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Austrian GP 'must be behind closed doors', insists minister

That was then: Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes at last year's Austrian Grand Prix
That was then: Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes at last year's Austrian Grand Prix JOE KLAMAR AFP/File
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Vienna (AFP)

The Austrian Grand Prix, now set to be the first race of the coronavirus-hit Formula One world championship, will only be given the green light on condition it is raced behind closed doors.

Organisers of the July 5 grand prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg were told by the country's health minister on Wednesday that certain guarantees have to be met.

"Authorisation to stage the event depends entirely on the security plan that the organisers present," Rudolf Anschober told Radio O1.

"We will only allow such events under very strict conditions and of course, I think it goes without saying, without a crowd."

He told the Austrian Press Agency (APA): "We have done our part."

The government wants the race weekend to be organised on a "closed circuit" with the only people outside of the teams allowed being Austrians involved in the management of the race.

Earlier this week, Formula One boss Chase Carey targeted the season starting in Austria after the French Grand Prix was cancelled and fans barred from the British race at Silverstone on July 19.

The French Grand Prix, which was to have been held on June 28, was the 10th 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."

However, Carey also said he expected "the early races to be without fans".

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