Fan Bans Continue

Fan Bans Continue

The Russian Grand Prix could see the first significant spectator attendance of the 2020 season in Formula One.

As the Indianapolis 500 is run without fans, and Supercars welcomes small groups back in Australia, the organisers of the Le Mans 24-Hour race have taken the – perhaps inevitable – decision to race without a crowd.

The French classic had already been moved back from its traditional mid-summer date in mid-June to September 19-20 in the hope that fans could be present.

However, the French government now says that it is not sensible for big public gatherings given the current trends of COVID-19 across Europe, with fears of a second wave of infections building and governments trying to find ways to stop this without going into a new phase of lockdown, which would be economically disastrous.

There is a trend towards regional lockdowns and mandatory wearing of masks but, for the moment., the trends are still not good.

So the ACO, which organises Le Mans in league with the local and national authorities in France, has decided that there are “too many uncertainties linked to the evolution of the health situation”.

Pierre Fillon, the ACO President, says that while the decision is bad for fans (and for the ACO’s finances), it was a decision that was required to avoid further risks. The racing will go ahead with the usual media coverage, which will generate a percentage of the normal revenues, although the loss of the money from ticket sales will be significant.

The Le Mans decision follows Indy, where around 300,000 fans usually attend as what is billed as the world’s largest one-day sporting crowd. When the 500 was moved back from May to August there was a plan by the speedway’s new owner, Roger Penske, have fans to balance the books. But the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the American midwest made that impossible. The initial hope was that the race could run with 50 per cent of the usual crowd, which later dropped to 25 per cent before a lockout.

“This tough decision was made following careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership,” the Speedway said in a statement.

And so to Formula One, where there have been no fans through the races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, Silverstone in Britain and Barcelona in Spain.

The organisers of the Italian Grand Prix in Monza had been hoping to allow fans to attend, but this has been ruled out.

Mugello, also in Italy, is still hoping to have fans but it has a much smaller crowd capacity than Monza and so the impact of a ban on paying public will have less of an impact.

And so the calendar moves on to Russia, where the GP organisers say they intend to have 30,000 fans at Sochi on the former site of the Winter Olympics.