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F1 given approval for Austrian season start

The Red Bull Ring pictured during Covid-19 lockdown (by ERWIN SCHERIAU/APA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Austrian government has given Formula 1 the green light to commence its 2020 season behind closed doors with two races at the Red Bull Ring, while Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix, is also reportedly set to form part of the motor-racing championship’s return to action.

Austria’s Ministry of Health on Saturday approved proposed races for July 5 and 12, stating that event organisers had put forward a comprehensive, professional security concept to prevent Covid-19 infections.

Minister of Health Rudolf Anschober said: “The organiser has presented a concept for implementation that is based on the special requirements of the Formula 1 GP and the necessary protective measures against the spread of the coronavirus.

“In addition to strict hygiene measures, the concept also provides for regular tests and health checks for the teams and all other employees, as well as a specific medical concept. For the Ministry of Health, the concept fulfils the requirements for preventing the spread of the coronavirus after a detailed review by experts. The crucial factor is the close coordination between the organiser and regional and local health authorities.”

Last month, it was reported that Formula 1 is set to reveal plans for an eight-race European leg to commence its 2020 season, with the caveat that this will depend on the Covid-19 situation in the UK.

Silverstone earlier reached an agreement to stage two UK races behind closed doors this summer, while the regional government of Wallonia ruled that this year’s edition of the Belgian Grand Prix can also go ahead without fans.

F1 in April 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, but has yet to issue a formal schedule. This is expected to be announced later this week.

The opening events in Austria are expected to be followed by a race in neighbouring Hungary, also without fans in attendance, before two events take place at Silverstone. The UK serves as a hub for Formula 1, with seven of its 10 teams based there. The British government’s response to Covid-19 is therefore key to F1’s plans, with the championship reportedly pushing for an exemption to a mooted 14-day quarantine period for those entering the UK.

The BBC yesterday reported that F1 has secured this exemption. Formula 1 said: “We welcome the (UK) government’s efforts to ensure elite sport can continue to operate and their support for our return to racing. We will maintain a close dialogue with them in the coming weeks as we prepare to start our season in the first week of July.”

Organisers of the Dutch Grand Prix last week postponed the race’s return to the F1 calendar to 2021 after deciding that they would prefer fans to be in attendance. The Zandvoort circuit was scheduled to return F1 to the Netherlands for the first time since 1985, but the May 3 race date had already been postponed due to Covid-19.

The news meant four races on the 2020 calendar have now been cancelled outright – the Dutch GP joining races in Australia, Monaco and France.