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Is it time for Formula 1 to finally start considering the unthinkable?

Is it time for Formula 1 to finally start considering the unthinkable?

Is it time for Formula 1 to finally start considering the unthinkable?

Is it time for Formula 1 to finally start considering the unthinkable?

Bernie Ecclestone has never been a man to mince his words.

They may have landed him in hot water on a few occasions, particularly with regard to matters outside of Formula 1, and they may no longer carry the same gravitas as they once did when he ran the sport for almost 40 years. But more often than not, in dealing with situations in F1, he was pragmatic and realistic.

So it is no surprise that in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Ecclestone has made a suggestion that many others had perhaps thought of but dared not utter.

Asked as to how he would handle the current situation if he were still at the helm, the 89-year-old replied: "I think I’d have to say we’re going to close down talk of having any races this year.

Bernie Ecclestone would not run F1 in 2020 if he was still in charge

“That’s the only thing you could do safely for everybody so nobody starts making silly arrangements which may not be able to happen.”

It is a remark that is the polar opposite of a statement made by Chase Carey a few days previously as F1's current CEO said he fully expects "the season to start at some point this summer, with a revised calendar of between 15-18 races".

You can understand Carey's ambition to foster hopefulness at a time when the world is wondering just when it will return to normal.

In response, Ecclestone said: "I'd be very, very surprised if they managed to achieve that."

Which of the two will ultimately be proved correct, as is the way of many things, of course, only time will tell.

F1 CEO Chase Carey is hoping to stage 15-18 races this year

You can only hope that within F1's corridors of power they are not driven by blind optimism, as appeared to be the case when the F1 circus set off for Melbourne, believing it was immune to a contagion that was slowly shutting down society.

When a solitary positive test eventually rocked the paddock, what was eye-opening in its naivety was the fact there was no plan B as to what course of action should have been taken.

At present, numerous suggestions have emerged as to how F1 will proceed as and when - not if - the season eventually starts.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has proposed the possibility of the season stretching into 2021, and of two-day weekends, with no practice on Fridays.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto feels this season could spill over into 2021

Former F1 racer Martin Brundle has put forward the prospect of triple, perhaps even, quadruple-headers to fulfil Carey's idea of a 15-18 race calendar.

But no-one, until Ecclestone, had made as bold a statement as to cancel the season altogether.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner had suggested that for anyone within F1 to do so would be creating a "negative attitude" that once in the public domain would be hard to eradicate, and which, in turn, would be psychologically damaging to all within the sport.

The problem is, F1 cannot be seen to bury its head in the sand on this issue. It has to recognise there is a very real threat to there being no 2020 season at all.

If ever there was a warning for it to heed, then it came on Sunday when England's deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, laid bare the situation for the coming weeks and months ahead.

With the UK government due to review its current lockdown measures around Easter, Harries said: "We must not then suddenly revert to our normal way of living. That would be quite dangerous.

There could be more empty grids and grandstands if the words of Dr Jenny Harries come true

"If we stop then, all of our efforts will be wasted and we could potentially see a second peak. So over time, probably over the next six months, we will have a three-week review. We will see where we are going.

"We need to keep that lid on, and then gradually we will be able to hopefully adjust some of the social distancing measures and gradually get us all back to normal.

"Three weeks for review, two or three months to see whether we have really squashed it but about three to six months ideally, and lots of uncertainty in that, but then to see at which point we can actually get back to normal."

Dr Harries further stated it was "plausible" such a course of action could go beyond six months.

Assessing Dr Harries' six-month suggestion from an F1 perspective, that takes us up to the start of October.

At that stage, there would be just five rounds of the season remaining, the first of those in Japan, which recently announced its postponement of the Olympics, that was due to run in late July-early August, until next year, and the second in the United States, which at present appears to be facing more of a major crisis than any other country in its bid to fight the disease.

Will F1 be in Suzuka in October?

And who knows, in six months' time, what travel restrictions will still be in place, not just in the UK, but around the world given the global nature of F1.

I sincerely hope Carey is correct, that somehow 15-18 races are crammed in over the second half of the year, even stretching into January/February of 2021 if necessary.

But no matter your individual point of view of Ecclestone, you have to appreciate he may just be right, and that there is the distinct danger of there being no F1 at all in 2020.

Naturally, all of us here at GPFans and for everyone involved in F1, we hope that is not the case.

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