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Formula One plans for 'isolated environment' to launch season in Austria

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Paris (AFP)

Formula One managing director Ross Brawn said the Austrian Grand Prix's remote location makes it a logical choice as the opening race of a season heavily interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers are aiming to start the championship, which was put on hold in March hours before the scheduled season-opener in Australia, with consecutive races at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg on July 5 and 12.

"One of the logistical challenges is getting everyone tested and cleared to enter the racing environment," Brawn told the F1 Nation podcast.

"Once we do that, it's very attractive to keep everyone in that environment, within that biosphere that we want to create, for another race.

"It's also pretty challenging to find the right sort of races early on where we can control the environment well enough to ensure the safety of everyone.

"Austria fits that bill very well. It has a local airport right next to the circuit, where people can charter planes into. It's not too close to a metropolis."

"It has a great infrastructure around it," he added. "For instance, there will be no motorhomes, but there will be full catering facility laid on that the circuit has.

"We can contain everyone within that environment and therefore once we are there it is appealing to have another race the following week."

Earlier this week, Formula One boss Chase Carey targeted the season starting in Austria after the French Grand Prix, scheduled for June 28 was cancelled, becoming the 10th race of the season to be scrapped or postponed.

- 'Kickstart the season' -

The Austrian Grand Prix will only be given the green light on the condition it is raced behind closed doors, the country's health minister told organisers on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately it will be without fans, which is a great shame, but we still feel we can take the race out to all the fans and watchers on TV and other means," said Brawn.

"It's important for us to try and get the season going, many reasons for wanting to start the season. One is to excite the fans, who have all been frustrated with the delays.

"We have a very exciting season in front of us, but it is a very important livelihood for thousands of people - and that is another reason for trying to kickstart the season."

Organisers also announced Friday the Hungarian Grand Prix on August 2 will be staged without fans in response to the health crisis.

The race at the Hungaroring is following the example set by the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, scheduled for July 19.

"It has now become clear that we cannot hold the Hungarian Grand Prix in front of spectators despite all our efforts," a statement from race organisers said.

The statement added that this decision was necessary to protect the health of fans and circuit staff alike.

Their hand was forced after the Hungarian government banned any event involving more than 500 spectators until August 15.

"It became clear yesterday (Thursday) that all this is only possible behind closed gates.

"We will continue to work with the international promoter to find the best possible solution," the statement added.

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