The prospect of Formula 1’s French Grand Prix taking place as scheduled has diminished amidst the extension of restrictions in the country, as announced on Monday.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the postponement or cancellation of nine grands prix, up to and including mid-June’s Canadian Grand Prix.
Canada’s postponement means France, slated for June 28 at Circuit Paul Ricard, is currently scheduled as the opening round of the 2020 campaign.
But on Monday evening French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation and announced an extension of the lockdown that has been in place since March 17, and which was due to expire on April 15.
It will now be extended until at least May 11, at which point it is hoped that some schools will begin to re-open, with the government set to lay out its post-lockdown plans in the next two weeks.
But Macron confirmed that pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas will remain closed and all events that feature mass gathering of people will be suspended until mid-July at the earliest.
France’s external borders will remain closed until further notice.
Formula 1 teams, along with engine manufacturers, are currently observing an extended shutdown period, which is expected to last into next month.
The original two-week August shutdown was brought forward to March/April and extended by a week, before being lengthened further to 35 days.
Several UK-based teams, including Formula 1 itself, have furloughed staff under the Job Retention Scheme available courtesy of the Government.
Last week Formula 1 chief Ross Brawn indicated that a calendar of 19 races was still realistic in 2020, with options such as multiple triple-headers, condensed weekends and an extension into early 2021 all mooted.
Sports leagues and championships around the world have been suspended since mid-March, with various ideas and proposals raised as to when and how activity can be resumed.
Some annual events – such as Wimbledon – have been cancelled altogether while EURO 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed by 12 months.
France’s major summer sporting event, the Tour de France, has yet to be postponed or cancelled; it is due to start in Nice on the same weekend as the Formula 1 grand prix.
The German Bundesliga is aiming to be one of the first sports leagues to return to action in closed stadiums and with mass and regular testing of involved participants.
It is understood that each match can take place with around 250 people inside the stadium, though it is unclear how social distancing guidelines can be enforced.
A tentative resumption date for the top two leagues in the country – which have a handful of games remaining in the 2019/20 season – has been set at mid-May.
Austria, scheduled for July 5, is currently listed as the second round of the 2020 F1 season.
Austria is set to be one of the first European countries to begin easing restrictions from this week onwards, with small shops permitted to re-open as of Tuesday, though public events remain suspended until the end of June.
Organisers of the British Grand Prix, due to take place on July 19, are to make a decision on the event before the end of April.