Stefano Domenicali makes admission about COVID-19 and Formula 1

Formula 1 became one of the first international sports to restart amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix was just the second since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world, with the memories of Formula 1 shutting down still living very much in the memory of F1 CEO and president Stefano Domenicali.

It was at the Albert Park Circuit in 2020 where Formula 1 came to a halt, with all the teams having been at the circuit for the start of the 2020 F1 season.

The situation regarding COVID-19 continued to spiral out of control, though, whilst F1 was in Melbourne, with McLaren having pulled-out of the season-opener after members of their team tested positive for the disease.

Not long after McLaren made their announcement, it was announced by F1 that the Australian GP would be cancelled, a situation that nobody could’ve predicted.

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Sport across the globe came to a halt, with Domenicali having since admitted that for F1, the pandemic could’ve been “game over”.

After initially stopping all events, F1 eventually began to open back-up, with the sport having been one of the first globally to restart.

As a result, more viewers tuned in to watch the pinnacle of motorsport, given that no other live sport was on the TV.

It worked out to be a stroke of genius by Liberty Media and Domenicali, with the sport having gone from strength to strength ever since.

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“That could be really the game over,” Domenicali told 

“We were in a situation where financially, we lost a lot of money because, of course, we couldn’t have people, we couldn’t go racing, we had to move this first season of COVID later on, fewer races and so on.

“But as always, when there is a problem, there is a big opportunity and I have to say thanks to the vision, our shareholders and Chase (Carey), I think there was a moment where we invested in Formula 1.

“We were able to create the protocol and the procedure to go around the world. We kept the system alive in the worst moment ever.

“That was a moment where we put the foundation for the growth that we had as soon as the COVID was lifted in terms of pressure and but that was really the turning moment of our success.”

One of F1’s biggest successes during the pandemic was Netflix’s Drive to Survive series, with non-F1 fans at the time having watched the series.

This saw a huge rise in F1’s popularity particularly in North America; however, Domenicali doesn’t put the sport’s sudden rise in popularity purely down to the docuseries.

“It’s more than that,” added Domenicali.

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“For sure, we had to tackle how to connect and stay connected to fans, fans are the centre of our relationship, there’s no discussion.

“Fans are old fans, avid fans, traditional fans. And if you just focus on them, of course, we’re losing a lot of other opportunities.

“So, what we did, in terms of strategy, (was to look at) how we could adapt and also attract new fans that were not really interested in our sport, of course, and with a traditional way of connecting and speaking would have been impossible. So, we worked very hard on social media platforms, activation, connectivity with the drivers and the teams.”