Following the news that Formula 1 is holding discussions with circuits not originally on the 2020 calendar about the possibility of hosting races this year, we take a look at some F1-ready tracks.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic decimating the original start of the 2020 F1 schedule after the opening 10 races were either postponed or fully cancelled, championship officials are desperately working to assemble a revamped calendar once it is safe to go racing.

Although F1 CEO chairman Chase Carey has admitted that the sport’s owners are preparing for “the remote possibility of no racing in 2020”, he stressed “we are increasingly confident” about staging a world championship season this year.

Carey said the goal remained to start the season in Austria on the first weekend in July, and that it was “likely” this would be followed by a second race at the Red Bull Ring on July 12.

F1’s blueprint to get the campaign off the ground includes a series of closed door European rounds through July, August and into early September, then heading to Eurasia, Asia and the Americas, before concluding the season in mid-December in the Middle East with races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

Speaking in a conference call discussing F1’s financial results results which fell by 84% in the first quarter of 2020, Carey revealed the series is exploring “all options” in its bid to return to racing and revealed that tracks which were not featured on the initial 22-race calendar could step in to help F1.

F1 needs to hold at least eight grands prix across three continents in order to validate a world championship season.

All F1 races must take place on circuits which meet the FIA’s Grade 1 requirements. So which could realistically step in if required?

Hockenheim has already confirmed it is in early talks with F1 over the possibility of hosting a race in 2020, having dropped off the calendar following the 2019 German Grand Prix after failing to reach a fresh agreement.

The circuit is arguably the best-placed to host a race at short notice given its location makes it one of the closest to the seven predominately British-based F1 teams.

A drop in coronavirus-related deaths and infection rates has seen the German government begin to release its lockdown restrictions, while Bundesliga football has been given the green light to resume on May 16.

For those reasons, a case could also be made for Germany’s Nurburgring, which has hosted a total of 40 grands prix, to become an option.

Ongoing financial challenges and a change of ownership has prevented the circuit from hosting F1 since 2013, though the track held discussions with F1 regarding a possible return to the calendar as recently as 2018.

Another circuit ready to host F1 is Portimao after it was awarded an FIA Grade 1 licence last month, opening the door for it to join the F1 calendar.

The Algarve International Circuit previously welcomed F1 teams as a test venue in 2008 and 2009. It is within close proximity to local hotels and airports, which would come in handy for F1’s bid to create a “biosphere” environment, while its warm climate means races could be staged late into the year if needed.

Portugal also offers a second F1-ready venue in the shape of Estoril, which is located on the Portuguese Riviera outside of its capital Lisbon.

Imola could be under consideration after throwing its hat into the ring as a potential venue to host a behind closed doors F1 race this year, should conditions in Italy - one of the worst-affected European countries - improve in the coming months.

The former home of the San Marino Grand Prix could run as a back-to-back event with the Italian Grand Prix, which is still scheduled for September 6, although Monza is understood to be the latest circuit considering a double-header event for the weekends of September 5-6 and 12-13.

Sepang offers another excellent venue which last hosted F1 in 2017. The Malaysian Grand Prix moved to an early-October slot towards the end of its spell on the F1 calendar, which would align with F1’s current vision for its revamped schedule.

After initially having the most number of coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia, Malaysia has started to ease some of its curbs and has allowed the majority of its businesses to open this month after recording its lowest number of new cases towards the end of April.

In addition to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain also offers two other Grade 1 venues that have hosted F1 races and testing in the past at Jerez and Valencia. A nearby airport makes the Circuito de Jerez particularly appealing, and one, or both of these venues could be incorporated to fit around the Barcelona race and any grands prix that might occur in Portugal to ease logistical concerns.

However, Spain’s tentative easing of its draconian lockdown restrictions might stand in F1’s way depending on how the country’s situation pans out in the coming weeks and months.

Other potential contenders could include Turkey’s great Istanbul Park and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, given that major sporting events are starting up again in the United States with NASCAR and IndyCar set to resume later this month and June respectively.

The Brickyard would also appeal to American F1 owners Liberty Media and could be shoehorned in on the schedule to fit around the planned United States and Mexican grands prix towards the backend of the year.

 

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