Zak Brown believes that a 14-15 Grand Prix season is realistic for Formula 1, but that we must learn the lessons of Australia and face the problems instead of running away from them.
Zak Brown, McLaren main team, believes that a championship of 14 or 15 races organized on ten different tracks would constitute a realistic stimulus plan for Formula 1 this year. However, he says that the discipline must better anticipate the unexpected, and better prepare for example a possible new epidemic of COVID-19 among team members than it had before the Australian Grand Prix.
In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com for #thinkingforward series, Zak Brown said launching the championship in early July, with two races in Austria followed by two more at Silverstone, held in controlled environments, would help build confidence and build momentum towards a richer calendar with races that can run until mid-December.
“Eight [Grands Prix] suffice [pour avoir le statut de Championnat du monde]. I’m optimistic that we will have more than eight “, did he declare. “Formula 1 contemplates a 16-18 schedule [courses] – something like 15 circuits and 18 races. I’m a little more pessimistic, I would bet on 14-15 races on ten circuits. I think we’re going to do two races in Austria, two more at Silverstone. If we start to have problems traveling, then I think it could be considered to overtake some other races. I don’t think that’s the intention, but I’m going to assume that we’re going to run into a problem somewhere along the way. “
“Even if Austria is ready, and maybe Silverstone, for closed doors, we don’t know if the second wave will come. If we want to go to Asia or America, I think it’s when we can take the plane to go abroad as the risk will start to increase. The possibility of more races in Europe is under discussion. For a long time, the program consisted of only 16 races. me, 14-15 races would be a very complete championship. “
Brown believes that the isolated location of the Red Bull Ring in Austria makes it the ideal place to organize the resumption of competition, thanks to a controlled and sparsely populated environment as well as an air force base located near the circuit and used to land charters. Austria has already relaxed many aspects of its containment measures, including reopening businesses last week.
“I could see how these first four races can take place in a very controlled manner”, continued Zak Brown. “And if we manage to lead [ces premiers Grands Prix] successfully, I think it will build momentum and build trust. So I’m pretty optimistic, to date, that this is a good plan. “
Zak Brown is arguably the team boss who had the most to deal with when this crisis erupted, since it was McLaren who triggered the cancellation of the first Grand Prix in Australia after a member of the team tested positive for COVID-19. He admits to having learned a lot: having the right team, making clear decisions and communicating them just as clearly are the most important elements. However, the chaotic scenes observed on Thursday and Friday in Melbourne showed that F1 had not really thought through all the possible scenarios.
“People are afraid and looking for leadership. They want to know, ‘What should we do?’. I think our team did a very good job on this. Also, when we decided to withdraw from the GP d ‘Australia, we made this decision before the weekend, so it was not a scenario [auquel nous n’étions pas préparés]. Plan, try to anticipate: if something happens, what are you going to do? Don’t let something happen, [avant de se demander] ‘What should we do?’. “
“I think if you look at how the cancellation of the race in Australia went, overall it seems that the main stakeholders were not quite on the same wavelength in terms of the plan. It was sort of like, ‘Oh, McLaren is retiring, what do we do?’, When the teams and everyone else should perhaps have been better prepared for the withdrawal of a stable, [savoir] what to do and rather go ahead. The teams spent the night of Thursday, until three in the morning, dividing up on what they should do. This is what happens if you find yourself in a situation being unprepared, with all of the key stakeholders around you. “
Despite this, Zak Brown believes that the way the FIA and Liberty Media are handling the crisis as a whole means that F1 should emerge stronger for the future. Liberty raised $ 1.4 billion for “bad days” in response to extended race suspension or other economic risks, and supported the teams.
“They continue to pay us. They have helped some teams, I’m not sure which ones, but I think that’s a good thing because all the teams may need help in the long run. I think they do everything what they can to allow us to resume racing, which protects us economically. “
“I am very impressed with Jean [Todt, président de la FIA]. They make good decisions, make good recommendations and Jean, in particular, pushes very hard on the budget ceiling. It is necessary, and it was already before that. “
“As long as we all manage well [cette crise] and that we will look at the problems instead of running away from them, I think there is an opportunity. I think there would be a danger if we made our heads in the sand, if we somehow felt that everything would work out for ourselves. This is dangerous. “