I don’t follow Formula One too closely, but I do know that every week, for the last two years, a bunch of guys have been meeting at a secret location in order to discuss the upcoming season.
For fans who aren’t familiar, Formula One is a series of motor races where drivers from all over the world come together to compete. It usually includes the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Fernando Alonso (just to name a few).
While some might argue that F1 isn’t entirely “sportive” due to the fact that drivers are constantly engaging in high-stakes battles for position, it’s still one of the most prestigious motorsport series around. If you’re a fan of motorsport in general (or just want to live vicariously through the experiences of others), then you might want to learn more about where exactly these meetings are held and who’s in charge of them.
The last two seasons have seen the annual meetings of the Formula One teams at the same location: the Mexican resort of Jerez. The venue is a secret, located deep within the bowels of the Andalusian countryside. Each year, the teams are joined by dignitaries, journalists, and fans. It’s a chance for the participants to get together and, as mentioned by some of the drivers during the meet, ‘have a good old chin wag’.
This year, the teams were scheduled to meet on January 24th. As usual, the location was kept top-secret until the day before the event. Reporters weren’t allowed in, and fans were kept off-site.
On the day of the meeting, everything seemed normal. The drivers turned up, and the usual pitter-patter of chin-wagging ensued. Then, without warning, the entire event was cancelled. There was no explanation as to why the meeting was called off, and no indication that it would be re-scheduled.
The following day, the teams were informed that season-ending safety checks had uncovered several irregularities at the track. A statement released by the teams read:
“Following a detailed examination of the track and facilities, the FIA has found a number of shortcomings which require serious attention. We also have reason to believe there could be further significant safety issues at the track. Out of respect for the concerns this raises, we have taken the decision to suspend the season, pending the outcome of an investigation into this matter. The teams have been kept fully informed of this situation throughout.”
When the teams returned to their respective countries, the winter was already bearing down hard, and the opportunity to resume racing was seemingly long gone. It was an incredibly frustrating time for the fans who had traveled from all over the world to see a Grand Prix, only to be told that they would have to wait until the following year.
In order to understand what happened at the last race, we first need to examine the track itself. In a statement, the FIA said that they were “concerned about the overall length of the track and its tight turns”. While the majority of the track is actually 3.9km, the FIA noted that there was “an additional 0.3km of a non-temporary section” that could extend the total length to 4.2km. The additional section was constructed in 2017, which would make it 2.5 years old at the time of the last race.
The track had originally been 5km in length, with the additional section being built as a lightening measure to help shorten the distance between the pits and the finish line. A 4.2km track is a lot shorter than the usual distance, and is particularly challenging, as anyone who has ever driven or competed on a track of this length will tell you. It was certainly not the kind of track you would want to rush._
The FIA also pointed out that “the track surface had not been properly maintained since its construction”, and that there was “an increased chance of it deteriorating over time”. The teams have an annual budget of around £20 million, and one would expect that a track of this size would be maintained properly. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and the risk of accident or severe damage to cars and personnel was greatly increased. Given that this is a regularly-scheduled event, it’s difficult to see how these issues could have gone unnoticed for so long.
The teams were originally due to meet again in March in order to finalize details about the coming season. However, with just about everyone now in lockdown, the schedule for the rest of the year is still very much up in the air. As the saying goes, ‘life happens’ and it’s important to be flexible. The situation with F1 is not entirely unexpected, given that a number of other high-profile sports and events have also been postponed due to the pandemic. It remains to be seen what, if any, impact this situation will have on the sports world. We will keep you updated as and when more information becomes available.