Formula 1 plan to start season in Austria as French GP called off

Le Castellet has staged the French Grand Prix since 2018

Formula 1 boss Chase Carey says he plans to start the season in Austria in July, after France became the latest country to postpone its race.

French Grand Prix organisers said on Monday the race at Paul Ricard on 28 June was off because of the country’s ban on major events until mid-July.

But Carey said he was “increasingly confident with the progress of plans to begin the season this summer”.

He said the first race was expected to take place in Austria on 3-5 July.

Carey added: “September, October and November, would see us race in Eurasia, Asia and the Americas, finishing the season in the Gulf in December, with Bahrain before the traditional finale in Abu Dhabi, having completed between 15 and 18 races. We will publish our finalised calendar as soon as we possibly can.

“We expect the early races to be without fans but hope fans will be part of our events as we move further into the schedule.

“We still have to work out many issues, like the procedures for the teams and our other partners to enter and operate in each country.

“The health and safety of all involved will continue to be priority one and we will only go forward if we are confident we have reliable procedures to address both risks and possible issues.”

More than 140,000 fans came to Silverstone to watch the British Grand Prix last year

Why is France off? And what about Silverstone?

The cancellation of the French event had been considered inevitable since President Emmanuel Macron expanded the country’s ban on mass gatherings until mid-July earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Silverstone has said the British Grand Prix cannot be held with spectators but the track is in talks with government “on the viability of an event behind closed doors”.

Under current plans, the old British Grand Prix date of 19 July would be the first of two races at Silverstone, with the second a week later on 26 July.

The season would start with two races in Austria, the original date of 5 July followed by a second race at the Red Bull Ring on 12 July.

French Grand Prix managing director Eric Boullier said in a statement that eyes “were turning towards the summer of 2021”.

But a race at the event’s home, the Paul Ricard track in the south of France, could yet be revived at a later point this summer – the statement calling off the race said only that organisers “take note of the impossibility to maintain the Formula 1 Grand Prix de France on 28 June”.

F1 CEO Carey has already put in a series of measures to protect F1 in light of the coronavirus crisis

Races behind closed doors

Austria is one of the first European countries to have begun to gradually ease its lockdown, and F1 bosses have been in talks with authorities in the country as to how a race might safely be held.

The first four races at least would be behind closed doors – and it could be that many more will follow.

Professor Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of global public health at Edinburgh University and director of the global health governance programme, said on Twitter on Saturday: “Hate to be bearer of bad news don’t see any international sporting events with spectators going ahead in 2020 or early 2021.

“Goal is to establish some sort of economic/social activity while keeping Covid cases low and big events could upset this fragile balance going forward.”

Silverstone said in a statement on Monday: “We are unable to stage this year’s British Grand Prix in front of the fans at Silverstone.

“We have left this difficult decision for as long as possible, but it is abundantly clear given the current conditions in the country and the Government requirements in place now and for the foreseeable future, that a Grand Prix under normal conditions is just not going to be possible.

“We have consistently said that should we find ourselves in this position we will support Formula 1 as they seek to find alternative ways to enable F1 racing to take place this year.

“Following this weekend’s news from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, we are now working with them on the viability of an event behind closed doors.”

F1 bosses have taken a series of measures to try to insulate the sport from the worst effects of the global health emergency.

These include postponing a major rule change by a year from 2021 to 2022 and forcing teams to race the same cars next year as this.

Bosses are also in the midst of talks on lowering the sport’s planned budget cap when it comes into force in 2021.

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