F1 season set for Austria start as French Grand Prix cancelled
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Formula One boss Chase Carey on Monday targeted the coronavirus-hit season eventually starting in Austria on July 5 after the French Grand Prix was cancelled and fans barred from the British race at Silverstone.
The French Grand Prix, which was to have been held on June 28, was the tenth race of the season to be scrapped or postponed.
"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 3-5 July weekend," Carey said in a statement.
"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."
Carey's statement followed quickfire announcements from the French organisers and a statement from the owners of the Silverstone track where the British Grand Prix is due to take place on July 19.
"Given the evolution of the situation linked to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the French Grand Prix takes note of the decisions announced by the French state, making it impossible to maintain our event," the race's managing director Eric Boullier said.
It joins nine other races in the decimated 2020 championship to be either cancelled (Australia, Monaco) or postponed (Bahrain, China, Vietnam, Netherlands, Spain, Azerbaijan, Canada).
Organisers of the race at Le Castellet were forced to act after President Emmanuel Macron's announcement last week that the lockdown in France will be extended until May 11 and public gatherings banned until mid-July.
Ruling out holding the race behind closed doors, Boullier said: "Le Castellet are already turning towards the summer of 2021".
- 'Races without fans' -
In a series of coordinated announcements, Silverstone's owners then announced that no spectators would be able to attend the British Grand Prix but that they hope it will go ahead as scheduled.
"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," the circuit's managing director Stuart Pringle stated on Silverstone's Twitter account.
"We have left this difficult decision for as long as possible, but it is abundantly clear given the current conditions... that a grand prix under normal conditions is just not going to be possible."
F1 supremo Carey said he expected "the early races to be without fans" but hoped that spectators would be allowed back "as we move further into the schedule".
He added: "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."
© 2020 AFP