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Austria lined up for F1 restart as French GP cancelled

The starting grid of the 2019 Austrian GP at Red Bull Ring (by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Formula 1 today (Monday) outlined plans to commence its delayed 2020 season in Austria on July 3-5 as part of a reduced calendar consisting of 15 to 18 races, with the French Grand Prix the latest to fall by the wayside and the British GP detailing an effort to stage its event behind closed doors.

The motor racing championship has seen its 2020 calendar decimated by Covid-19, with Montreal’s Canadian GP becoming the ninth race to be either postponed or cancelled earlier this month.

In a statement issued today, F1 chief executive Chase Carey said that despite the news from France, the championship is now “increasingly confident” with the progress of plans to begin the season, which should have started with the Australian GP in Melbourne on March 15, this summer.

Carey said: “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 July 3-5 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. 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.”

Carey’s statement was preceded by announcements from GIP Grand Prix de France – Le Castellet and Silverstone, host of the British GP. French GP organisers said that due to the recent announcement from President Emmanuel Macron to ban major events until at least the middle of July and to maintain the closure of the Schengen area until further notice, and the recent decisions announced by the government to fight against the spread of Covid-19, it is impossible for the race to continue on its intended date of June 28.

Éric Boullier, managing director of the GIP Grand Prix de France – Le Castellet, said: “The eyes of the GIP Grand Prix de France – Le Castellet are already turning towards the summer of 2021 in order to offer our spectators an even more original event in the heart of the Southern Region.”

Carey added that F1 looked forward to “being back at Paul Ricard soon” leading to talk that the race could be part of the rejigged 2020 calendar. Reports suggest that the new calendar could include double-header events, with the BBC stating that the old British GP date of July 19 would be the first of two races at Silverstone, with the second a week later on July 26. It added that Austria’s Red Bull Ring would host a race on its original date of July 5, plus a second event on July 12.

Commenting on Silverstone’s plan, managing director Stuart Pringle said in a statement: “I am extremely disappointed to tell you that 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.”