They say a week is a long time in politics and now two weeks into the future of Covid-19 is totally unpredictable. Mix the two together and it brings a whole lot of uncertainty. Compare the immediate futures of F1 and NASCAR and we see some major contrasts.
Writing for Jalopnik.com, Bradley Brownell in his article Coronavirus Is Coming For Racing Drivers makes the point that already Covid-19 is impacting on drivers and teams (in the US) with the recent return of positive tests for NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, IMSA Cadillac prototype racer Felipe Nasr and Bob Tasca, who was planning to race his Ford NHRA funny car this coming weekend. Neither drivers are aware of how they caught the virus.
Both Nasr and Tasca hadn’t returned to racing before being diagnosed. On the other hand, Johnson has flown to and participated in eleven NASCAR rounds since the series became the first major series to return to racing. He last competed at Pocono a week ago.
Brownell, in his article, says ‘I am astonished that it took NASCAR this long to see a driver infected with the virus. Honestly, having been racing at the height and growth of the U.S. spread, the series has been playing with fire. To make matters worse, they are continuing to increase access to fans in the stands. I really hope it doesn’t, but the only thing I can think is that this will backfire.’
Head over to Europe and the welcome return of Formula One with the first round held in Austria over the weekend. From the viewing on TV, F1 seemed to be going above and beyond what is required with social distancing and mask wearing to the fore.
As F1 journalist Joe Saward points out in his recent blog Notebook from the Gasthaus Kaufmann, that consideration needs to be given to the implications of getting things wrong.
Saward says that ‘F1 needed to prove that it can operate without impacting the host country. Once that has been proved then other governments will be more confident that F1 is not a threat and the sport can get back to the business of building a calendar and just having to deal with the ebbs and flows of the virus in each location. And that will mean that in time we will be able to relax the rules of the F1 lockdown and not have to wear a mask at all times.’ If only NASCAR had taken that on board right from the start!
Although F1 is hosting eight Grand Prix in Europe and are yet to confirm their extended calendar hopefully into Asia and China, NASCAR is only operating in one country, the USA. Maybe each State should have been treated like a separate country.
F1 appear to be thinking of the future and their viability. They will control as much as possible to keep the virus out of the paddock because this is vital to being able to operate and conduct their business of racing. One McLaren team member tested positive in Melbourne and that seemed to be the tipping point for the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix back in March.
NASCAR were in a hurry get back racing and could be in danger of stumbling. As Brownell says, they are playing with fire.