Bernie Ecclestone believes the coronavirus crisis has become a serious threat to Formula 1’s existence after the 2020 season was heavily delayed by the ongoing pandemic.

The opening eight races of the season have been either postponed or cancelled due to the worsening global spread of COVID-19, with the latest F1 campaign now expected to begin no sooner than the Canadian Grand Prix on June 14.

Such an extreme hiatus has already forced F1 to bring forward the summer break to free up the traditional August shutdown so races can be rescheduled, with championship chiefs frantically trying to rescue the 2020 season.

There is growing concern about how hard teams will be hit financially by the lack of racing, and whether some may be left on the brink of collapse.

Asked if the pandemic is the biggest threat to the sport that he has ever known, Ecclestone told The Daily Mail: “Yes.

“Let's look at a good side and it takes six months to tidy up this pandemic and there is no longer a problem, it is still not easy for Formula 1 to put on races.

“It's not like sowing a seed. There are an awful lot of things you have to do. You have to get the promoters to take a risk on staging events not knowing if they are going to get the public in or not.

“You can't stage a race if it's -10C. And people usually plan what they are going to do; they don't just wake one day and say let's go to Silverstone or wherever else.

“And even if all that is sorted, you then need participants. And the next question is: are they alive and well to perform? And that is another thing again.

“Even a smaller team like Williams, they have staff to pay and bills to pay, and it's not easy for them if they are not getting their revenue from racing.”

Ecclestone, who would often help teams out in the past when they were struggling financially during his tenure as CEO, warned that teams must now drastically cut back on the amount they are spending in modern-day F1 in order to survive.

"In older times when people didn't have such big staff and they ran into problems I'd always bail them out, give them a while to hand me the cash back — or sometimes we forgot to collect the money… Now it's different scale money,” Ecclestone explained.

“It's a different world, too. Then it was on a very personal basis. They would ring up and say, ‘Bernie can you help?’ Like dear Frank [Williams]. Nobody would then say, ‘You helped Frank, how about me’.

“You did what you thought was right. Liberty are a very successful company and Mr [John] Malone [the American owner] is a very, very good business operator and he will look to see if he needs F1.

“I would say: we think F1 is a good business and then put a big, big chunk of money behind it — to say, this is what we will invest in it.

“I would buy all the promoters, who do a super job, take the risk from them. I'd then be in charge of running the races. That would be the first thing.

“Then I would try to preserve the teams. I'd talk to them in a very nice way: tell them to change the way they operate.

“Tell them they are spending too much money — no, you're wasting too much money. These bloody great motorhomes, for example. This is where sometimes egos get in the way.”

 

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