Apart from the four days of pre-season testing in Barcelona, there has been no action on an F1 track, thanks to Covid-19, the pandemic that has changed the world, possibly forever.

A behind closed doors start to the season is scheduled for July 5 in Austria at the Red Bull Ring, with another race the following week at the same circuit.

But plans to then run a double header at Silverstone on July 19 and 26 may have been thwarted by the British government edict that anyone, including British citizens, arriving in the UK after June 8, will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

That would prevent F1 personnel being available for a third race seven days after the second one.


Logically and logistically then, you might think why not hold the first British GP on July 26 to get around the problem? But as grand prix is usually a four-day event, even with a fortnight between the second race in Austria and the first at Silverstone, the 14 days self-isolation period would still create difficulties.

That rule is to be reviewed every 3 weeks, so it is possible the event could be given the all clear before it is due to take place. An approach to the government to exempt F1 from the quarantine rule was met with a resounding "no" it seems, yet despite this setback, Silverstone boss Stuart Pringle remains optimistic.

"It's a very complex sport to get going because it's a global championship with a huge logistical tail, so Formula 1 does need to know that it can set off on its global travel and be able to come in and out of its home base," was Pringle's reasoned explanation to Sky Sports.

"I am very clear that the importance of the industry is understood by government. I remain very optimistic that they will find a way."

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Red Bull principal Christian Horner has suggested the British event might have to be "bolted-on" to other European events, given Hockenheim in Germany, which doesn't have a 14-day quarantine requirement, has offered to run two races even though the venue was dropped from the original F1 calendar.

"We might find they bolt a race on the end," Horner surmised.

"We might go Austria, Austria, other European race, then back to the UK. By which time, that will take us pretty much into August.


"Let's face it, we are going to all be tested enormously wherever we go. We're talking about testing every other day in Formula 1 at the moment. The people that are travelling are effectively isolating anyway, why couldn't they be in isolation at that event?"

As many people have discovered, applying the rules of lockdown over attempts to prevent the spread of coronavirus, differ quite widely in different countries.

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The UK was slow to close its borders as the virus spread throughout the world, and it seems hard to fathom why it is only just now imposing a 14-day quarantine period that New Zealand imposed on March 16, just two days after the cancellation of the Australian GP.

Perhaps the answer for F1 is to have a grand prix in Sweden where there are no lockdown rules, but of course such a move would compromise the safety of F1 personnel, and F1 is very safety conscious by the very nature of the sport.

Driver market opens up

While the F1 world awaits the release of the revised calendar, the off-track action continues following the surprise announcement two weeks again that Sebastian Vettel will leave Ferrari at season end. His move, which the media had been speculating on since new Ferrari wonder-boy Charles Leclerc joined the team last year and subsequently won two races, has opened up the driver market.

The print had hardly dried on news of Vettel's departure before we found out McLaren driver Carlos Sainz would replace him, and Sainz in turn be replaced by Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo.

Sainz has since revealed he had support from McLaren team boss Zak Brown in moving to Ferrari.

"The moment I felt like there was an interest from Ferrari in hiring me for 2021, I went straight to Zak," Sainz has shared on the F1 website.

"And his feedback was, 'Okay, we'll let you talk to Ferrari, stay in touch to see how everything develops.' That makes me incredibly proud and the way it has been managed makes me very happy and very thankful to Zak and his team.

"They were happy for me. They congratulated me. They said. 'You deserve it and I'm sure you will do great there,' and that confidence boost is always nice to hear from your bosses."

Sainz will probably go to Ferrari in 2021 as the number two driver to Leclerc, but already former F1 champion Jenson Button has warned that Sainz won't settle with being a number two and will want to win. His father, Carlos Sainz Sr, a two-time world rally champion, is very happy and proud. When Carlos Jr started karting, his father warned him that it would be difficult for him bearing the Sainz name.

"I was a pretty strict dad especially when he was younger and you had to balance studying and racing," Carlos Sr says.

"I realised that my son had a great talent, I just helped him to get there. Sometimes being called Sainz helps, but other times it doesn't. I'm sure he will surprise the Ferrari fans."

McLaren principal Andreas Seidt has made it clear that Ricciardo will not be the No 1 driver when he joins Lando Norris in the team next year.

"As long as I'm the team boss, no one at the start of the season will be the number one. If someone has as long a road as we do, you need two drivers equal to each other, as we had in 2019 with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris. With Ricciardo and Lando we have another great duo. Not only sporty but also when it comes to presenting McLaren as a brand."

The 'giggling team'

Sky Sports TV commentator Martin Brundle suspects that Ricciardo might fancy the Mercedes engine which McLaren return to in 2021, but calls it a "bit of a sideways move but Daniel has obviously seen something at Renault that doesn't fill him with confidence into the future".

He says given Ricciardo and Norris' love of practical jokes, the team will be known as the "giggling team".

Nobody though is smiling at Renault, as the team has invested heavily in Ricciardo since he joined Nico Hulknberg last year, and is joined this year by Esteban Ocon, who sat out last year as a Mercedes test driver. Now the team is scrambling to find a replacement for Ricciardo

Fernando Alonso, who won two world title with Renault in 2005 and 2006, has reportedly signed some sort of agreement with the team, but nobody is saying what that means.

Team boss Cyril Abiteboul, who seemed to get on well with Ricciardo in Melbourne, but is disappointed to lose their key driver. He says the "next decision on drivers will be an important one and most probably the driver who will join us for 2021 will stay in 2022".

The latest rumour is that Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas is looking at his options in 2021, including Renault, which could mean Vettel might replace him at Mercedes.

But it seems unlikely Lewis Hamilton will want Vettel as a teammate even if the Daimler board thinks it would be great marketing to have a German in the team.

Hamilton meanwhile has revealed he's had thoughts of quitting during the extended break in racing.

"Mentally it's really about ultimately feeling good about yourself, "he says. "It's about finding a way to make sure you love yourself. You have to really be able to love yourself and be comfortable on your own."

"I have days when I wake up and feel groggy, I don't feel motivated to work. I feel 'Jeez, where are we going? What's next? Should I continue racing?'

"I think all these different things, and then I'm like 'Damn it' and the next hour, or whatever, it passes, and I'm like 'Damn! I love what I do! Why would I ever consider not continuing?"

At pre-season testing in Barcelona, Hamilton declared "I really do feel the best I've ever felt" and "I'm at my optimum weight in terms of performance".

Undoubtedly Covid19 has negatively impacted on someone with more money than he knows what to do with and on the verge of a record–equalling 7th drivers' title.

But perhaps that is the problem. In February it seemed nothing could stop Hamilton, but the pandemic has changed almost everybody's thinking, and what was normal is now replaced by doubt and worry.

Drivers changing teams before even one race has been held, is strange, so perhaps it isn't too surprising that the great champions also suffer from self-doubt. 2020 is shaping as a season we may not care to remember.