The Austrian Grand Prix on July 5 will start the Formula One season delayed by the coronavirus outbreak with a further seven European races also confirmed by organisers on Tuesday.
Spielberg's Red Bull Ring will host a race without fans on its original date the first weekend in July and then a second on July 12 as F1 seeks to salvage what it can from 2020.
The neighbouring Hungarian Grand Prix is July 19 before Silverstone hosts a British double-header August 2 and 9, and Spain is the venue on August 16. Belgium on August 30 and the classic Italian Grand Prix at Monza on September 6 concludes a jammed European tour for drivers.
‘All 8 [races] are currently set to be closed events, operating under the strongest safety procedures,’ said F1, adding that ‘further races will be announced in the coming weeks.’ F1 said all weekends would be supported with lower-tier Formula 2 and Formula 3 races.
‘In the past weeks we have been working tirelessly with all our partners, the [governing] FIA and the teams to create a revised opening 2020 calendar allowing us to restart racing in the safest possible way,’ F1 chief executive Chase Carey said.
Even without fans in the stands at races, the organisational challenge faced by F1 in revising the season has been massive.
Seven of the 10 teams are based in the UK which will introduce a quarantine system for arrivals to the country next week. F1 did not say whether an exemption had been granted.
The season is to end in December with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That race, and some others, has near unconditional government backing meaning reorganising the event is relatively simple.
European governments tend to be more ambivalent to the sport, however, and extensive negotiations were needed to get approval from the Austrian health ministry to race in Spielberg which came on Saturday.
Teams can only bring a maximum of 80 staff and each team must stay in a different hotel. Everyone, including drivers, must be tested for the coronavirus before travelling.
‘Organizers have presented a comprehensive, professional security concept to prevent infections and spreads’ and therefore ‘teams can enter the premises to practice their profession,’ the health ministry said.
Races in Monaco, France and the Netherlands have been scrapped, as was the original season-opener in Australia from March 15, but F1 still hopes to hold 15-18 races of the original record high of 22 on the schedule.
Shutting out fans costs F1 millions of dollars and organisers also lose out from race fees which have reportedly been waived. In many instances, such as with Silverstone, it is reported F1 will make a financial contribution to help ensure racing can go ahead.
‘I want to thank every promoter and partner for their support and ongoing commitment to Formula 1,’ said Carey.
‘While we currently expect the season to commence without fans at our races we hope that over the coming months the situation will allow us to welcome them back once it is safe to do, but we know the return of Formula 1 will be a welcome boost to sports fans around the world.’
When racing finally begins, defending world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes will seek a record-equalling seventh title while Sebastian Vettel starts his long farewell to Ferrari before leaving at the end of the season.
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