The British Grand Prix faces a race against time to resolve the problem created by the government’s imposition of quarantine on all entry into the UK. The chances of the race at Silverstone being held look increasingly slim but Formula One is understood to be remaining in a dialogue with the government in an attempt to find a solution.
F1 has yet to comment and is studying the full quarantine document before entering further talks with the government. As things stand, with F1 denied any exemption from the quarantine procedures, not only is the British GP under threat but the sport faces an increasingly complex challenge as it attempts to create and implement a new calendar for the 2020 season.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, confirmed the quarantine restrictions on Friday, which will begin on 8 June. The measures will be reviewed every three weeks but with F1 intent on starting the season in early July, any review would likely be too late for the British GP to maintain its current slot.
The F1 season is due to get underway with two races in Austria, the first on 5 July. Silverstone was scheduled to host two races, one of which would have been the British Grand Prix, on 26 July and 5 August. However, with the 14-day quarantine imposed neither race at Silverstone can be held. They are expected to be replaced by meetings at Hockenheim in Germany or potentially in Budapest.
Alongside the Italian GP, the British Grand Prix is the only meeting to have been held every year since the F1 world championship began 70 years ago, at Silverstone in 1950. There remains a chance the race could be scheduled for later in the year if the quarantine restrictions are relaxed but with F1 attempting to finalise the European-leg of the season, their focus will be on confirming any meetings that can definitely go ahead.
The current quarantine rules also present further complications for F1 as it attempts to build a new calendar. Seven of the 10 F1 teams are based in the UK. On their return to the UK, a 14-day quarantine would mean a three-week gap before the next race could take place. During that period none of the team members that have travelled would be able to work at their respective factories.
F1 could have to construct a calendar working on the basis that the quarantine restriction may remain in place for the rest of the year depending on the outcome of its conversations with government. Triple-header and even quadruple-header meetings are being considered, to maximise the teams’ use of time before each enforced break. The teams are understood to be willing to adapt to meet these demands in order to begin racing again.
After the opening four races and the first quarantine period, the expectation is of a further four. They are likely to be held without teams returning to the UK and consisting of one of Hockenheim or Budapest, then Spain, Spa and Monza. When the sport begins the flyaway part of the season, these races would also have to be held in tranches, with three-week gaps between each. Currently under consideration are Azerbaijan, Russia, China and Japan as one block, then the US, Mexico and Brazil, followed by Vietnam, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi to conclude the season.
This would present teams with long periods on the road. The only time the sport has held a triple-header – France, Austria and Great Britain in 2018 – it was not viewed favourably by personnel and the intention was that it would not be repeated.
F1 had been hoping the sport may have been given an exemption by the government. It has stated its intent to make each meeting a closed biosphere testing all personnel before they left the UK and every three days while away at meetings held behind closed doors. They would receive a certificate stating they did not have the virus before re-entering the UK.
The UK secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden, had backed F1’s case for exemption and it is understood the sport had appealed directly to Boris Johnson but the government did not want its quarantine programme to be seen to be favouring sport over other businesses and industries.