Formula 1 bosses says they are confident of staging a 2020 season of between 15 and 18 races, including the British Grand Prix – although the event Silverstone will take place without fans in attendance.
The first rounds of this year’s Formula 1 World Championship have either been cancelled or delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. But as lockdown restrictions begin to be slowly lifted, F1 chairman Chase Carey has said he is “increasingly confident with the progress of our plans to begin our season this summer”.
While Carey says work on a revised calendar is still ongoing, the season will begin with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring on its originally scheduled date of 5 July.
The British GP is still due to take place at Silverstone in Northamptonshire on 19 July. While not mentioned in Carey’s statement, reports suggest that both the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone will host double-header events.
Meanwhile, Silverstone manager Stuart Pringle has written to fans who have bought a ticket to the British GP confirming that if the event is able to run, social distancing rules means that spectators will now be allowed.
“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,” wrote Pringle. “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.
“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.”
After European races in July and August, Carey said that: “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.”
Carey added that he hoped fans would be able to attend races later in the season. He said: “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.”
Pringle, who has previously suggested Silverstone could host multiple races, said in his letter to fans that he supports the moves to salvage the season, even with a radically revised calendar.
“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,” he wrote. “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.
“Should this be possible, it will be of some small comfort for you to know that the 2020 Formula 1 Pirelli British Grand Prix will be available to watch live on Sky Sports and Channel 4.”
Pringle added that fans who have bought a ticket for this year’s race will be contacted in the next two weeks and given the option of transferring them to the 2021 event or a full refund. He added that Silverstone would “give away thousands of tickets” for the 2021 event to NHS staff and other key workers for their efforts in combatting Covid-19.