Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI) President Angelo Sticchi Damiani says that Formula 1 cannot afford another scenario like the 11th hour cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix.
F1 has not turned a wheel since the scenes which unfolded at Albert Park just over a month ago, when official word that the event was off only came through within two hours of the scheduled start of opening practice.
McLaren had withdrawn from the grand prix on the night prior after one of its team members tested positive to coronavirus, with 16 in total forced to quarantine themselves in Melbourne for a fortnight.
By the time the Australian Grand Prix Corporation announced that the round was off, long queues of fans had formed outside entry gates, unaware what was unfolding inside the circuit.
Confirmation that the following grands prix in Bahrain and Vietnam had been postponed came through late in the night on that Friday, and the first nine rounds of the original have now been postponed or cancelled.
It is increasingly likely that June’s French Grand Prix (initially Round 10) and August’s Belgian Grand Prix (Round 14) will join them due to restrictions on mass gatherings in those countries, but the Austrian government is willing to allow F1 to proceed behind closed doors at the Red Bull Ring in early July as long as other precautions are also observed.
The Italian Grand Prix, which is promoted by the ACI, is slated to take place a week after Belgium’s on September 4-6, and Damiani believes a repeat of the Australia fiasco is untenable.
“We can no longer afford to make mistakes like in Australia, when the GP was cancelled with the public already at the track,” he told Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“That was a setback for everyone, from Liberty Media to the teams, to the local organisers. To start again and then be forced to stop would be a disaster.”
Italy’s host venue of Monza is situated in the Lombardy region, which has seen around half of the country’s 22,000 coronavirus deaths.
With that and the fact that multiple F1 teams are based in Italy, Damiani insists that championship organisers needs to continue to exercise caution.
“We are going through a situation of great uncertainty and in this moment we must act with caution and attention,” he stated.
“The priority is to understand what happens in the countries that host the grands prix and in Italy and Great Britain, where most of the people in the paddock come from.”
Damiani also noted that, despite the Italian Grand Prix still being over four months away, time is of the essence in determining if the event will go ahead.
He claims that teams want 90 days’ notice before a restart of the season, but is hoping they will need only 60.
“The teams have asked for 90 days’ notice to start again and if we think about July we would already be late,” observed Damiani.
“Maybe there will be a rethink and 60 will be enough.”