C4F1 team-mates David Coulthard and Mark Webber

DC on 2020 Season Relaunch

The 2020 season is a real prospect again following F1's publication of a revised race schedule on Tuesday.

The new European calendar squeezes eight races into 10 weekends, with Spielberg in Austria and Silverstone hosting two races each on consecutive weekend.

We caught up with C4F1’s David Coulthard for his take on the season relaunch, his thoughts on Lewis Hamilton's recent comments and exactly what we should be expecting when - fingers crossed - racing gets under way again at the Red Bull Ring on 5th July.

With the new calendar coming a little over 80 days after the season first ground to a halt in Australia in March, Coulthard has been impressed with how the sport has responded to the logistical challenge of relaunching the season in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. 

“I think Formula One have done a good job. If you go back eight weeks, they already had a mark in the sand for Austria being the first Grand Prix in July and it’s given everyone a date to work to.

"That takes leadership, it takes understanding and vision and it takes commitment.

"It takes coordination and people working together and sport is able to move in a way that politics isn’t because people have a common desire to want to compete and to put the show on.”

F1 boss Chase Carey on organising the revised 2020 calendar

As well as relaunching the season, F1 has also found itself under scrutiny this week following comments from Lewis Hamilton critical of the response – or lack of one - from the sport as whole to events in the USA surrounding the death of George Floyd.

And Coulthard is supportive of Hamilton using his position and profile to draw attention to the issue of racism within sport and society more broadly.

“Lewis is perfectly placed to comment because he has gone on his journey to being the first black world champion and being an incredible role model to any male, female, black, white, whatever religion around the world, of what can be achieved with family commitment, hard work and determination applied with the talent he had."

Looking ahead to the return of racing in Austria in a month’s time, Coulthard is also adamant a pair of double-headers and races held behind closed doors shouldn’t diminish the excitement on offer.

“Some people think if you do two Austrian Grands Prix, you’ll essentially get the same results.

“But the development won’t be stopping so even though you’re at the same circuit one week later, weather conditions will be different and developments will have progressed.

"There will be a lot more information available for the teams that comes into play than would be normally. I think it’s potentially very exciting."

And although fans might not like to hear it, their absence at the circuits won’t be felt too keenly by the drivers – at least according to a man with 62 podium finishes to his name.

“As a driver, you’re not consciously thinking about the crowd’s support in the way that maybe in football or cricket or tennis where the crowd - when they breathe in you sense that and feel that… You can’t hear that within the noise of the cockpit!”

Concerns about rusty drivers struggling after such a prolonged lay-off are also apparently wide of the mark.

Racing is just an instinctive thing. You don’t have a handbook or a script to to tell you what’s about to happen when the lights go out.

“They are paid professionals. You’d like to imagine that a pilot, if they haven’t flown an aircraft for six months, they would do a little bit of a refresher and they would remember the basics of what they have to do!”

Of course, while there may have been no actual racing in lockdown, the driver market has been anything but quiet and Coulthard is relishing the prospect of seeing Sebastian Vettel back in action for the first time since the announcement the 32-year-old’s drive at Ferrari will end at the end of the 2020 season.

"The fact that Vettel is racing out of contract… clearly he will want to show Ferrari they’ve made a mistake and he will want to show potential future employers the money that he’s worth the money he would want.

"With Seb, anything is possible. Mercedes is possible, Renault is potentially possible. Maybe a change could be the best thing for him. Maybe a year out. He’s young enough - he could do that."

Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari to part ways at end of 2020 season
Carlos Sainz Jr to partner Charles Leclerc at Ferrari for 2020
Daniel Ricciardo leaves Renault to drive for McLaren 

Elsewhere on the grid, drivers already securing seats for 2021 - Carlos Sainz at Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren promises to add yet another dimension to what is already a very unusual championship season.

But according to 13-time Grand Prix winner Coulthard, it’s possible to read too much into drivers effectively starting one season when already signed with another team for the next.

“When I was driving for Williams in 1995, I knew I would be racing for McLaren in 1996. It’s not as difficult as people might imagine to be committed to the job in hand.

“I’ve always contrasted sports contracts to marriage contracts. With a sports contract, you know you will divorce at some point – whether it’s amicable or not you know you’re unlikely to be together until retirement age!”

Driver contracts aside there can be no denying the very real challenges faced by F1 and the teams as they confront the new financial constraints of budget caps and uncertain global economic conditions.

“With the new financial restrictions that are in place going forward, the bigger teams will see people losing their jobs because they won’t be able to carry the amount of people they currently employ.

“But in the short term, right now, to deal with Covid-19, the delay in the Grand Prix season and the championship, which will be very back-ended and with not a lot of time down, then the bigger teams will be able to deal with that better.”

In its 70 year history, F1 has never faced a season like the one ahead but not withstanding the undoubted challenges, Coulthard remains optimistic, as viewers and fans, we could be in for a treat.

“I do think it’s potentially very exciting. I certainly hope that’s the case so we can deliver for our race fans. Of which, I am one, I just happened to have had a time out in one of the best seats in the house as racing driver for a while.”

Full 2020 Season Schedule details

*We can't wait to bring you highlights of all the races, plus the Silverstone Grand Prix live on C4. More details TBC*