The Sunday digest: Could COVID-19 lead to further disruption in 2021?

Chase Carey, Ross Brawn

Thinking back to pre-season testing in Barcelona, February 2020, and it is hard to believe that anyone would have foreseen the continued impact of COVID-19 on global sport.

Back then the plan was still to begin a normal season, as planned, in Australia. Just a month later though and the season would be postponed, with most of the world thrust into lockdown. And now, almost a year on, we are still not out of the woods.

With cases rising in the UK, we are back in a strict lockdown and despite the impending rollout of the vaccines worldwide, it may not come quite soon enough.

This week we heard that the Australian Grand Prix is all but officially postponed from Aston Martin Formula 1 owner Lawrence Stroll, and while there have been reports to the contrary, it looks increasingly likely that we will face another disrupted season.

With testing potentially moving to Bahrain and the strict protocols that were in place last season certainly set to continue, we will see F1 racing in 2021, but how and where remains to be seen. Doubts persist over the viability of the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort without crowds, while similar questions will soon be asked of the Canadian Grand Prix, scheduled for June 13.

Of course, all of this depends on how the virus is contained over the next few months, the status of the vaccine rollout in the countries that F1 visits and how global travel rules are impacted. But given that we are nearly a year on from the first wave of widescale restrictions and the situation is by no means resolved, I hope that F1 and the FIA have contingency plans in mind.

Given the success they made of last year, I have few doubts that they can pull it off again. Where I have doubts is to whether we will see fans back in the stands and all of the circuits initially placed on an ambitious 23-race 2021 calendar.

Elsewhere in the world of F1 and things are beginning to heat up, with personnel changes and sponsorship deals to keep us interested. On the people side, former Suzuki MotoGP boss Davide Brivio has crossed the aisle to join Alpine F1, with the French outfit hoping he can translate his success on two wheels over to its four-wheeled cousin. He is certainly a very decorated individual within his discipline and will surely be relishing the chance to work with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

On the sponsorship side, we got a closer glimpse at the new Aston Martin team as they announced Cognizant as their title sponsor. The IT services firm will help the team “not only punch above the weight but have the weight to punch harder”, according to owner Stroll.