The fate of this year’s British Grand Prix, and the calendar for Formula One’s return to racing in general, is likely to be decided by the end of this week.
The department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is waiting on a decision on whether certain sports will be granted exemptions from government plans to impose a 14-day quarantine on entry into the UK. It is expecting a decision in the next few days. DCMS is arguing in favour of F1 being given dispensation to travel freely, subject to specific requirements.
F1 plans to open the season on 5 July with two races on back-to-back weekends in Austria, followed by a double-header at Silverstone with meetings on 26 July and 2 August. Seven of the 10 F1 teams are based in the UK – if the quarantine restrictions were imposed it would make the British GP untenable and planning any calendar difficult.
The government is taking advice from a ministerial group and scientific advisers. A DCMS spokesperson said no decision had yet been made but that it was likely to be announced before the end of this week. It was also confirmed that Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, was in favour of F1’s exemption.
With the decision looming, F1 made its position clear on Tuesday. “If all elite sport is to return to TV, then exemptions must be provided,” a spokesperson said. “A 14-day quarantine would make it impossible to have a British Grand Prix this year. Additionally, it has a major impact on literally tens of thousands of jobs linked to F1 and supply chains.”
F1’s intention is to create a closed biosphere for personnel at races. All those attending would be tested for coronavirus before leaving and then every three days at the meeting, while attempting to achieve the minimum of interaction with local communities.
It is believed the government does not look favourably on granting exemptions for sport for fear it would face similar demands from other sectors. If the quarantine is imposed it is understood F1 will look to host two races at Hockenheim in Germany to replace the double-header at Silverstone and immediately after Austria, before teams return to the UK and enter quarantine.
Should the restrictions remain in place, travel to the other European meetings would be made similarly complex by enforced two-week break periods.