Austria and Britain are the most likely candidates to host the opening four grands prix of the 2020 Formula 1 season.
Plans are currently afoot to finally start the season in Austria with a double-header weekend on July 5 and 12, before heading to Britain for another double-header in late-July/early-August, pending government approval.
The Austrian and local Styrian governments have already confirmed they won’t stand in the way of the Red Bull Ring hosting a race in July, as long as it is held behind closed doors with the absolute minimum staff in attendance.
It’s also dependent on the implementation of strict safety measures, which could include everyone being tested for Covid-19 beforehand and those that test negative being issued special passports allowing them to travel to the country.
To ensure the calendar doesn’t fall below ten events, Liberty Media is planning on holding back-to-back races on consecutive weekends at the same venue, with team, broadcast and circuit employees essentially quarantined in their hotels between races.
The Spielberg circuit is the ideal location for the first race as not only has the government begun to relax its lockdown, but the Red Bull Ring is located in the countryside some distance away from populous areas. The circuit also has a local airport on site, allowing for easy access to and from without putting the local population at risk.
Red Bull is also the promoted and circuit owner and has deep enough pockets to run an event with zero ticket sales, though Liberty Media is likely to make an exception and reduce or cancel its hosting fee altogether.
Silverstone meanwhile looks set to follow the same path with a double weekend, which would again be held without fans and media in attendance, again this hinges on Liberty making a contribution as the British GP depends on ticket sales.
The UK government is planning on holding a meeting next week to discuss when it’s safe to resume some sporting events. One of the arguments for restarting sports is that it would provide many people with a much-needed boost to morale after months of lockdown, though large gatherings would strictly be prohibited.
But what would help relieve the endless boredom at home could be live races without spectators which would go a long way to restoring normality. It would also provide a much needed outlet to the online sports betting community who have largely shuttered their businesses since live sport stopped towards the end of March. Companies like the state owned French bookmaker PMU were virtually totally reliant on live sport to generate income.
Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden recently said he had held “productive talks” with governing bodies from across British sport on restarting following the coronavirus shutdown.
It’s expected the UK will relax its lockdown by the end of May, but even then sport is unlikely to resume for some time, though if sporting bodies can offer some reassurances that extra precautions will be taken, the government may allow certain events to go ahead.