Nine of the 22 races on the Formula One 2020 calendar have now been affected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, two - opener Australia and the Monaco Grand Prix - cancelled altogether, with the first scheduled GP now the French at Le Castellet on June 29. This date in itself is under constant review.
Amidst all the solemnity, however, Formula One is steering a positive path, with key figures emerging to do their part in the face of adversity. With the delay of at least three months to a season curtain-raiser, the majority of the F1 teams have now turned their attention to assisting with the coronavirus relief.
Utilising a substantial portion of the multi-billion dollar industry, seven UK-based teams, Aston Martin Red Bull, Racing Point, Haas, McLaren, Mercedes, Renault, and Williams, are collaborating for ‘Project Pitlane’ to use the wealth of technology and engineering expertise at their disposal for the greater good.
Project Pitlane, an F1 statement explained, “will pool the resources and capabilities of its member teams to greatest effect, focusing on the core skills of the F1 industry: rapid design, prototype manufacture, test and skilled assembly. F1's unique ability to rapidly respond to engineering and technological challenges allows the group to add value to the wider engineering industry's response.
“The focus of Project Pitlane will now be on coordinating and answering the clear challenges that have been set. The seven teams remain ready to support in other areas requiring rapid, innovative technology responses to the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who drives for Mercedes alongside Valterri Bottas and is currently self-isolating, has previously condemned those who violate the social distancing regulations, citing them as “totally irresponsible and selfish.”
“I’m praying for my family’s safety each day but I’m also praying for you out there,” the British driver announced in a social media post.
“I’m praying for those working at the local stores, deliveries, doctors and nurses who put their own health at risk to help others and keep the countries running. These are the hero’s (sic). Please stay safe people.”
Hamilton and his long-standing Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel have both agreed substantial pay cuts in order to help their respective teams.
Mercedes, the winners of the last six World Constructors’ Championships, have now opened the doors to their purpose-built Brixworth factory for the development of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices, which intends to assist coronavirus patients with lung infections to allow easier breathing. Mercedes - alongside University College London - announced they are now manufacturing 1,000 breathing aids a day for the British National Health Service.
The NHS have initially requested 10,000. All will be freely available.
“Making the design and manufacturing specifications available on an ‘open source’ basis will allow companies around the world to produce these devices at speed and at scale to support the global response to Covid-19,” the Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains Andy Cowell said.
Mercedes may have been the front runner for the past several Formula One seasons but they’re sharing the grid when it comes to the COVID-19 outreach.
Vitally, Zak Brown’s predecessor at McLaren, Ron Dennis, has now helped set-up the SalutetheNHS scheme that will provide an estimated one million meals for the heroic health workers. Dennis was the founder and in charge of the McLaren Group for almost four decades until ending his association in 2017. Stemming from conversations with his ICU anaesthetist daughter, the retired British businessman is now working with Tesco and Yodel to provide food and nutrition for NHS staff for the next three months.
The F1 drivers are doing their part as well. Lando Norris has a burgeoning reputation as an entertainer providing some virtual races to the bereft motor-racing enthusiast, routinely undertaking online video game events. The 20-year-old Brit was also one of the first drivers to take a pay cut, alongside his McLaren teammate Carlos Sainz Jr.
Norris has also shaved his own hair off for charity as part of Twitch’s ‘Steam Aid’. Thanks to the support of his increasing number of viewers through the streaming service, Norris raised $12,000 towards the $2.7m total for the COVID-19 Solidarity Respond Fund.
The F1 industry may presently have their brakes locked but these figures from past, present and expected future of the sport are proving that it can be a lot more than the stereotypical image of ‘boys with toys’.
"In the end, people have to do what they think is correct,” Ron Dennis stated in conversation with Sky Sports when asked to explain his own initiative.
“They have to live with their thoughts, they have to live with their actions and they have to be happy with what looks back at them when they look into a mirror. Whether it's a footballer, a racing driver or any other sportsman, or any other industry, they have to live with their consciences."
For an increasing number associated with the world of Formula One, in their individual responses to the coronavirus boutade, those consciences are most certainly clearer.