Formula 1 is reportedly considering a third double-header event at Sochi as a possible solution to the likelihood of more races on the original 2020 calendar getting cancelled.
Earlier this week, F1 announced the heavily-delayed 2020 season will begin with the Austrian Grand Prix on July 5, the first of eight European-based races in the space of 10 weeks. The confirmed revised schedule stretched through to the Italian Grand Prix on 6 September 6, with dates for any of the races in Asia, the Americas or the Middle East yet to be set in stone.
CEO Chase Carey said F1 is unlikely to finalise the remainder of the 2020 calendar until the end of June at the earliest. While he expects some of the original rounds to be cancelled, Carey insisted the sport had other options if needed.
The opening 10 races were called off due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with the Dutch, Monaco and French GPs cancelled altogether.
From the initial 2020 schedule, it is not yet confirmed whether postponed events in Bahrain, Vietnam, China, Canada and Azerbaijan will be rescheduled.
However, there is growing expectation that both the Canadian and Azerbaijan races could be shelved, as well as the Singapore Grand Prix.
Singapore has no flexibility over its September 20 date due to complexities surrounding the long lead time required to set up the street circuit infrastructure, while the location of the track poses added difficulties for F1 plans to isolate its personnel from the wider community.
There is uncertainty over the remaining flyaway races including the Japanese Grand Prix following the decision to cancel the Japanese MotoGP round at Motegi. In a bid to combat the likelihood of further race cancellations, F1 is looking at a number of alternatives as it aims to meet its target of a 15-18 race season.
According to a report in Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, F1 is discussing the prospect of back-to-back races in Russia with organisers of the Sochi event. The Russian Grand Prix is currently scheduled for 27 September.
Russia has been badly-hit by coronavirus and has over 440,000 confirmed infections to date, though its death toll is low compared to the majority of other countries worldwide.
The location of the Sochi Autodrom on the remote Black Sea district that hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics – coupled with its nearby hotels – makes it a viable facility to comply with F1’s strict safety and hygiene regulations.
Other venues that could step in to replace any cancelled events include the Hockenheimring in Germany, which has already held talks with F1. Italy is also keen to stage a second race in addition to its Italian Grand Prix round at Monza, with Imola and Mugello understood to be potential alternatives.
F1 is aiming to stage events in Asia and the Americas through September and October, before closing out the campaign with back-to-back races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in mid-December. Mexico and Brazil remain committed to their respective original dates of November 1 and November 15, though there are question marks lingering over both races given that South America has become a new hotspot for coronavirus infections.
There are doubts, too, over the United States Grand Prix – scheduled for October 25 – with large events unlikely to take place in the Texan city of Austin before the end of the year.