VEYRIER, Switzerland (Reuters) – Louis Deletraz was looking forward to combining a season of Formula Two racing with a reserve role for the Haas F1 team this year, but now the 22-year-old Swiss is worried about what the future might hold.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works for motorsport in general, with racing stalled and fears about the damage done.
For a young racer like Deletraz, confirmed less than a month ago in his F1 position, that means more obstacles on what is already a tough career path.
“I am definitely worried for the sport in general, for also the economy of the sport, because we rely on a lot of sponsors and on TV rights,” Deletraz told Reuters while training at his home outside Geneva.
“Right now, there are no TV rights, because there is no racing and sponsors also are not so keen anymore to do motor sports. So, it puts us in a very bad situation.
“There are worse things happening in the world, but the sport will suffer from it and I hope we can get back on our feet quite quickly.”
Formula One has yet to get started after a failed attempt to race in Australia last month, with the glamour Monaco highlight also cancelled and a string of other races waiting to be rescheduled.
Haas are privately owned and operate on the smallest budget in Formula One, with most of their British-based staff furloughed and the factory shut.
The smaller Formula Two teams are also reliant on sponsorship, broadcast revenues and prize money to stay in business.
Deletraz, who is due to race for the Czech-based Charouz team in F2 this year after finishing eighth overall in 2019 with three podiums for Carlin, said he had not lost funding or sponsors but the situation was not easy.
“In F2 it is obviously less budget than Formula One, we also have sponsors but the sponsors right now are not in the best shape,” he said.
“No one wants to spend money outside of themselves, which is right (due) to the crisis, so motor sports go second… so far, it looks OK, but maybe it will be more tough for the next few years.
“In motor sports you always have to do things early. Contract talks would already start right now for the next season, but we have not even yet started the 2020 season, so it makes it difficult.”
In the absence of racing or testing, esports and exercise fills the time for a man used to spending his days on the road.
The son of former F1 and sportscar racer Jean-Denis Deletraz is active on several platforms and represents Haas in official F1 virtual races.
The Swiss finished seventh in a virtual Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday with five of those ahead of him either current or past Formula One drivers.
“It is good fun, we play with a lot of friends… but you don’t have the speed, you don’t have the adrenaline. Also, it is bad to say, but you don’t have the risks,” he said.
“When you crash, you press restart and you go again. In real life, it is a bit more complicated.”
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris