When will Formula 1 return? Best-case versus worst-case scenario

Luke Smith

The opening nine races of the season have all been called off, the most recent being the Canadian Grand Prix that was scheduled for June 14.

Teams are in constant discussions with the sport’s bosses about what the most likely course of action is as the world continues to grapple with the fluid nature of the pandemic.

So what are the best best-case and worst-case scenarios for the 2020 F1 season?

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes F1 W11

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes F1 W11 Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The best-case scenario: 19 races starting in the summer 

While the majority of European countries remain on lockdown and have scrapped all major sporting events in the coming months, there are still ambitions to get the F1 season underway in the summer. 

F1 CEO Chase Carey said at the end of last month a 15-18 race calendar remained possible, albeit heavily altered from the planned schedule, with an extension into 2021 under consideration.

But F1 managing director Ross Brawn revealed on Wednesday that as many as 19 races could still go ahead this year if the season can start in July.

“If we were able to start in the beginning of July, we could do a 19-race season – three races on, one weekend off, three races on, one weekend off,” Brawn explained on the Sky F1 Vodcast. "But we have looked at all the logistics. We think we can hold an 18 to 19-race season if we are able to get started in July.”

Hugenholtz corner at Zandvoort

Hugenholtz corner at Zandvoort Ronald Vording

Ronald Vording

The worst-case scenario: No championship at all in 2020

With every race that gets called off, concerns are growing for many that there may be no championship at all in 2020.

The fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic means it is difficult to forecast just how long it will be until life returns to anything like normal. China has recently started to ease its lockdown restrictions amid falling death rates, but remains acutely aware of a possible second wave of infections. 

Even if the pandemic does not escalate further, there may still be concerns among nations and promoters of holding international events this year. Major events such as the Olympic Games, the UEFA Euro 2020 football championships and Wimbledon have already been postponed until 2021, making it not unimaginable that F1 could face a similar fate.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG W10, leads Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W10, and Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90, at the start of the race

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG W10, leads Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W10, and Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF90, at the start of the race Colin McMaster / Motorsport Images

Colin McMaster / Motorsport Images

What is the most likely outcome?

Realistically, somewhere in-between the two extremes appears to be the most likely outcome for F1 in 2020 – but it still remains unclear just what form the championship will take.

A ‘soft’ return for F1 behind closed doors is likely initially, to at the very least help boost the championship’s race numbers and ensure there are no issues – for any problems would be extremely damaging on a number of levels.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB15 Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Where we currently stand

The French Grand Prix on June 28 currently stands as the first unchanged race on the calendar, followed by the Austrian Grand Prix one week later. The running of the British Grand Prix, scheduled for July 19, is set to be ruled on by the end of this month by Silverstone officials.

If the pandemic has abated enough by the time summer rolls around, then perhaps a race count proposed by Brawn may be within reach. It will be a difficult jigsaw for the sport’s stakeholders to piece together.

All dates will remain up in the air for now. But the hope is that sooner rather than later, F1 can get back up and running with races, and give us some semblance of normality within motorsport.