This year’s British Grand Prix will take place without fans after Silverstone’s owners said that a race “under normal conditions is just not going to be possible” because of coronavirus.
Organisers have not yet postponed or cancelled the 19 July event and Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle’s letter to fans who have already bought tickets paves the way for a behind closed doors race.
“I am extremely disappointed to tell you that we are unable to stage this year’s British Grand Prix in front of the fans at Silverstone,” Pringle wrote in a message published on Silverstone’s Twitter account.
Formula One has also announced that the French Grand Prix, due to take place on June 28, has been called off.
Pringle continued: “We have left this difficult decision for as long as possible, but it is abundantly clear given the current conditions in the country and the Government requirements in place now and for the foreseeable future, that a grand prix under normal conditions is just not going to be possible.
“Our obligations to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in preparing and delivering the event, our volunteer marshals and race makers, and of course, you, the amazing fans, means that this is the best, safest and only decision we could make.
“We have consistently said that should we find ourselves in this position we will support Formula One as they seek to find alternative ways to enable F1 racing to take place this year.
“Following this weekend’s news from the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport we are now working with them on the viability of an event behind closed doors. Should this be possible, it will be of some small comfort for you to know that the 2020 Formula One Pirelli British Grand Prix will be available to watch live on Sky and Channel 4.”
Formula One has also announced that the French Grand Prix, due to take place on 28 June, has been called off.
Eric Boullier, managing director of the French Grand Prix, said on F1’s website: “Given the evolution of the situation linked to the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the French Grand Prix takes note of the decisions announced by the French State making it impossible to maintain our event.
“The eyes of the GIP Grand Prix de France – Le Castellet are already turning towards the summer of 2021 in order to offer our spectators an even more unprecedented event at the heart of the Region Sud.”
Chase Carey, chairman and chief executive officer of F1, added: “We have been in close contact with the French promoter during this evolving situation and while it is disappointing for our fans and the F1 community that the French Grand Prix will not take place we fully support the decision taken by the French authorities in France and look forward to being back at Paul Ricard soon.”
Carey is hopeful the season can start in Austria on 5 July and believes a total of 15-18 races can be held, finishing at Abu Dhabi in December.
He said: “We’re targeting a start to racing in Europe through July, August and beginning of September, with the first race taking place in Austria on 3-5 July weekend. September, October and November, would see us race in Eurasia, Asia and the Americas, finishing the season in the Gulf in December with Bahrain before the traditional finale in Abu Dhabi, having completed between 15-18 races.
“We will publish our finalised calendar as soon as we possibly can. All of our plans are obviously subject to change as we still have many issues to address and all of us are subject to the unknowns of the virus.
“We expect the early races to be without fans but hope fans will be part of our events as we move further into the schedule. We still have to work out many issues like the procedures for the teams and our other partners to enter and operate in each country.
“The health and safety of all involved will continue to be priority one and we will only go forward if we are confident we have reliable procedures to address both risks and possible issues.”