F1 cancels 2020 races in United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico

F1 cancellation Austin
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Formula One officially announced Friday the cancellation of its F1 races in the United States (at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas), Canada, Mexico and Brazil this season.

In a statement, the series said the decision was “due to the fluid nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local restrictions and the importance of keeping communities and our colleagues safe.”

Formula One CEO Chase Carey said the series would bring the races back to the schedule in 2021.

The U.S. round for F1 was scheduled for the Oct. 23-25 race weekend at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. In a statement after the F1 cancellation, COTA chairman Bobby Epstein said advance ticket sales deposits for Austin were up nearly 250 percent after a 2019 sellout.

In a phone interview with the Associated Press, Epstein said “this isn’t about sports or economics of a business. This is about health and a pandemic and a global crisis. We’re not unique. We’re heavily reliant on international events.”

The Austin track has played host to F1 since 2012 and is under contract through 2021. Epstein wouldn’t comment on contract negotiations for a new deal, or if F1 would extend a year because of the cancellation.

Epstein said the Austin track instead to play host to the U.S. Grand Prix “for a long time. That is the intent. I don’t think we ever intended for this to be 10 (races) and done.”

The news comes on the heels of the July 8 announcement that COTA’s MotoGP event also was canceled, leaving the track with no major racing events for this year.

F1 also announced the addition of three new rounds this fall in Germany, Portugal and Italy, bringing the 2021 calendar to 13 races.

The demise of the North and South America races had been expected. Two weeks ago, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said it was unlikely the rounds would happen.

“We’d very much like to race at all those circuits,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, my opinion is it’s probably unlikely we’ll race at any of those venues this year. That’s obviously due to the COVID situation. … Let’s see what happens, but certainly it seems like the spikes in Texas are pretty severe and Brazil and Mexico and Canada a little less so. But if we miss them this year, we certainly look forward to going back to those venues next year.”

As expected, FIA denies granting Colton Herta a Super License to race in F1

Colton Herta Super License
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The governing body for Formula One on Friday said IndyCar star Colton Herta will not be granted the Super License that the American needs to join the F1 grid next season.

“The FIA confirms that an enquiry was made via the appropriate channels that led to the FIA confirming that the driver Colton Herta does not have the required number of points to be granted an FIA Super Licence,” the FIA said in a statement.

The FIA decision was not a surprise.

Red Bull was interested in the 22-year-old Californian and considering giving Herta a seat at AlphaTauri, its junior team. AlphaTauri has already said that Pierre Gasly will return next season and Yuki Tsunoda received a contract extension earlier this week.

However, AlphaTauri has acknowledged it would release Gasly, who is apparently wanted at Alpine, but only if it had a compelling driver such as Herta to put in the car. F1 has not had an American on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015, but Herta did not particularly want the FIA to make an exception to the licensing system to get him a seat.

At issue is how the FIA rates IndyCar, a series it does not govern. The points it awards to IndyCar drivers rank somewhere between F2 and F3, the two junior feeder series into F1.

IndyCar drivers have criticized the system in defense of Herta and the intense, close racing of their own highly competitive series. Herta has won seven IndyCar races, is the youngest winner in series history and has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He qualified on the front row in 2021 and finished a career-best eighth in 2020.

Rossi, who has spent the last four seasons as Herta’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, lashed out this week because “I’m so sick and tired of this back and forth” regarding the licensing.

“The whole premise of it was to keep people from buying their way into F1 and allowing talent to be the motivating factor,” Rossi wrote on social media. “That’s great. We all agree Colton has the talent and capability to be in F1. That’s also great and he should get that opportunity if it’s offered to him. Period.

“Motorsport still remains as the most high profile sport in the world where money can outweigh talent. What is disappointing and in my opinion, the fundamental problem, is that the sporting element so often took a backseat to the business side that here had to be a method put in place in order for certain teams to stop taking drivers solely based on their financial backing.”

Rossi added those decisions “whether out of greed or necessity, is what cost Colton the opportunity to make the decision for himself as to if he wanted to alter career paths and race in F1. Not points on a license.”

The system favors drivers who compete in FIA-sanctioned series. For example, Linus Lundqvist earned his Super License by winning the Indy Lights championship.

Lundqvist’s required points come via the 15 he earned for the Lights title, 10 points for finishing third in Lights last year and his 2020 victory in the FIA-governed Formula Regional Americas Championship, which earned him 18 points.

That gave the 23-year-old Swede a total of 43 points, three more than needed for the license.

Herta, meanwhile, ended the IndyCar season with 32 points. He can still earn a Super License by picking up one point for any free practice sessions he runs this year; McLaren holds his F1 rights and could put him in a car. Herta could also potentially run in an FIA-sanctioned winter series to pick up some points.

Michael Andretti, who has petitioned the FIA to expand its grid to add two cars for him to launch a team, said he never bothered to explore potential replacements for Herta on the IndyCar team because he was confident the Super License request would be rejected.

Andretti has been met by severe resistance from existing F1 teams and even F1 itself in his hope to add an 11th team. Andretti could still get on the grid by purchasing an existing team and he’d like to build his program around Herta, who is under contract in IndyCar to Andretti through 2023.