How to do it properly? Formula E’s response to Coronavirus

We can all agree F1’s response to the COVID-19 disease has been a catastrophe.

They have put team members, journalists, event support staff, fans and arguably the entire city of Melbourne at risk by descending with their circus.

The cancellation of the event was left until 2 hours before the main event started running.

Support series were forgotten about.

V8 Supercars events had already taken place at Albert Park on Friday morning © Red Bull Content Pool

V8 Supercars had already been running on Friday morning.

The Minardi F1 two seater had also started running. And had crashed.

The F5000 series, featuring Rubens Barrichello and Jack Aitken was getting ready for their first race!

The behemoth that is the FIA, Liberty and FOM were happy for the race to go ahead going all the way through Thursday in Melbourne.

It took a team response at 10:21pm on Thursday to put cancellation into motion.

McLaren, after their trust in the safety of the event had been misplaced when one of their members had tested positive for the virus, announced their own withdrawal.

Nothing was then official until Friday morning.

A mess from management.

Formula E handled it differently.

Previously the Sanya and Rome rounds had been cancelled. Both obviously in the highly affected areas of China and Italy.

Recently, the inaugural Jakarta round in Indonesia had been called off as well.

Today the decision has been announced that they will be freezing all races for a two month period.

They said in a statement:

“The decision, made in coordination with the relevant local authorities to temporarily freeze races held in highly-populated cities, was taken as the most responsible course of action, due to the continued spread of coronavirus and the World Health Organisation officially declaring COVID-19 a pandemic.

“With the well-being of staff, spectators and the entire championship workforce being the number one priority, precautionary measures put in place will restrict races from running during a set timeframe.”

The series has introduced a flag system to categorise the races.

Red for not going ahead, Yellow meaning the opportunity is still open and will be evaluated and Green is to go ahead as planned.

March and April are Red Flags. May is Yellow and June and July are Green.

This cancels the Paris round which had not been previously called off.

The statement also says that the Seoul round in South Korea is not set to take place.

Berlin, New York and both London rounds are still scheduled but the situation is subject to change with each situation under close surveillance.

Drivers looking confused
Sam Bird, Lucas Di Grassi, Stoffel Vandoorne and Antonio Felix Da Costa cannot understand F1’s motions. © FIA Formula E

The flag system allows for fluidity in the race calendar.

A different categorisation can be applied to any round and it is immediately known what status that race falls under. Red, Yellow or Green.

“Right now is the time to take responsible actions and this is why we have decided to temporarily suspend the season and move forward with introducing measures to freeze races from taking place over the next two months,” said Alejandro Agag, Founder & Chairman of Formula E.

“Motorsport plays a major part in our lives and it is important, but what is more important is the health and safety of our staff, fans and their families, as well as citizens in the cities we race.”

It is every Formula E supporter’s worst pet peeve to compare Formula 1 and Formula E.

It is not a coincidence that it is the most asked question aimed at Formula E.

In the current situation comparisons to be made will obviously be difficult but one has been proactive against the curve whilst the other has ploughed head on into the disaster.

Constant conversation and dialogue has been communicated across Formula E about races that could be affected.

There have been frequent efforts to make fans aware and by extension we can assume teams are extra aware.

Formula 1 insisted that teams, staff and fans to put their trust in the FIA and the trust was let down but nothing was said.

Yes, Shanghai had been cancelled but the insistence to keep other events happening suggested a governing body that was following a trend and not taking account of the bigger picture.

2020 Diriyah E-prix I
Pascal Wehrlein, Mahindra, is in shock as Oliver Rowland, Nissan, explains F1’s course of action © FIA Formula E

Formula E meanwhile has proved itself to be constantly seeking answers and ways around the situation.

A return to Ricardo Tormo in Valencia was very heavily planned for instance.

Freight was planned and the track was booked but alas it was called off after the situation in Spain began to take severe hold.

When it looked mildly tenuous, it was cancelled.

F1 looked heavily tenuous. By which I mean was unsafe and gave the impression it intended to race and ignore the ramifications because that was not related to F1.

The F1 bubble has never been so plain to see.

JEV cannot believe it © FIA Formula E

What Formula E has done is take control of the situation early and focus on what can be done and what should be done.

Health has been put top of the agenda, closely followed with “we are a race series, so we should try to race to be honest.”

That is the ranking.

F1 has ranked racing top and health is only cared about when people actually start getting infected in the vicinity. Not apparently when people around the world are dying.

This is a serious situation and what Formula 1 has done has put an enormous number of people at risk of getting a disease.

Maybe not one that is of immediate threat to the majority of people in the paddock but one that is definitely a threat to the world.

Formula E values sustainability, Extreme E is about drawing attention to parts of the world that have bee adversely affected by climate change.

Ensuring people’s health from a pandemic was not on their original remit but it took a hold of it and has taken all the precautions it can.

Not doing as little as possible and pretending everything is fine so not to have to pay a significant number of fines and refunds.

Daniel Abt and Lucas Di Grassi, both Audi, respect the Formula E course of action with Di Grassi giving a customary sign of pleasure – the thumbs up – whilst Abt smiles on contently © FIA Formula E

Lewis Hamilton said “Cash is king.”

That was put to Chase Carey who dismissed it saying “If cash was king this decision [to cancel] would not have been made.”

And if he was right…if cash wasn’t king then that decision would have been made much earlier. Before a hotbed for disease transmission was developed in the centre of one of Australia’s most populous cities and then sent half way around the world back to Europe.

There is more to this. No one knows where either series is going obviously but one has mitigated itself admirably whilst the other has destroyed a significant chunk of any credibility.

I’ll leave you to figure out which is which.