The French has fallen, and spectators are out of Silverstone, but Formula One is still heading for a season start-up from July in Austria.
Liberty Media boss, Chase Carey, says he is increasingly confident of plans to begin racing in the European summer despite the cancellation of the French Grand Prix because of the country’s ban on major events until at least the end of July.
The British Grand Prix could still happen without a crowd but it, too, is looking very shaky as discussions about its future continue behind closed doors.
A 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the UK is the biggest potential threat to the race, although it has yet to be introduced, but there are also concerns for the safety of anyone at the track.
“Our obligations to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in preparing and delivering the event, our volunteer marshals and Race Makers, and of course, you, the amazing fans, means that this is the best, safest and only decision we could make,” said Stuart Pringle, managing director of Silverstone, in announcing the ban on spectators.
Carey says a calendar will be set as soon as possible with as many as 18 races in the 2020 championship.
“We are now increasingly confident with the progress of our plans to begin our season this summer,” Carey says.
“We’re targeting a start to racing in Europe through July, August and beginning of September, with the first race taking place in Austria on 3-5 July weekend. 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 15-18 races.
Liberty is planning for early races without spectators but is hopeful that fans will return to tracks as the season progresses, depending on COVID-19 restrictions in various countries.
“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.”
The global pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for motorsport and, even as teams have pivoted to build respirators, masks and other safety equipment there have been other developments including postponement of new F1 regulations and accelerated talks on cost reductions.
“While we have been moving forward with our 2020 plans, we have also been working hard with the FIA and the teams to strengthen the long term future of Formula 1 through an array of new technical, sporting, and financial regulations that will improve the competition and action on the track and make it a healthier business for all involved, particularly as we engage the issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Carey.
“All of our plans are obviously subject to change as we still have many issues to address and all of us are subject to the unknowns of the virus. We all want the world to return to the one we know and cherish, yet we recognise it must be done in the right and safest way. We look forward to doing our part by enabling our fans to once again safely share the excitement of Formula 1 with family, friends, and the broader community.”