Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s former motorsport boss, has slammed Formula 1 bosses for their recent statement in which they said they were pushing ahead with plans to start the 2020 season in July.
The season is currently on hold, like the vast majority of sporting events, because of the coronavirus pandemic, but plans to get the season started in July with an Austrian double-header haven’t gone down well with Hembery.
“F1 looks at best desperate and misguided, maybe at worse misleading or was this [statement] for the shareholders and the stock market?,” he questioned in a social media post.
“When the world is in lockdown, and no-one is able to understand or predict the next months, F1 announces it will try and start the season in July. Whilst the financial challenges are enormous for the sport, and the viability of teams, promoters and the rights holder itself a big question, today was not the time to announce anything but the cancellation of the F1 season.”
Hembery questioned whether the statement from F1 was in fact a bid to boost its stock market value in the knowledge that the season won’t actually happen, having recently seen the value of its shares crash.
“F1 is a multi national, multi cultural sport, that even in a reduced format would be taking thousands of people across the globe. They escaped Australia by a fine margin.
“It is clear from almost all governments that the exit policy will be based around the introduction of a suitable vaccine. We are a long way from general availability of that. Maybe F1 knows that there is almost no hope of this calendar actually happening, maybe.”
Some good could come from the crisis though believes Hembery, but he says it will take someone with “big bollocks” to make it happen and the path will be a rocky one with manufacturers and teams likely to be tightening their belts in the coming months and years.
“It is going to need great leadership and clarity to manage this situation, creative solutions to normality, and a radical rethink of the sport and the calendar to match the real world constraints and the need to generate the finances to keep F1 alive,” he said.
“With the 2021 commercial agreements still not signed, the sport has no competitors for next season, and a very notable risk of the car manufacturers participation ending. With this unprecedented situation to deal with, it places a spend in F1 for a car producer at a very low priority level.
“Renault are requesting state support to deal with crisis. This situation is going to get worse before it gets better. For the world in general as it deals with the consequences of Covid-19 and it’s impact, but also for a sport like F1 that has to navigate this new scenario.
“But from crisis can come some good, and much opportunity. The possibility to build a more compelling and financially sustainable sport that provides greater spectator interest and places the drivers at the forefront. It’s going to need some big bollocks and vision to do it though. It won’t be easy, far from pretty, but it needs confronting now in an honest and transparent manner.”