than 1,500) required for the success of the event means that the situation is no longer tenable."
The Dutch and Spanish rounds have joined those in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam and China in being postponed, with Formula 1 hoping they can be staged later in the year.
However, the sport is looking to fill the void with the F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series, which will run in place of the postponed races, and involve current drivers.
The events, which will be based on the F1 2019 PC video game, developed by Codemasters, and take place remotely, will begin with the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix this Sunday, and run until at least May.
On the track, Formula 1 has brought forward its summer break from August to March and April with the aim of proceeding with a season of up to 21 rounds, potentially starting with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on 7 June, but it remains to be seen if this is feasible, with the likely need to host races on consecutive weekends, and already-postponed races at risk of being cancelled, if the coronavirus situation continues to escalate.
Formula 1 and the FIA, motor racing’s international governing body, have also agreed to delay planned sweeping technical regulation changes by a year to 2022 to keep costs down, meaning that the teams will continue to use 2020 chassis next season.
However, new financial rules, including a budget cap of $175 million, will still take effect in 2021.
Following a meeting between Formula 1, the FIA and the 10 team principals yesterday, Chase Carey, the sport’s chairman and chief executive said: “At the meeting there was full support for the plans to reschedule as many of the postponed races as possible as soon as it is safe to do so.
“Formula 1 and the FIA will now work to finalise a revised 2020 calendar and will consult with the teams, but as agreed at the meeting the revised calendar will not require their formal approval. This will give us the necessary flexibility to agree revised timings with affected race promoters and to be ready to start racing at the right moment.”
He added: “We are all very grateful for the collaborative nature of the discussions and fully united approach from all parties to get racing in 2020 as soon as the current global situation subsides. Formula 1 remains fully committed to launching a 2020 season as soon as possible.”
The Virtual Grand Prix series aims to build on the success of the F1 Esports Series, involving top esports competitors, which completed its third series in 2019.
Current Formula 1 drivers will line up alongside celebrities, with the races to be shown on the official Formula 1 YouTube, Twitch and Facebook channels, while on non-race weekends there will be online exhibition races in which fans can take on the drivers, with details to be announced on social media channels in the coming weeks.
Welcoming the initiative, Julian Tan, head of digital business initiatives and esports at Formula 1, said: "We are very pleased to be able to bring some light relief in the form of the F1 Esports Virtual GP, in these unpredictable times, as we hope to entertain fans missing the regular sporting action. With every major sports league in the world unable to compete, it is a great time to highlight the benefits of esports and the incredible skill that’s on show.”