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F1 approves scheduling flexibility amid coronavirus disruption

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PARIS — Rule changes aimed at adding flexibility to the heavily disrupted Formula One season during the coronavirus outbreak were approved Tuesday.

The first eight of 22 scheduled races this year have been called off, with the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and the showpiece Monaco GP canceled altogether.

There is currently no start date for the season, with the next races scheduled to be Canada on June 14, France on June 28 and Austria on July 5. Postponed races could be rescheduled later this year, if the championship gets under way.

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One main change is that governing body FIA and series owner F1 can modify the race calendar without a consultation process and vote, in order to save time with quick calls.

FIA president Jean Todt has authority “to take any decisions in connection with” F1 and other international competitions in matters of urgency. The FIA can also change rules with 60 percent approval from the teams rather than unanimity.

Regarding technical rules, the 10 F1 teams are banned from doing any aerodynamic development this year with regards to the 2022 season.

A previously announced delaying of the 2021 rule changes until 2022, for cost-saving purposes, was officially approved.

The one exception to this rule delay is that the banning of the dual axis steering system, which Mercedes unveiled in preseason testing, starts from 2021.

The DAS helps the Mercedes car’s cornering and reduces its tire wear. On-board footage showed world champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight, apparently changing the angle of the front wheels. Other teams were caught cold by the innovation.

Also, the permitted amount of engine-part changes are modified to take into account the fewer number of races. There also is a mandatory three-week factory shutdown period for engine manufacturers during April, in addition to the one already being observed by teams.

FIA said its World Motor Sport Council approved the changes by e-vote to help ‘’organize a race calendar that best safeguards the commercial value of the championship and contains costs as much as possible.”

All changes were met with unanimous approval from the teams, the FIA said, and further measures will be put into place for 2021 after more discussions with them.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).