INDIANAPOLIS — It kind of is what it is at this point. The world is on a virtual shut down until this Coronavirus gets under control. Nothing large is being spared – sports included. The three major racing series on this planet are each affected, two of which pressing the pause button until May at the very earliest.
Formula One first postponed their first three races on Friday morning. Australia, Bahrain and Vietnam are all three off at the moment. The earliest they said that they will now start will be on May 3 in the Dutch Grand Prix. Even that race and the three following it (Spain, Monaco, Azerbaijan) are in jeopardy.
A few hours later, the NTT IndyCar Series announced postponement of their first four races of the season. They said that they will do nothing between now and the end of April, including testing. That means this weekend’s season opener on the streets of St. Pete (March 15), next month’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama (April 5) in Leeds, Ala at the Barber Motorsports Park and the Autonation IndyCar Challenge (April 26) at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin TX joined the already canceled Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 19) as off for now.
IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said that while St. Pete, Barber and COTA can potentially be rescheduled for a later date this year, Long Beach definitely would not.
So for IndyCar terms, if they don’t choose one of those three races that have been postponed to run on May 2 or 3, then the earliest date that they will start is May 9 for the AMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
NASCAR, has decided to postpone the next two weeks and will reevaluate in the coming days on if they will return to action at the Texas Motor Speedway later this month or too wait until April or May before a potential resumption.
Where all of this can be a larger scale issue is, NASCAR is debuting a new car for next season, the Next Gen. They’ve only had a couple of test sessions with it. 11 months from now, 40+ of them are supposed to be in Daytona competing at the season opener. Right now, we don’t have much data on this car, nor much track time to fully know what we’re going to get with it. The next couple of months were really supposed to be ramping up the testing schedule. At the few tests that have taken place, it’s just been used as a single car. We don’t have multiple of them yet so there’s no way of knowing how this car will behave in traffic.
With this virus going around and the sporting world on a halt, that will delay any kind of on track testing for this Next Gen too.
Then, on the IndyCar side, they’re actively pursuing a third OEM. That too is now affected.
“As to adding the third OEM, you can’t say,” IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said during a conference call on Friday. “Right now you can’t travel to talk to them to speak of. Time will tell.”
IndyCar already pushed back their new engine package a year from 2021 to 2022. They did this with hopes of securing a third OEM to join Honda and Chevrolet.
The hybrid single-source system will have a hybrid powertrain which in short allows drivers to start their own cars from inside of the cockpit. With a lot of car manufacturers around the world moving to hybrid, having a series without them wasn’t much of an attractive fit for anyone looking to get in.
That was the main deterrent in IndyCar’s pursuit of a new OEM. Most that they talked to wanted some sort of hybrid technology. IndyCar listened, adapted and obliged.
First, they’re wanting to work with Honda and Chevrolet to remain on board which all parties agree that will happen. But, they need that done first before they pursue a third OEM even further. The problem now is, we’re less than two months away from having this new engine formula and the series can’t travel to talk to any of these new potential OEM’s. How long will this last? Do they push this formula back to 2023 to make up for the potential lost time?
These are all big factors for both series as we sit in idle.