At this complicated, difficult, and certainly challenging time, we at Paddock magazine are glad to talk to an industry veteran John Norman, CEO of EVO and the manager for ISL driver Ryan Norman. John answers a few relevant questions about how COVID-19 is shaping the current situation in Formula 1 and motorsports overall.
How is the coronavirus affecting the racing industry as a whole at this moment?
The entire racing industry has taken a much-needed pause in response to the coronavirus. Formula 1 reacted quickly and cancelled several races once one of the race team members was diagnosed with the disease and the rest of the industry followed suit. As much as they are looking out for the health and safety of their racers, they’re equally as concerned with the teams surrounding them and of course, the fans and consumers of the sport. The response from the industry to at least postpone races was pretty quick; at this point everyone is just waiting for an update on when things can start to move forward.
What do the cancelled events mean for the tracks and the cities that host them?
The cancelled events are a critical loss not just for the tracks and stadiums but also the economy of the cities that host them; they’re all counting on the influx of money spent at these races. While postponing races makes the most sense, it can be a logistical nightmare to reschedule them for later in the year as there are already other events scheduled to take place on key weekends.
All of this could result in shortening the overall number of races in the season which won’t be great for profits; the whole industry realizes that it’s in serious need of restructuring.
Almost all Formula 1 drivers have access to simulators to keep their driving skills sharp and their minds active. Because of all this, they likely won’t lose their edge for now.
How can drivers keep their mind sharp and stay prepared during this downtime so that they’re ready to go once we get back to racing?
Thankfully for drivers, they’re used to having long stretches of downtime in between race weekends. This will effectively act as an extended off-season for them, so they already have workouts and practices in place to stay on top of their game during times without races due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Almost all drivers have access to simulators to keep their driving skills sharp and their minds active. Because of all this, they likely won’t lose their edge for now; they maintain all the benefits of practice, but unfortunately without any of the payoff of official racing. I hope that this will create massive anticipation for drivers to perform at their peak whenever the season starts up again.
What’s expected from race teams during this hiatus, and how can they can use this off time most effectively?
I’m sure the main goal of every race team is to keep their current employees employed. They are focusing on keeping their maintenance skills sharp and trying to keep the competitive spirit alive.
Is there a way for racing teams to keep the business relationships with their sponsors intact?
Sponsor contracts are still in place as of now and likely will not change for the time being. Even with the season being put on hold, it would reflect poorly on a sponsor to break free of their contract with a team right now, but many corporate sponsors are having their own financial issues as well. This all really depends on how long the season is on hiatus; it is entirely possible that if this COVID-19 situation lasts longer than expected, there may be some anxiety on the sponsor’s end to find a way out of their racing contract, but until we get there, we won’t know for sure.
What’s your personal take on how similar situations could be managed in motorsports in the future?
The industry took a great, unified approach this time around, especially considering this all snuck up so quickly. If something like this were to happen again, years down the road, it just needs to be managed in a similar fashion: put human safety first by simply pausing the season; there will always be time for more races in the future. As long as no one tries to take advantage of the situation and game the system for their benefit, there shouldn’t be any bad blood within the industry. People seem to realise that they’re all in this together with the unified end goal of getting teams back on the tracks as soon as it’s safe.
We are definitely living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty; future possibilities are endless. Things are copacetic for now but the longer COVID-19 puts the season on hold, the more pent-up anxiety will build and that’s where things might start to get hectic.